Archive for October, 2010

IPhone applications – the new guidebooks

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Smartphone applications are rapidly entering the tourism market with a range of services that might either replace or supplement the traditional guidebooks and services from tourist offices.

The Swedish Youth Hostel initiative is one of many that explore and exploit this new technology. The application is cheap for the users, only 15 SKR. For this amount it is possible, any time, to see the location of the nearest youth hostel. Presentations of the hostels are available, and contact is, of course, easy.

The perspectives of smartphones for tourism promotion are many, and the present development gives new means of promotion for a range of cultural facilities and events. Culinary tourism, including restaurant, open farms and farmers markets are also increasingly presenting themselves on this media in order to harvest the business of more spontaneous trips and leisure behavior. The applications can be tour guides that tell the story of sights and attractions along the road. Specialized apps are emerging, for example about flora and fauna in selected areas. Interactive facilities are emerging, for example, on the German Island Sylt visitors can be helped to identify sea animals with the Beach Explorer and they can also assist research by reporting observations via their smartphone.

Tropical Tree Climbing takes adventure tourism to new heights

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Tropical Tree Climbing, located in the Amazon jungle in Brazil, offer expeditions that take adventurers 50 miles down the mighty Negro River, up to 200 feet into the canopy of the rainforest, and exploring along the forest floor.

This expeditions are offered selectively each year to allow participants to explore the jungle from a perspective that very few have experienced – perched above the world’s largest forest.

Tropical Tree Climbing’s mission is to provide visitors with a truly exciting and low impact adventure travel experience. The company’s objective is to protect, connect, explore and bring awareness on a deeper level to the Brazilian Amazon rainforest.

A modest team, including Tree Climbers International Master Instructor, Tim Kovar, will join native guides who have a keen eye for spotting wildlife hidden within this unique ecosystem. All senses will be engaged as participants view giant emergent trees towering over the canopy, colorful birds flying overhead, pink dolphins frolicking in the waters, and monkeys swing along the branches.

About Tropical Tree Climbing

Tropical Tree Climbing was conceived when Leonide Principe took his first tree climbing lessons in 1995 while on scientific expeditions focused on photographing Amazonian epiphytes for the “Aerial Plants of the Amazon” project, which was supported and sponsored by the Department of Culture of the Government of the Amazon State of Brazil. From that moment, Leo knew he wanted to do something with the knowledge acquired from those early experiences. In 1998, Leo and his wife, Vanessa, bought 270 hectares of virgin rainforest in northern Brazil and began to build Tropical Tree Climbing. In 2007 they partnered with Tim Kovar, master instructor for Tree CIimbers International and founder of Tree Climbing Northwest, to begin their recreational tree climbing education. Since then, Tropical Tree Climbing has been operating in the Amazon region, taking our customers closer to nature, an experience that allows them to sense a deep connection with the Amazon rainforest.

For over 15 years, TCI master instructor Tim Kovar has been climbing trees in the remote jungles of the world. Tim has taught tree climbing to canopy researchers worldwide, including those who study birds in Indonesia, primate nest building in Uganda, and climate in the redwoods of California. He was also the personal tree climbing instructor to Richard Preston, author of New York Times bestseller, The Wild Trees. Tim has worked with film crews in the treetops of Costa Rica, canopy researchers in Taiwan, tree preservationists in Japan, environmental educators in the Amazon, eco-tour operators in Indonesia, and herpetologists in India. He has also led tropical tree climbing expeditions into India, Central and South America, and into the tallest trees on earth in the Pacific Northwest.

Amazon tree climbing – addressing the sustainability issue

Friday, October 29th, 2010

The trees are a main attraction in the rainforests, and viewing them from below is no longer enough for adventurous tourists. In the South American rain forest, entrepreneurial innovativeness has led to the creation of a number of travel sites and companies specialized in tropical tree climbing.

Amazon Tree Climbing was founded in 2006. This company has developed techniques from rock climbing further and applied them to tree climbing. It is based in Manaus and operates on the Negro and other nearby rivers. Services are offered to closed groups of up to six people. The company refers to environmental objectives for this choice of operational model, as the proprietors believe that small groups causes less impact on the environment and harmonize better with the culture of the places visited. On all trips the tour leader follows rigid safety protocols according to the Brazilian Adventure Tourism Standards.

The trees used for climbing are previously inspected and the climb sites are carefully chosen. As noted by the company, it opts for primary forest area, which gives a better chance of observing the wildlife in its natural habitat.

Services include multilingual guides with ample international experience and a solid cultural background, and top quality equipment. Their wish is to share the magic and beauty of the Amazon forest with their guests, so that they may understand and respect this fragile ecosystem. Trips varying from one day to customized expeditions on the Amazonian rivers are offered. The company educates visitors on this philosophy. To underline the sustainability issue further, the company is in alliances with Leave No Trace - Center for Outdoor Ethics, Sustainable Travel International and other eco-friendly groups.

The climate in the Amazon is harsh – hot and humid. The environmental degradation is very severe, and debates have been raised as to whether touristic activities such as tree climbing can contribute to ecological loss and increased erosion or whether the activity is beneficial because it raises an awareness of the need for protection.

No further organization is observed to be in place for the integration of the climbing tourism in the region’s more general environmental agenda.

The Silk Road – tourists beat the road to hidden treasures

Friday, October 29th, 2010

The Silk Road is a network of roads which used to contain vital trade and cultural exchange links between the East and the West, from Istanbul to Beijing. The Silk Road was a place for cultures, crafts, ideas, technologies and beliefs. Over the centuries the road was used by both traders, missionaries and officials. A rich cultural heritage is visible to the tourists.

Supported by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) a large number of countries along the route have started a collaboration in order to develop and promote these treasures. However, this is not only about observing relics of ancient cultures. There are many issues raised in terms of capacity building in countries with limited tradition for serving tourist. The 5th International Meeting on the Silk Road in 2010 adopted many practical suggestions for capacity building and boosting the Silk Road brand and its development into a consolidated tourism product. Accoarding to UNWTO further work includes:

  • “Research on source markets, market segmentation and ‘unique selling points’ of each member state and region.
  • Development of joint projects across member states to promote the Silk Road brand.
  • Creation of a task force made up of national tourism administrations, UN organisations and the private sector.
  • Development of ‘authentic experiences’ – here the meeting noted practical examples of ‘home-stay’ programmes and support for local products and sustainable product development.
  • Investment in capacity building including guide and language training, as well as the ability of guides to work across borders.
  • Finance and the development of infrastructure – the meeting noted practical examples from Kazakhstan on this subject.
  • Infrastructure – the development of a high-speed rail network in Uzbekistan and the development of tourist centres was offered as a prime example of projects that will take the Silk Road initiative forward.
  • There should be urgent examination of all ways to facilitate cross border travel between the Silk Road states particularly with regard to the issue of visas.”

 The places that tourists are offered to travel through are not smooth and well-prepared, and that appeals to the more adventurous categories of tourists. In terms of inaugurating the collaboration in Azerbajian, an event was organized in September 2010 by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan and off-club “Club 4×4”, a rally clubs. One of the objectives of the project was to research country’s tourism potentialities in order to create and popularize new tourist routes, and jointly these partners could create a media attention about the route and historical sites along it. The rally drivers come from around the world, and they offer extensive networks in clubs and organizations back home.
The rally ranged from the Gubin region to Shamakhin. On 12 cars the rally participants traversed the summits of the Greater Caucasus mountain range, impassable mountain terrains and rapid rivers. En route the rally participants visited the ancient ruins of Shabran settlement. Comments from the participant were found helpful for the development of the project, and in that sense the event was not only a promotional step, but also a case of user-driven innovation.

Developing Sauna From Finland concept: Networking and co-operation between different industries

Monday, October 25th, 2010

The Sauna from Finland concept aims to create new types of business activity in Finland, and profile Central Finland as the Sauna Province. The Sauna from Finland started as a network but the co-operation strengthened between the different actors to a level which led setting up an association around the concept. The goal of the association is to promote Finnish sauna culture, support the development of services connected to sauna and support and carry out new entrepreneurships. The concept aims to bring together actors from different business sectors (e.g. sauna industry, tourism, wellness/wellbeing, service sector) to create new types of business activity. Founders of the Sauna from Finland association are Design Forum Finland (www.designforum.fi), Diges ry (www.diges.info), Harvia (www.harvia.fi), Jykes (www.jykes.fi), MARK (www.mark.fi) and SunSauna (www.sunsauna.fi).

According a study made by Jyväskylä Regional Development Company Jykes in summer 2009, businesses in the area believe that sauna theme can create more positive image of the region. In addition, the theme was seen as a possibility to improve the competitiveness in the area by motivation business and product development. The Sauna from Finland theme was also seen as overarching theme for marketing. (Harju et al., 2009.) Stakeholders in the area mentioned the sauna manufacturers and their important role in interviews when they were talking about the area as sauna region. For instance, sauna stove manufacturer Harvia has its facilities in the area. Interviewees found that the concept of Sauna from Finland can be a supporting factor in product development processes. In general, the importance of product development was emphasised, and in addition to sauna products water activity services were mentioned. There were ideas how sauna could be highlighted in the area. These ideas included a development of sauna village or a sauna museum. In addition, companies in the area are interested in using the Sauna from Finland concept in order to find new target markets for their products and new business activities focused around the sauna theme.

The operations of the Sauna from Finland network include stronger cooperation among stakeholders e.g. in discussing future development themes and network promotion.  At the moment, there is an ongoing process on developing business ideas and starting networking projects, for instance, a development of a common export concept created around the sauna theme.

The cooperation is promoted by organizing different events around sauna theme for stakeholders. These meetings and events are called “sauna evenings”. These includes short seminars around diverse topics connected to sauna such as health effects of sauna or how silence and sauna can be used as a resources in tourism product development. These sauna evenings end to a possibility to test different saunas as the meetings are organized each time in different (tourism)businesses.

Involving customers and users in content development

Sauna from Finland is a concept aims to create new memorable service innovations connected to sauna. In Jyväskylä region local residents were interviewed to get more aspects and ideas to Sauna From Finland process. Jyväskylä Regional Development Company Jykes Ltd and the newspaper Keskisuomalainen organised  a competition connected to Sauna from Finland concept. This was targeted mainly for the readers of Keskisuomalainen. The competition was implemented during the summer of 2009. The competition aimed to collect different sauna stories and pictures from local people. These personal experiences, stories and pictures about saunas and sauna culture can possibly be used later on in the Sauna from Finland concept and product development (www.ksml.fi/sauna).

Interviews made in Jyväskylä region showed that several stakeholders highlighted Sauna from Finland as an excellent example of a good product development process lead by network with several actors.  It was evident that there was a clear call for this kind of network based product development work in future.

Endogenious spices and tourism development

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Assisted by the Indian Ministry of Tourism and UNDP, the Endogenous Spices Tourism Project in Kurangani is aimed at strengthening the indigenous collective identities of mountain communities and at recognizing the link between the principles of sustainable development and indigenous knowledge. A prime purpose is to it focus on developing various strategies specific to the ecosystem in the region, and to protect forest biodiversity.

The area of Western Ghats is known for growing spices and other plants of importance for Indian and international cuisines, most importantly coffee, tea and cardamom. The area is also rich in wildlife and natural beauty. In order to give tourists a chance to experience the area, trekking trail16 has been established. Accommodation is provided by local inhabitants as homestays, and local guides offer their services to the tourists. Further interpretative facilities, such as a “spice center”, are underway. The entrepreneurial part of the project is supported by GREEN, a small scale community development program.

The area has attempted to do its homework well, before launching into tourism. Thus the website informs: “GREEN is keen to prevent and mitigate the negative impacts of key threats to mountain biodiversity in the Kurangani region as the project team carried out a biological survey in the Kurangani region from lower Station to the Top Station to ascertain the conceptual basis of the Ecosystem Approach in relation to the concept of sustainable forest management.  The outcome of the Biological Survey is the “Ecosystem Profile of Kurangani” which recommends ecosystem approach to the management of forests in the Kurangani region. Conservation International has declared the Western Ghats as one of the 25 Global Biodiversity Hotspots.”

Women in charge of tourism development

Monday, October 18th, 2010

COBATI (Community Based Tourism Initiative) is a non-profit tourism NGO, which supports local people in Uganda to participate and benefit from tourism and its related initiatives. It was started in 1998 by a community entrepreneur, Maria Baryamujura, who subsequently has been awarded for her innovativeness in terms of making idle resources in villages useful in a tourism context.

Handicrafts from the COBATI

Social innovation is a main ingredient in the African initiatives. Collaboration, particularly with the local women is essential, and COBATI has set up a number of groups with the responsibility for the provision of craft based tourism, and the setting up of accommodation. “Local people are trained to understand that community based tourism in its widest form covers all kinds of activities and attractions found in rural areas, which are mainly, or incidentally, for tourism purposes. It is linked to poverty alleviation, and used to promote the diversity of attractions and activities mainly found in rural areas, and to generate income for the local people.“

In an African context, external networks are as essential as local ones. COBATI needs strategic networks and partnerships at industry and market level. IT is also necessary to collaborate with various organizations interested in pro-poor tourism including SNV, AWF/ IGCP, and UNDP.

The products available are varied, but the homestay program is important, as it empowers village women. There is a network of over twenty village homesteads located throughout the districts of Mbarara and Bushenyi which are transitory to 7 of the 10 National Parks of Uganda, including the Mountain Gorilla sanctuaries of Bwindi and Mgahinga. A family of a village operates a homestay activity, and this provides them with an opportunity to earn cash without selling their land to developers or migrating to towns and city. The owners are trained by COBATI on how to be hospitable to visitors and hoe to keep their facilities clean and comfortable.

COBATI also works with the development of handicraft, also a female dominated activity. It is essential to base the handicrafts products on the specific traditions and knowledge in the area. The project works with the tapping of indigenous competences for the development of new designs in mats and baskets.

See also: Peeter, L.W.& Ateljevic, I. (2009) Women Empowerment entrepreneurship nexus in tourism: Processes of social innovation. In Ateljevic, J. & Page, Sp.J. (eds) Tourism and entrepreneurship. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 75-90.

An alternative food system

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

The Blue Hills restaurant and the Stone Barn farmers market represent an attempt to create a more sustainable food system with shorter supply chains. The proprietors regard themselves as educators rather than solely food producers and chefs.

The successful New York enterprise is a protest to the industrialized food production systems and the standardised restaurant concepts. It appeals to the trend conscious citizens, who increasingly are interpreting their position in the nature-city contrasts. But the restaurant is also an opportunity to many tourists who want a story with their eating experience. The restaurant supplies itself from is Stone Barn, its own vegetable garden, and from a number of suppliers. All suppliers are part of the story that is told to guests in the restaurant and visitors to the farmers market.

Farming is  addressed in a rather experimental way by Blue Hills, and the kitchen staff constantly seeks out the new types of raw materials. The menus are determined by supply, not by the ideas and demands of the chefs.

Stone Barn also offers cooking classes and guided tours – important for the visitors’ total understanding of the concept of the place.

Soundscaping in Zion National Park

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Acoustics are increasingly entering the sphere of experience design. Not only in shopping malls or restaurants, but also in open air facilities such as national parks. Zion National Park, Utah, has since 2008 recorded sounds as part of a monitoring program. From natural sounds such as the cicadas’ symphonies and tickling streams to man-made sounds such as helicopters. The monitoring was undertaken in order to help park staff to minimize sounds that disturb the visitor experience. The monitoring takes place from solar-powered stations. Its purpose is to protect attributes of sound — and the lack of it — for the benefit of the wildlife and the nearly 3 million annual visitors to the park.

The philosophy is than an area’s soundscape is as valuable as air quality and watershed although, unlike those resources, it is intangible. However, a scientific approach gives the plan objectivity and credibility.

Human-caused sounds particularly affect wildlife, and awareness of this issue is being spread. In the entrance areas and locations of public facilities the goal is to reduce noise through changing employee activities and technology. That can range from something as simple as using rakes and brooms instead of leaf blowers, to using technology that reduces noise when replacing shuttles and park vehicles.

Surveys have shown that 90 percent of people who visit the national parks want natural peace and to be able to hear the sounds of nature. The acoustics will become a more important interpretive element. People who get out of the big cities will be given additional experience by learning to appreciate the rustling of the wind to even insects moving through leaves.

The academic field – “acoustics ecology”, is gaining importance. It aims at understanding the nature and importance of sounds and the instruments to protect and prevent soundscapes. Seeing sound as a resource is a new way of thinking which is leading to significant innovation in  terms of developing tourism experiences.

High Lane New York

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

In June 2009 a new park opened in Manhattan, New York. It is a continuous stretch of  park established on a former high level railway. The park immediately became an attraction for locals and tourists. The total project comprises of 2.3 kilometres of recreative corridor. The views  from the Lane are often astonishing.

The densely built and populated area is in need of new green areas, and the high level of the lane provides a new and very attractive environment. A group of active citizens has worked intensively on the project since 1999. Now the whole city is proud of it.

The selection of plants for the green corridor reflects the dry environment, and the wish to establish a sustainable facility that does not need artificial irrigation. The best of landscape architects have been invited to work on the project. The park furniture is from certified materials and timber so as to contribute to the complex sustainability measure.

A large group of inhabitants have “adopted” the High Line, and they run a home page with intensive communication. Tourists may also take a look and see what is going on, for example events.

Performing with ABBA

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

For quite a long time, two Swedish entrepreneurs have planned to launch an ABBA museum in Stockholm. In 2010, an innovative museum concept has been introduced. The museum does not have a fixed location, but is built to travel the world. Decoupling from the destination is a issue of innovativeness. The museum has been in the UK and in Melbourne, suitable places to meet many fans.

Abba the Museum also makes use of the latest interactive technology, which will allow visitors of all ages to relive the group’s history and to also sing and dance along with ABBA music. Tourist show a significant interest in being not a gazer, but also a performer, and that trends is massively integrated in the ABBA museum concept.

Tretow MIX Challenge is about letting the audience see if they can create the real ABBA-sound

ABBA Quiz – tests the visitors’ ABBA knowledge. The winner takes it all, like in a TV-show

“Perform with ABBA” let the visitors get on stage and perform with ABBA in a 3D holographic illusion

All interactive features are recorded  and can be accessed via the ABBA website from home.

Innovative tourism ingredients in city planning

Friday, October 15th, 2010


Ibsensitat – “quotes by Ibsen” is high culture on a street level. It is a piece of art created by two artists, and supported financially by a banking foundation. Henrik Ibsen was probably the most famous Norwegian author and playwright. The project is about spreading the knowledge about his work. Quotes from Ibsen’s work are molded into the pavements in the main streets of Oslo.

On the projects website of the project everyone is invited to make suggestions to the citation project, discussing their favorite passages.  They are asked to explain their motivation and thus contribute to a further evolution of the project. The quotes are in Norwegian, but they may rouse the curiosity of visitors that don’t speak Norwegian.

The artists have worked with similar project in Stockholm, covering the work of Swedish author August Strinberg.

The communal table

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Sometimes innovation is very simple, and yet sophisticated in its implication. Le Pain Quotidien is a Belgium based bakery and coffee shop. It was started by Alain Coumont. He learned about bread when he as a child watched his grandmother bake bread. He is educated as a chef, and when he could not find good bread for his restaurant he decided to start his own bakery. He wanted to bake hearty and wholesome bread with a firm slice and a good crust. Bread is the main product of the bakeries but their is a variety of products in the shops. The Le Pain Quotidien concept which is now spread to more continents, has caught on very well, and customers find the atmosphere in the grandmother inspired outlets joyful and relaxed.

In keeping with his European roots, Coumont has (re)introduced the “communal table” in the middle of his coffee shops. It is a long table as once seen in farmhouses.

Chris Voss and Leonieke Zomerdijk describe the wider impact of the communal table in the following way: “The main feature of the communal table is that it attracts customers who are by themselves and would like to come in and have a coffee, but do not want to sit alone. Joining the communal table avoids customers feeling alone. It also gives the opportunity to chat with other customers, but often the mere fact that customers do not feel or look alone is enough. As a result, the Le Pain Quotidien shops are very successful at attracting off-peak business from customers that shop by themselves.”

And this is what Le Pain Quotidien says about its initative: “Friends and strangers alike come together around our communal table to break bread and linger for a while. Like all of our furniture, the communal table is made from reclaimed wood, which means no trees were sacrificed for us to sit and unwind. Take a seat next to a neighbor, share the Brunette and be reminded that, even in the big city, we are a community.”

Disney World’s managerial innovations

Friday, October 15th, 2010

The Disney Themeparks enjoy worldwide recognition for their human resource management innovations. Many other tourism enterprises, big and small attempted to learn from Disney.

A primary philosophy of Disney’s HRM consists of connecting the employee experience closely together with the customer experience. Excellent services are provided only by employees who are satisfied and motivated. Accordingly, the hiring of employees is called “casting” – like finding actors for important roles in a show. The metaphor from the film world fits well in the overall Disney image. In order to obtain good performance in the show, management must 1) Make the employee feel special, (2) Treat the employee as an individual, (3) Respect the employee for his performance and (4) Make the employee knowledgeable to be able to perform.

Leadership plays a large role in establishing this environment. The Hongkong Disney themepark  illustrates the management obligations in the following way:

In order to deliver significant customer experiences, the whole service supply chain should be focused on the customer. It is not only the front personnel’s job. Walt Disney World has developed a system called Role and Purpose. Role and Purpose emphasizes that everybody has a different role in the organization, from serving drinks and sweeping the floor to managing maintenance for example, but all employees have the same purpose: making sure that every guest has the most splendid experience. This system aims to achieve that everyone knows how their work matters in the final outcome. For example, sweepers know that they are the reason that Disney World is famous for cleanliness, and they are trained in giving guests directions and interacting with children, emphasizing how their role contributes to the bigger purpose of a great customer experience.

The recruiting method is essential. Disney is popular for gap year occupation, and, for its Paris park, Disney tours most of Europe and participates in job fairs etc in order to recruit staff. “Auditions” are part of the candidate assessment for some types of jobs. The casting is itself an act of entertainment.

Over time Disney has received substantial critique for the HRM-model. Opening the Disneyland Paris illustrated the difficulties of transferring HRM innovations from North American culture to Europe. The barriers in terms of culture and legislation are described by for example Karadjova-Stoev, G. & Mujtaba, B.G. (2009). Strategic Human Resource Management And Global Expansion Lessons From The Euro Disney Challenges In France. International Business & Economics Research Journal, 8, 1, 69-78.

Creative waste water treatment – essential for tourism development

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Tourism development is not only about the most visible services and products. In the Nemunas Delta in Lithuania, the local actors realized that the treatment of waste water was insufficient and seriously threatened the flora and fauna in the area. The Delta is a popular recreational area, and there are potentials to develop the boating and angling. Minge is a picturesque fishing village, but tourism development was not an issue. In 2001 there was no waste water treatment at all.

The villagers and authorities contacted the Global Environmental fund’s Small Grant Programme under UNDP. Funds were provided for the construction of septic tanks and sand-reed filters – a simple technology, but efficient in the particular environment. It is now possible to treat waste water from boats and holiday facilities in Minge. Only when the waste water was in place could the villagers construct piers for small boats and yachts. Three farms opened themselves up to tourists, and a few bed-and-breakfasts sprung up. The local boating club installed washing machines, bathrooms and other facilities that needed to be connected to a sewage system.

Villagers contributed their own time and labour to the project, laying pipes and installing the septic tanks and sand-reed filters themselves. They saved money by using local clay and wood and less expensive plastic filters.

More information on waterwiki.

Finding a third world paradise and making relations with its people

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Pro-poor tourism is continuously developing its forms. “Tribewanted” is a membership based organization that collaborates with villagers in very remote areas to enhance sustainable tourism and other small scale economic activities. The mission is “to build and sustain cross-cultural communities in beautiful places that benefit locals and visiting members; inspiring positive change within and far beyond the village.”

The so-called tribe members spend a minimum of 1 week at a time living alongside a local team and community immersed in the day to day running and development of the village. It is about playing a part – however small – in something positive, adventurous, and in some cases, life-changing. The organization tries to balance the inclination to do-good and the wish for pure vacationing. “It’s not a weird cult. Its cross-cultural living. In just a week or two it can change the way you think about a lot of things. And even if it doesn’t, you’ll have the time of your life.”

This is how Tribewanted explains its activities: “For our local communities Tribewanted is about kick-starting the kind of sustainable development they’re looking for but cannot achieve on their own. It’s a partnership. And in the long-term it’s their project to lead. Between our local communities, teams, partners and members we co-fund, co-create, co-build our communities.” The visitors are asked to bring items that the village needs – from solar panels to school books. The organization works to shape the needs for belonging – both with the community, and also in the network of do-good’ers. The intensive community building using blogging is part of the comprehensive tourism experience.

Arguments against this form of tourism are well-known, and Tribewanted attempts to address them up front: “We know it’s not a perfect model – flying around the world every year undermines our projects sustainability. But, if we stop flying – if we stop building better communities; if we cut off the understanding that’s generated when two cultures or more mix in safe, beautiful places – then we won’t progress. It’s a work in progress which we measure as best we can as we grow.”

Tribewanted works on two destinations: Vorovoro in Fiji is the pioneering destination, and John Obey Beach Sierra Leone in Africa is coming up.

There spin-offs from the process: books and videos generate further income. Tribewanted claims in it ethical standards and operational mode to feed as much back into the local development processes as possible working along the following lines: Where the members’ and visitors’ money goes:

  • 10% web management/accounts
  • 20% commissions / marketing / pr
  • 70% invested locally: land leases, development materials, equipment, employment, training, transport, food, legal, insurance

The initiative has been shown on a BBC-series including the immense difficulties and the controversies.

Marketing innovations on social media

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Businesses both big and small are flocking to social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Foursquare. A presence on these media not only allows companies to engage in conversations with consumers, but also serves as an outlet to drive sales through deals and coupons. Analyses by Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland indicate that social media adoption by North American SMEs have doubled from 12% to 24% from 2009 to 2010.

Joie De Vivre which operates 33 small boutique hotels in California uses Twitter to drive sales and marketing. The 12,000 followers will each Tuesday get an exclusive deal for hotel rooms or restaurant services. The company works with event makers in order to keep a constant stream of followers. This is important, as most people using Twitter are not in it for commercials alone. Driving forces are the contact with other people, exposure to interesting opportunities and activities. For example Joie de Vivre took the initative to donate prizes for competitions such as the Road Trippin’ California Video Contest, which asked people to submit videos on YouTube that share why they love California. Three winners, out of 270 videos that were submitted, were selected to win an all-expenses paid California road trip with stays in the company’s hotels.

During the economic crisis, the hotel industry’s marketing budgets shrank, and social media proved to be a great way to both drive sales and build loyalty. That is also the case for Joie de Vivre.

Each individual hotel manager is responsible for monitoring conversations and reviews on Twitter and other social media.

Transparent factory

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Gazing on other people doing their job and work is a popular tourism passtime. Building and constructions workers often find themselves in the  middle of a show, where both children and adults following the fascinating growth of built structures. Some builder make “windows” which allow (and regulate) the gazing.

The Dresden Volkswagen plant has gone one step further. Its so-called “Transparent Factory” opened in 2002. The building is made of glass. It is however, also transparent in its production philosophy. The company wants to show what car manufacturing is about, and not the least the luxury cars catch some attention. The factory’s walls are made almost completely of glass, and some of the activities can be observed from outside. Inside, its floors are covered entirely in Canadian maple. Its visitor-friendly layout was designed to accommodate up to 250 tourists per day. There are no chimneys, no loud noises, and no toxic byproducts.

The transparent factory handles final assembly only. Operations such as stamping and welding and the painting of the steel bodies take place in another part of the country.

Of course this is about selling cars and enhancing the image of the product. But it is also a matter of corporate social and environmental responsibility. And an opportunity to educate tourists in the engineering excellence of Germany.

Dance to save the earth

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Heard about “eco-clubbing”? Now, bars and discotheques are getting more climate sensitive. Surya Bar at Kings Cross, London, has implemented a dance floor that produces electricity when compressed by dancers. The current is loaded in batteries that help offset some of the electricity bill and thereby carbon footprint. Other initiatives include, according to the website of the club:

  • Exclusive use of only poly-carbon cups, the most environmentally friendly available drinking apparatus.
  • Recycling of all glass, metal, plastic and paper products used at the bar.
  • Donation of part of the profits to a registered and recognised environmental or animal welfare charity.
  • All customers attending the club who can demonstrate that they travelled there by foot, cycle or public transport receive free entry.
  • Use of low voltage lighting.
  • Tables are made of magazines, the walls out of old mobile phones
  • here’s a bathtub-cum-sofa.
  • Waterless urinals save 90 gallons of water, and the club gathers rainwater.
  • The wine is also fairtrade and organic.
  • All patrons when entering the club should sign a pledge to work towards curbing climate change.

Critical questions have been asked whether eco-clubbing is a marketing gimmick or whether the initiatives are really helpful. How much electricity does a club use? Some calculations asume that even if 50 people danced non-stop for 365 days a year, they would produce only about 14 per cent of the club’s electricity consumption.

The second-hand book town

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Hay-on-Wye is a fascinating story about entrepreneurhip and innovation in a small and remotely located village without any touristic features at all.

In 1961 the unemployed Richard Booth started selling second-hand books by the kilo from the old fire station. This concept caught on, and other bookshop entrepreneurs learned from the experience. At first with some agonies, but competing booksellers have since been working together in so called “co-opetition”. The agglomeration of a larger number – 30 bookshops -  has been a main attracting factor in Hay-on-Wye, which has 1400 inhabitants. Some of the bookshops are highly specialized. The effect of the innovative agglomeration goes far beyond the local area.

 Since the 1960s, Hay-on-Wye developed the book-town concept also involving the local municipality. Today it is the largest second hand and antiquarian book centre in the world, attracting over a million visitors each year. Quite some other activities have been established, contributing to and thriving from the book-selling. Cultural events such as a literature festival supports the book brand, and 40,000 visitors make their way to the place every year to experience literature the Hay-on-Wye way.

 

A number of local networks ensure a continual development of Hay-on-Wye. A marketing expert is responsible for professional communication, without which the town and its book entrepreneur would hardly have experienced such an immense success.

 In more recent years, a book-town network has been established, and the concept has been wider innovated in other parts of the world.

You can read about the Hay-on-Wye innovation model in  Fussing-Jensen et al (2005).

Therapeutic hotel rooms

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Luxury hotel Gotha Towers in Gothenburg, Sweden, has developed a new type of hotel room. This so-called Relaxation room is a place of  well-being which blends sound, lighting and purified air. The customer is able to select exactly which atmosphere is in the room by way of a few taps on a touch screen.

The Hotel addresses the needs of modern business people for whom the room is a home away from home. It integrates ideas from spa and wellness to be enjoyed not on a joint facility, but in privacy.

Therapy - thinking about the feather. Photo by Delicjardin

The innovative features of the Relaxing Rooms were developed by Swedish light provider Avelution. The options include a number of themes for going to sleep and waking up, where light and sound fade away, simulating for instance a sunset in the country. The system also allows the guest to connect his or her own MP3 player. Thus is it is possible to generate a light show in sync with one own preferred music.

The company Avelution is specialized in lightening and sounds for spa and wellness. It works with the latest LED technology. For example the firm has developed a “Relaxing Pod” – a therapeutic experience room, which can be implemented in spas and wellness centres. After 15 minutes in the room, the user are claimed to be happier, more relaxed and better able to address the tasks and troubles of everyday life.

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Extended marketing – Icehotel

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

The Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, became immensely recognized and popular immediately after its inauguration. It was a conceptual change of a hotel – the whole idea of cold climate as an attraction rather than a disadvantage turned the image of the north upside down.

Over the years the Icehotel has been further developed, and new courageous ice designs occur every year, when the hotel opens for a new season. It has become prestigious to be an ice designer and architect. Icehotels are copied in other cold regions, for example Canada.

The original Swedish Icehotel was also innovative in terms of marketing methods. A powerful symbiotic partnership with the Absolut Aquavit is important for the marketing of both the drink, the hotel and the destination.

The opening of Icebars in other parts of the country is also a strategically effective and innovative marketing tool. An Icebar has opened in the amusement park Liseberg in Gothenburg. The place is thrilling and provides the customer with an initial idea of the alternatives to warm beach holidays. It is open also on hot summer days.

Evoking interest and reaching audiences in other places than the main destination is a new and emerging practice in tourism.

A Swedish study demontrates the use of the Icebars as a communication tool for the Icehotel. During the visit to the bar many senses are stimulated, and the memory of this experience lasts longer than those from other drinking experiences. The Icebar is a franchised sub-concept of importance for both rapid expansion and economic returns to the mother organisation. However, there are restrictions: only one bar is allowed per country.

Icehotel as an innovation system.

Airport spa – relaxing from travel stress

Monday, October 11th, 2010

 Helsinki is becoming a major European hub for travels to Asia and Australia. The Airport hosts more than a million transit passengers per year. Finnair is ready to make life more comfortable for transit passengers, thus raising the reputation for the quality of service. The Via Spa is a new facility. The Via Spa environment is unique in the world of airports and Finnair means to communicate that the airline really cares for the wellbeing of its customers. Is it free for Platinum cardholders, and access can be purchased for all others passengers.

Facilities include a steam room, saunas, and a stone bath. There are rasul treatments, mud skin peels, a mineral water pool, and loungers facing the runway – the lower parts of the windows are blacked out so people can’t see in but spa goers can see planes coming and going.

Personal wellbeing treatments are available between 12:00 and 19:00.

The spa guru Paul Haslauer designed the Via Spa, and he has been very aware of the needs of air passengers. The Via Spa aims to adopt personal treatment philosophy, and the therapeuts offer recommendations for the often travel stressed passengers. Physical and mental wellbeing can be regained before, after or during the between-flight breas. Treatments and therapies are designed specifically to be relatively short. Heavy leg is a speciality for the therapist, reflecting the effects of sitting immobile for many hours in an airplane. Also aromatherapies are offered, reflecting the not always pleasant atmosphere in an airplane. Special footbaths with vibrating bells applied to the reflecting zones of the foot and leg, and herbal peels can help the air passengers to gain a feeling of joy and relaxation.

Drive together

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Nowadays new organizations are arising that match people with extra seats in their car with people who need a lift.  It is especially young people who find it useful to share the costs of travelling and perhaps cultivate new friendships during the trip.

One of the most successful is “Mitfahrtgelegenheit” in Germany with more than 1.3 million trips organized every year. With affiliates around Europe it is possible to organize cost and carbon saving trips across borders. This and other organizations host a community, enhancing discussions and sharing experience among the users.

Austrian www.drivetogether.at  also announces whether the trips are for smokers or not. This organization has an RSS-feed attached to the site, so that responses to requests can be registered immediately on a computer or Smartphone.

Swedish www.roadmate.se, which has car rental company Hertz as a primary initiator, refers to the carbon targets. It is all about sharing resources, according to the organization. Hertz also uses the site to announce “drive-back” offers to students. British liftshare.com is in it for the reduction of congestion on the roads.

UK based Freewhelers.co.uk is assisting people who want to make it to festivals and other events to find a lift or to find companions to share with.

Car-sharing emerged as a business concept in the early 70′s. With the Internet it is emerging and growing. The organization claim that users want not only to save money and increase mobility, but also to be a part of a solution to global warming.

See also:

Autostop in France and wider

Taxistop in Belgium

Sharcom in Switzerland

Zero star hotel

Monday, October 11th, 2010

The no-frills zero star hotel in Sevelen outside Zürich, Switzerland, attracted quite some attention for creative thinking. Turning disadvantages to advantages is crucial. Consider the following:

  • The place is located in a converted nuclear bunker, under the earth, no windows, no real views. A range of monitors in the reception area shows webcam pictures from outside the place.
  • Beds are second-hand (“antique”) from a derelict hotel.
  • Complimentary slippers are provided for walking across the icy concrete floors
  • Guest will be given a pair of earplug to help blot out the noise from the ventilation system
  • The heating system is insufficient, and the guests get hot water bottles for the beds.

The two entrepreneurs consider their hotel as a living piece of art. The hotel concept is a comment to life modes, outdated cold war concepts and the tourism in the modern world. The hotel has bookings several years ahead.

SaunaLab – artistic and scientific development of the Finnish sauna concept

Monday, October 11th, 2010

The Finns often define themselves through sauna: Do you have a sauna? That’s a steam room, not a sauna! How’s the heat? Is the sauna made in Finland? What is the brand and quality of the stove? Saunas are part of their identify, and sauna life is also a matter of great curiosity for visitors. Sauna is the Finnish national symbol. The symbol of cleanliness and a haven for harmony and relaxation. It is a place for social relations, and for real life experience of the contrast of the warm sauna and the cold lakes or the snow that you (might) dip into after the sauna.

Åbo/Turko in the Finnish archipelago is the European cultural capital of 2011. The sauna culture will be in focus, and an issue for careful artistic inquiry. Five saunas, designed by different artists and constructed in different areas of Turku invite the public to come and look inside. And to take a sauna, while they debate and reflex on the environment of the place and the cult of sauna. Five artists have been invited to build their saunas: Jan-Erik Andersson, Heidi Lunabba, Papu Pirtola, Harri Markkula and Hans-Christian Berg.

Sauna culture will also be examined in the project, for example, by considering what people talk about in the sauna, what is sauna etiquette, and what actually is the authentic artistic steam? The “Let’s talk sauna” event will consider the questions and the answers with the public through various genres of art.

As part of SaunaLab, the Central Museum of Turku will host an exhibition and a series of events related to the theme of saunas, bathing and cleansing.

The Turku Central Museum is responsible for turning up the heat. Prior to the event the museum has asked the local population to contribute with their knowledge and their stories. The sauna culture will then proceed from a semi-tacit culture to something more explicit and exemplified. The sauna is a sacred place, but to what extent? What songs are sung in the sauna, what stories told? What games can be played in the sauna? What experiences do immigrants have of sauna? What are the behavioural codes and why? Besides bathing, what other methods of purification does the sauna offer? What sort of rituals, habits, traditions, fairy tales and legends can be found of the sauna? What is left of those stories in the urban saunas? How about the championship? Men’s shift versus Ladies’ shift? Response to these questions is critical in terms of explaining the sauna culture to tourists. And it is essential for further development of sauna related attractions.

See also: Touhinen, A. & Kangas, H. (2008). Hotel Herttua – Spa and rehabilitation in Eastern Finland. In Smith, M., Puczko, L. (2009) Health and Wellness Tourism. Elsevier, London UK. 313-318.

A break in a Soviet prison

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

The management of the Patarei Prison Museum in Tallin, Estonia has resisted the temptation to clean the place and make it tidy. Patarei was established in the 19th century and it has been in use until 2002. It was used as a tool of Soviet oppression for years. The museum concept is extremely confronting. While a visit to the prison can be disturbing, especially to people with hidden guilt complexes, it is claimed also to be therapeutic, serving as a powerful reminder of the value of freedom.

Most of the facilities are intact and very vicious. There are still blood stained clothes, and even surgical tools left in the prison hospital. Objects belonging to prisoners have been left behind. Evidence of KGB cruelty is everywhere.

The museum has developed a tour for those who are not afraid of a harsh experience. They will be carefully humiliated and locked up for three hours. As it says in the sales materials: “In the administration rooms, the participants’ – or rather the prisoners’ – papers are accepted; they are searched, and their photos and fingerprints are taken. Soon after, they are taken to their cells, then escorted to eat prison food and to exercise. Those deemed hardened criminals are interrogated and transferred to death row or to the execution room, where their sentence is read and their punishment carried out. Those who are freed after serving their sentence receive their files from the prison director, and they have to promise not to commit any more crimes. The safety of the participants is guaranteed throughout the adventure. They can quit the game at any time, or alternatively, opt to become a prison guard.”

Extreme polar tours – Svalbard

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Over the past year, entrepreneur Brita Knutsen Dahl has developed her polar tourism company with considerable success. The location is normally and by most people not considered among the most welcoming and accessible – Svalbard in the North Atlantic.

Basecamp Spitsbergen contains adventurous accommodation. The camp is built in a traditional fashion with materials like driftwood, planks from the Russian settlement in Barentsburg, slate, corrugated iron, and sealskins. Visitors get the feeling of wandering into a trapper’s cabin rather than a hotel. Knutsen pays very careful attention to detail, so the that guests will never forget that they are in very special climatic environment.
Staying aboard the world’s only boat locked in the ice provides modern people with a unique experience, and the opportunity to view spectacular arctic nature up close. Getting trapped in the ice used to be an almost certain death sentence in the harsh climate. Now it is still demanding on the tourists physical abilities, but Knutsen’s innovative organization and keen addressing of all dangers in nature has led to a concept that has the thrill -and yet is safe enough.
Moving around in this astonishing landscapes is done by dog sledges or skiing. In the summertime boat trips are organized to allow visitors to the midnight sun and astonishing landscapes. Special tours are organized for those who seek serious challenges in close contact with ice, snow, dogs and arctic conditions. An expedition is organized with guests as active expedition participants; putting up their tents, feed the dogs etc. The program should be regarded as an expedition, and there is no personal service. Guests are warned before the expeditions that it is ultimate in terms of experiences; “it is demanding to stay out for 5 days in the Arctic with people you do not know, and in tough climate and landscape. You might have blizzards, fog or sunshine for 24 hours. The snow can be wet and heavy and it might get freezing cold. We ask potential participants to thoroughly consider their own skills before deciding whether to participate or not. If you are uncertain, please contact us for a chat before you make up your mind.”

Tradition – a key to innovation

Saturday, October 9th, 2010


The government of India has made rural tourism a priority in a way that can and should be a source of inspiration for governments everywhere, large and small. The Endogenous Tourism Project at Hodka was initiated in 2004. The village is famous for its embroidery and leather craft, while the surrounding region is known for a variety of crafts such as wood work, lacquer work, copper bells, rogaan work on clothes, block printing and weaving. Hodka village is situated in the Banni grassland, on the edge of the Great Rann of Kachchh – the large salt desert in Western India. The traditions of the place have been capitalised upon by UNDP and Ministry of Rural Tourism (GoI), who have chosen Hodka village as one of their 31 sites in India for an Endogenous Tourism Project owned, built and managed by the community. The resort, the Shaam-e-Sarhad Village Resort (Sunset on the Border).

Accommodation here is in beautiful tents or the traditional bhunga, a conical mud structure. While the impression is rustic, the comfort is that of any modern hotel with attached bathrooms and running water. The kitchen provides traditional food. Shaam-e-Sarhad Village Resort is small – in acceptance of the limited resources and capacity in a small village, and it can accommodate 26 persons. It is an ideal location for undisturbed work as there is no television on site and phone access is limited.

UNDP has been extremely carefully in studying the resources and traditions of the area. In particular the architecture is consistent with the local style and interior decorating utilizes the local craft competences. The project’s key action routes include the formation of rural self help groups, tourism marketing and governance structures, backed by convergent support to sustainable village infrastructure, waste management and environmental cars. The focus is thereby on sustainable capacity building with local stakeholder participation, wherein women and the rural poor are target beneficiaries

Endogenous or “transformative” tourism means travel not for pleasure alone, but also for broadening the traveller’s horizon. It seeks to transform attitudes and mindsets, by promoting a mutual understanding between the local community and the visitors, where each appreciates and learns from the other.

Sweden’s new treetop designer hotel

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Sweden was first with the icehotel, and now a hotel with treetop accommodation is being established. Six architects have been asked to design their visions of treetop room, and they are about to be built in Harads in Northern Sweden. The treetop hotel is close to the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, and the two places will be marketed together, both examples of extreme experiences.

 Sleeping in a treetop is something very special, feeling the effects of nature on the body in a new way. The wind, the climate will affect the experience. All huts will be built in wood and they are individual in their design. The rooms are called: The Bird’s nest, The Tree Sauna (it is a sauna), The Blue Cone, The Cabin,  The Mirrorcube, The Ufo, and A Room with a View.

The hotel is inspired by Jonas Selberg Augustén’s film “Trädälskaren”, The Tree Lover. It is about a guy and his friends who travel back to rural Nordbotten from the congested Stockholm. The film is a warm and humouristic search for meaning in life and a search for a new understanding of nature.  Accordingly, the hotels is not only part of a global rebellion against anonymous hotels, but also an emotionally related issue for the Swedish. There is significant interest in the hotel from both Swedish guests and foreigners.

The homepage of the hotel gives a visual and audio impression of the place.

Making events out of unobtainable luxury – the Alba Truffle Auction

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

October is the height of the white truffle season in Alba, Italy, with the highest prices and the fiercest competition among both hunters and buyers.

The town is Italy’s truffle capital and main market as well as home to the Associazione Nazionale ‘Città del Tartufo’, representing nearly 20 truffle-producing towns in central Italy. Crowds of thousands converge on the town to sample local food and wine – including roast pork, salami, polenta, almond and chocolate cake, apricot cake, Gianduja chocolate, hazelnuts, and Moscato d’Alba wine. While most visitors can buy these products, the white truffle is less accessible.
There is the Truffle-of-the-Year prize. There is also an associated wine festival. A special event is the World White Truffle of Alba Auction. The aim of the auction is to raise money, which are allocated to national and international philanthropic institutes and organizations.

In 2009 the proceeds were donated to the Tempera Earthquake Emergency Committee, an independent organization set up in the Tempera district of L’Aquila following the earthquake which hit the town in order to raise funds for the building of a day nursery. Furthermore, among the buyers present at the last edition was an environmental engineering entrepreneur from the local Cuneo area who bid 7,700 Euros for a truffle weighing 385 grams, and he then donated in person the sum of money to the Gruppo Abele community run by Don Ciotti.

The amount of money offered for white truffle is breathtaking for most. Hunting these rare products is the core of much of local storytelling. The process of the auction adds to the magic of the stories and the uniqueness of the place. Alba has been cleverly building up a worldwide reputation related to high quality food and wine. The events play an important enhancing role, without which the media would hardly pay attention to the place.

Attracting people with resources and fame is among the mechanism used in Alba. Generally, the there is a annual rhythm, without much deviation. Tradition is a key element. However, the organization “Cittá del Tartufo” works at enhancing the he image of the food through careful inventions and reinventions of events that make a suitable accompaniment to the reputation of quality and exclusiveness that the region has obtained. The auction is about creating a scene for “gazing”.

Mason and O’Mahony illlustrate the complexity of resources in food trails and food related tourism as shown below:

After: Mason, C. & O’Mahony, B. (2007). On the trail of food and wine: The tourist search for meaningful experience.Annals of Leisure Research, 10, 3/4, 498-518

Hjalager, A.-M., & Corigliano, M. A., (2000). Food for tourists – determinants of an
image. International Journal of Tourism Research, 2(4), 281–293.

Process innovation in the airline industry – the importance of reducing turnaround time

Friday, October 8th, 2010

In order to cut costs and increase performance airlines work constantly on reducing turnaround time, the time from when an aircraft parks at the gate till it can pull out again with a new load of passengers. These many smaller and larger adaptations can be seen as  important process innovations, and they are crucial for competitiveness.  

There are a number of key tasks to be carried out: unloading and loading of passengers and luggage, safety and security checks, catering, cleaning and a variety of administrative tasks, all undertaken by different staff groups. This is a logical challenge, and management is handled by “lean” operational systems, and the use of advanced electronic equipment and systems. Southwest Airlines claims to have found the key to the most rapid turnover, merely 25 minutes.

Other airlines have also shown an attention to the tiny details that potentially contribute to prolonging the turnover. While other airlines have seat pockets for in-flight magazines and safety instructions, Ryan Air has removed the pockets. Cleaners do no longer need to dig into the pockets to remove trash. The safety instructions are found on the back of the seat in front, and magazines are handed out and recollected during the flight by flight attendants who are less time restricted than cleaners.

Ryan Air’s “pay per luggage item” is also contributing to the important reduction of turnaround time, In addition, less luggage means less need for fuel, another critical cost item in the airline industry. The same logic accounts for the catering services.

Critics of the still lower turnaround time claim that the airlines will become more vulnerable to accumulated delays and airports’ slot time policy. More seriously even, some critics find that safety might be compromised.

Southwest Airlines

Singapore Airlines

Space tourism is moving closer

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Ever since the Sputnik and the men on the Moon, people have dreamt of becoming cosmonauts and astronauts. Trips in space are extremely expensive, and this type of tourism is accessible only for the very few. However, more affordable suborbital space tourism is viewed as commercial proposition by several companies, for example “Space Adventures”.

Vienna based Space Adventures is a company that has developed a number of programs designed to immerse customers in the adventure of space travel, without leaving the Earth’s atmosphere. It is possible to sign up for an Orbital spaceflight. Space Adventures writes about this experience: “Orbital spaceflight is one of the most exhilarating experiences known to man.  When you reach earth orbit you are traveling through space at over 17,000 miles an hour, and are over 200 miles above the earth surface. The weightless environment means you are floating inside your spacecraft, which is a thrill in itself.

While the highlight is the spaceflight, an integral part of the experience and a very rewarding time is the training. Space Adventures will ensure you are appropriately trained and prepared for your spaceflight, using state of the art facilities, simulators and methods.”

What fascinates most is the experience of weightlessness. Space Adventures has developed a tour in a modified Boeing 727. Here, parabolic arcs are performed to create a weightless environment. The customers will be able to float, flip and soar as if they were in space. This tour is cheap compared to the orbital spaceflights: around 5,000 dollars per person, or 165,000 dollars for a charter of the whole flight for 35 people. Seats/space can be reserved on www.spaceadventures.com

Space tourism is highly competitive and also emerging business with critical alliances with space science and technology. Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson has taken the initiative to build a fleet of commercial spaceships and launch aircraft with the intention of making widespread space travel a reality. Virgin may eventually become a pioneer in space tourism, but in a shorter perspective commercial and image branding impacts are likely to be importance for the company. Fiddling with the space issues provokes significant, helpful and cost-effective media attention. www.virgingalactic.com

The Space Tourism Society monitors the development and works for the expansion of the phenomenon.

Carl Cater provides a comprehensive analysis:  Cater, C.I. (2010) Steps to Space; opportunities for astrotourism, Tourism Management, 31, 6, 2010, 838-845.

Airport Library Schiphol

Friday, October 8th, 2010

For most people, waiting in airports is probably not their favorite pastime. Schiphol Airport Amsterdam is known for its efforts to make waiting more enjoyable and to ease the discomforts connected to delays. There are already plenty of ways to kill time, including an innovative mini-Rijksmuseum.

Recently, the airport has added yet another option for literary travelers – a library. It is not a lending library – for that, time is, after all, usually too short. The library is a reference library. The airport also calls this a sitting area with extra value. “The focus of the multimedia collection is primarily on Dutch culture. It offers the millions of transfer passengers, who are only in the Netherlands to change flights, a chance to get an impression of the culture of our country. Initially the service of Airport Library offers the following:

  • Translated Dutch fiction in nearly thirty languages
  • The books that are annually chosen as the Best Designed Dutch Books
  • Photo books, photo shows and videos that reflect Dutch culture
  • Music of Dutch musicians”

Airport Library is for reading, watching and listening on the spot. People who wish to take something with them can use the TankU-downloadscreen. The library does offer a few downloadable movies that you can transfer to your mobile phone (or, one assumes, to an iPod) via Bluetooth for later viewing. Accordingly, the library is also about Dutch cultural diplomacy and nation branding.

Thus, Airport Library also offers highlights in Dutch architecture, visual arts, design, fashion and history. Special attention is given to the capital Amsterdam.

Airport Library is entirely based on self-service. Visitors can easily find their way and feel right at home in this unique public library.

TWIL #19: Dick van Tol (Schiphol Airport Library) and Kai Ekholm (National Librarian Finland) from Jaap van de Geer on Vimeo.

Throughout the world, libraries are working with innovative breakthroughs of their services, and a more flexible presence in the “public space” is an emerging strategy for example pursued by the Danish Library Innovation initiative “Digital Trendspotting”.

Swapping services – now also for luxury accommodation

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Couch surfing is well-known among young people, who want to experience the world on a small budget. Social media helps with the practicalities and it is easier than ever to locate friends of friends throughout the world on for example Facebook. Home swaps and summer house swaps is also well-known, and the time has come for those you own luxury houses and apartments. The website “Luxe Home Swap – for people with homes they’re proud of” – offer opportunities for a new group of tourists.

Home swaps can be claimed to be an eco-friendly alternative to hotels. In addition they provide an opportunity to get a closer insight into the living conditions in another place, and perhaps to meet neighbors and relatives of the host family. Many homes are supplied with what is needed for a holiday: toys for the children, sports equipment, bicycles etc.

The experience means savings on the accommodation bill, and therefore not the best of dreams for hotel owners. However, perhaps a swap will bring tourists to place that they did not consider in all. Many look for holiday opportunities “anywhere” – prepared for experiences they had never thought of. Testimonials on Luxe Home Swap suggest that swappers spend quite considerably more money on restaurants, shopping, entertainment etc.

Luxe Home Swap financial foundation is a membership fee, thus working creatively with worldwide social media under still new forms.  Luxe Home Swap also has a Facebook profile with a lively debate and picture that documents the joy of a avoiding the standard commercial pressure and relate with people instead.

A development cluster for mountain biking in Scotland

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Research demonstrates that innovation is enhanced in clusters of industries, NGOs, public authorities etc. The idea of a creating a cluster, rather than awaiting its emergence, has caught on in Scotland. Key national agencies worked together to plan how best to sustain and grow mountain biking in Scotland in a way which provides optimum and quantifiable returns in terms of participation in mountain biking, economic and tourism development and also in terms of public participation and sporting development and success. The Scottish Mountain Bike Development Consortium (SMBDC) is a principal actor in the process, which aims at developing Scotland to become the best mountain biking destination in Europe.

A concise strategic framework combines various objectives:

• To increase mountain biking visitor numbers by a further 50% over the next 5 years

• To increase domestic participation in mountain biking by 25% over the same period

• To assist Scots to win at least 5 medals in World or Commonwealth competitions

The innovation process requires an engagement of all stakeholders. The development cluster commits  those within the cluster. This may involve finding local ‘champions’ who are motivated and have the skills necessary to make the cluster work.

In a detailed study and strategy document a number of positive factors for mountain biking in Scotland are identified:

  • •”A worldwide and growing reputation
  • • World-class facilities
  • • Trail provision for all abilities
  • • International, national and local events of the highest calibre
  • • Access legislation which facilitates general responsible access to the outdoors
  • • A huge range of natural and informal paths
  • • The development of Core Path Networks
  • • Sporting success by Scots, providing good role models
  • • A positive culture and great enthusiasm for developing the activity at every level
  • • Public sector and commercial investment
  • • Good examples of coordinated inter-agency working
  • • Experience, knowledge and expertise
  • • The outstanding attractiveness of Scotland’s great outdoors as a venue for recreation and adventure sports.”

However, there are issues to be tackled:

  • “The affordability of sustaining trail provision
  • The lack of revenue streams for those making the main capital investments
  • Concerns about liability and an increasing number of accidents and the resulting potential for litigation
  • Inadequate cooperation amongst the key providers
  • Poor communications with enthusiasts
  • Gaps in the geographical distribution of trail centres and other trail provision
  • Lack of joined-up developments
  • Limited buy-in by local businesses
  • Limited promotion and marketing at certain levels
  • Issues with the image of mountain biking as an extreme, macho activity
  • The need to avoid environmental damage associated with sensitive sites and poor planning, design and management of trails
  • Poor integration with land managers and land management
  • Barriers to entry including the accessibility of local and especially urban provision and the costs of transport and bikes
  • A perceived lack of coordination at both national and local level, coupled with a perceived lack of ambition to realise the true potential of the activity
  • Inclusivity of the activity in relation to women, families, children and lower income groups
  • A lack of overall professionalism.”

As a result of a national focus, as cluster development plan is under development, identifying key local actions and sources of funding and support. The action includes:

  • “An assessment of the potential for local provision and widening of participation
  • Identified networks of routes suitable for off-road cycling which require minimum management and are, or could be, way-marked and can be promoted
  • Cycle-friendly connections which link the purpose-built and promoted facilities and the wider access network
  • Coordinated marketing including the preparation of specific materials including maps to promote the Cluster, in line with SMBDC guidance
  • Arrangements in place to enable businesses to work together to enhance the commercial returns from the activity in the area
  • Responsibility for ensuring that new developments are sustainable and established to appropriate standards, in line with SMBDC guidance
  • Local competitions, events, training and club development.”

Why is mountainbiking fascinating? Take a tour here:

Seven well-developed trails are already available in Scotland. They are marketed under a joint profile 7STANES.

Wallander walks in Ystad – staging a crime scene

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Ystad is a small town, situated in southern Sweden. It is the scene of Henning Mankell’s very popular detective novels with character Inspector Wallander, a cerebral, workaholic, hard-drinking loner. BBC drama series have used the town as a location with Kenneth Branagh in the starring role. Picturesque Ystad is becoming a “Crime scene”, a fact that the local tourist board is attempting to use to attract curious tourists.

The “Wallander Studio” is now a tourism attraction. It includes the appartment of Wallander, the police station and the forensic lab. Visitors will see examples of film sets and shots.

A small guidebook takes the visitor through the town. It points out whereabouts of daily routes of Wallander, the café, the beach etc. The categories of coffee and pastry that Wallander prefers are also available to the tourists. Crime scenes on the town square, the church and on specific addresses in the town allow for a thrilling attraction, even if nothing at all will happen during a tourist visit to quiet Ystad. Fans of Wallander will find the locations of all their favorite novels in and around Ystad, and they will be helped by the tourist office in their search.

Carina Sjöholm has studied the construction and impacts of the “Murder walks” in Ystad. She has a focus on how authenticity in this context is translates into tourists innovations: “”During these murder walks, the concept of authenticity is revised, since fictitious characters and places are mixed with “real” ones. The participants in the walks embody the geography; they place themselves inside the fiction, and thereby transgress the traditional border between fantasy and reality, otherwise upheld in crime stories and movies.” (page 156).

How are media-scapes created, marketed and sold? This is a complex process, with involves the tourists, who are also co-creating the experience. Their prior knowledge determines how they consume the place. Some of the tourists come to Ystad because of the films/series, and sometimes they do not know that the films are based on novels. Other tourists have the literary resource as a base. Sjöholm notes that these two groups approach Ystad in different ways. Authenticity in films is different than authenticity in novels.

The region is experiencing spinoffs of Wallander. Tourism enterprises lend from the concept, for example a summerhouse provider that claims to be located in “Wallander-land”. Many restaurants are keen to demonstrate a role in the novels and films.

The Wallander figure has many fans around the world. Groupings on the Internet are crucial for as word-of-mouth marketing of Ystad and the rest of Southern Sweden. One such group can be found at Inspector-Wallander.org.

Sjöholm, C. (2010). Murder walks in Ystad. In Knudsen, B.T. & Waade, A.M. (eds): Re-investing authenticity. Bristol: Channel Views Publications. P 154-168.

Travelling back to life

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

The German “Trauerakademie” – Grief Academy – has initiated a new type of collaboration with the tour operator TUI. The purpose is to provide specially organized charter tours for persons who have lost a dear family member or friend. TUI has a long experience in travel organization, and Trauerakademie holds an expertise in assisting people in mourning. The Trauerakademie undertakes an interview with the potential travelers in order to ensure that the participants are beyond the first paralyzing shock, and that they are ready to take steps back to life under the guidance of the “mourning companions”.

During a visit the participants will be offered guided tours, cultural and nature experiences, music, dinners etc. Thus, it is not about hiding the sorrow away, but to create new circumstances and environments that eventually can re-introduce happiness and optimism. The participants understand each others’ situation, and that is considered very helpful. The structure of the days in morning “lfe sense” sessions, afternoons “life culture” sessions, and the evening “life joy” sessions is a way to regain a sense of daily routine and readiness to act.  

The staff from the Trauerakademie are not therapists, but they are able, as a consequence of their practical training, to lend an ear and perhaps structure the complex thoughts of the grievers. They assist in the staging of for example meaningful joint rituals, such as for example planting trees for the dead.  The participants are free to take part or not in semi-spiritual activities according to their preferences.  

Marketing of these tours does not take place at the main TUI leisure platform, but mainly through grief groups, undertakers, hospices etc.

The tours were first launched in 2009, and they have been met by a very considerable positive interest and demand.  However, the initiative also has its critics. The spokesperson from Trauerakademi finds that as long as death remains somewhat a taboo in Western societies, there will be a need for such a niche product as mourning tours. Innovation in tourism has many outsprings, and deficiencies in the society is one of them.

Job advertisement as viral destination marketing

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Queensland, Australia advertized for the right person to fill the “Best job in the world”. Island caretaker: Well paid, meaningful, easy, and located in a beautiful tropical environment. “The best job in world” immediately became a viral success, seen, captured and shared by millions of people around the world. 1.4 million people applied for the job.

Destinations find that their revenues are under pressure and consumers are carefully looking for value for money. Thus, local agencies that promote tourism must focus their promotional strategy and find innovative ways to lower cost and enhance effectiveness. Viral campaigns are becoming an instrument in the marketing portfolio.

The strategy of some viral campaigns is to build in incentives for web site visitors to carry a sales message. A tool is provided which it is easier for people to spread the word about a tourism destination. The idea is not to push your visitors into delivering your sales message to others, but as a side effect of them gaining benefit from a utility or service that you offer.

Yet, viral campaigns are not easy to handle, and most of them do not go viral. Is there a way to know what might cause something to go viral or not? There are many viral ads that circulate the web today, but many of them are too obvious in promoting a particular brand.

Typically, a successful online viral campaign is:

- Short in length, less than 5 minutes
- Seen by many, by including a really attractive message
- It might be pretending to be user generated content, make by people like your audience
- Themed or choreographed to generate speculation and/or controversy.

Viral marketing is still innovative and experimental, but it is moving fast into the mainstream marketing toolbox. However, new mechanisms to increase the “social velocity” are emerging continuously. “The Best Job in the World Campaign” demonstrates the power and perspectives of the methods.

Viral campaigns often have a focus on increasing the awareness of a destination or a corporate brand rather than increasing the sales. In addition, the monitoring of the effects seems to be lacking in many cases. New methods are, however, emerging. It is to recognized by viral marketing strategist that a campaign might develop in ways that cannot be controlled, such as for example the Danish “Karen Video”.