Archive for November, 2010

Combining travelling and microfinancing

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

There are numerous micro credit institutes that provide funds for small tourism in developing countries. Many of them seek to create good relations and information flows between investors and the small business people. It is important for the investors that somebody is backing their projects both financially and morally.

The non-profit micro credit institute Investours has widened the offer to tourists. Investour organizes “microfinance tours” — a new brand of goodwill tourism that takes the whole small-loan concept and puts the power directly in the hands of the tourists. Instead of a bank making a decision about who gets a loan, strangers with a small vested interest do.

Oaxaca, Mexico is one of the places that have been targeted for this type of financing/tourism, and recently a location in Tanzania has also become part of the program.

The village Teotilan is known for its rug-making. Beautifully wrought rugs are produced, the colors dyed from the earth: The yellow colors come from chamomile, the red from insects and lime juice.

Potential investors are women carpet makers. The rugs take a week or two to complete, depending on the size and the design. The women are seeking loans for more materials; the  sheeps wool that they spin into yarn and the charcoal-like rocks that make the blue dye are expensive and come from a village pretty far away. Their aim is to expand their production.

Lenders want to know about the feasibility of the production. Where are rugs sold? How do potential customers learn about the product? What facilities are available for sale and promotion in the village?

A new organization has been established, where the producers are in charge, to help with marketing. It is essential to out-compete middlemen whose profits used to squeeze the incomes of the producers and hinder their expansion. Some successes have shown the way to increased self-sufficiency and collaboration, for example in catering and herbal plant production.

During the tour, the tour group will have to decide  how to invest. Ultimately, the tour group must select one of the two groups to receive the group’s loan. The loan consists of the tour group’s pooled tour fees, 100% of which go towards the interest-free loan.

Telling city history on location

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Nevada City in California is a small city characterized by it’s historical buildings hailing from a glamorous era during the gold rush. Many of these historical buildings and environments are preserved. These preserved properties are a major resource for the town. The town’s shop and restaurant keeper work together with historians to create an interest in the particularities of heritage, and at the same time to lead visitors to their businesses.

Residents and tourists can stroll into history by taking a walking tour of the Windows on History exhibit where 47 mural size historical photographs taken between 1850 and 1920 will be on display. These photos will be placed in windows at their original historic downtown location along with stories that bring them to life.

The project has engaged the local people in storytelling, and created a higher recognition of the importance of their history. It is a cheap, easy and flexible mode of interpretation, if there are no museums and other institutions to do this job.

Nevada celebrates its heritage every year with a “Miners’ day”.

Fish! – managerial innovations

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

The Seattle Pike Place fish market attracts thousands of locals and tourists, not only because of the quality of the produce, but also because of the staff who enjoy their job and are happy to serve their customers. Most of the staff has developed an ability to throw the produce across the premises accompanied by high loud squeals. The atmosphere in the place is full of joy and gags. It is about weeding out stress, boredom, toxic energy and burnout.

This is a result of a distinctive managerial effort, following a period of low staff motivation and declining sales. The philosophy is a set of simple, practical tools to help create an attractive and productive work culture. The FISH! Philosophy fulfills the most basic needs of human beings who, in turn, fulfill the needs of the organization—more connected teams, better communication, extraordinary service and higher staff retention.

The main tools and recommendations are simple:

  • Be There is being emotionally present for people. It’s a powerful message of respect that improves communication and strengthens relationships.
  • Play taps into your natural way of being creative, enthusiastic and having fun. Play is the spirit that drives the curious mind, as in “Let’s play with that idea!” It’s a mindset you can bring to everything you do.
  • Make Their Day is finding simple ways to serve or delight people in a meaningful, memorable way. It’s about contributing to someone else’s life, not because you want something out of it, but because that’s the person you want to be.
  • Choose Your Attitude means taking responsibility for how you respond to what life throws at you. Once you are aware that your choice impacts everyone around you, you can ask yourself, “Is my attitude helping my team or my customers? Is it helping me to be the person I want to be?”

The Fish philosphophy has been translated into a large and growing, franchised management system with training sessions, books, videos etc. It is expanding with subsidiaries in many countries. The Fish concept has inspired tourism and other service enterprises.

See the book about FISH!:

Lundin, S.C., Paul, H. & Christensen, J. (2000) Fish. By Stephen C. Lundin, Ph.D., Harry Paul, Hyperion, New York.

Molecular meals – a strictly scientific restaurant

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Moto restaurant in Chicago is challenging the normal view of cooking as a solely artistic endeavor. In the molecular restaurant everything is based on science, and that has resulted in innovative and thought provoking menus. Homaro Cantu is an internationally recognized leader in the world of molecular gastronomy. Molecular gastronomy is the application of both scientific and artistic principles to cuisine.

According to moto, the “molecular tasting room” makes dining like taking part in an ongoing multi-sensory science experiment. “The kitchen applies science to cuisine artistically, utilizing high-tech equipment such as Class IV lasers and liquid nitrogen with eclectic ingredients from around the world. The moto kitchen serves as a laboratory and a canvas for Cantu and his team, an incubation center for ideas that are revolutionizing the culinary landscape – ideas that focus on all things food-related, including menu items, packaging, tools, delivery and more.”

There is a strong team focus on the holistic aspect of each guest’s dining experience. “Parallel to the intricately woven layers of taste, texture, and imagination in every bite of food is the detailed choreographed process of food preparation and presentation at moto. Each staff member pays attention to all elements of the total guest experience because each staff member has experience with every aspect of food preparation and presentation: at moto, every chef is a waiter and every waiter is a chef, as each employee rotates periodically from kitchen prep to tableside service.”

Moto is located among the loading docks and 19th-century warehouses of Fulton Market – Chicago’s lively meatpacking district – surrounded by an enterprising new breed of chic boutiques, avant-garde art galleries, and trendy restaurants. Since opening moto Cantu has captivated adventurous diners and media alike with his imaginative interpretation of postmodern cuisine. It is recognized by moto and many of the enthusiastic guests that “using science, technology and art in nouveau ways, the moto team continues to astound and astonish with novel, interactive dining experiences, redefining the boundaries of established culinary traditions of taste, texture and technique.”

Mobile saunas in Finland

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

The Finnish sauna tradition includes a strong social element. In addition, that sauna belongs to everyday life in Finland it is used as a part of social events e.g. among groups of friends or in business meetings. Social events build around sauna are called “sauna evenings”. These include going to the sauna, relaxing, eating and drinking. This social aspect of a sauna can be utilized at places where a sauna is not usually found by the use of mobile saunas.

Portable sauna

Photo by Andrea Vascellari, Attribution ShareAlike License

Several businesses, events and festivals have offered their customers the  possibility to use a sauna in situations where it normally would not be possible. In Finland it is possible to rent a sauna truck, bus or other transportable sauna. For example in the summer of 2010 a sauna truck owned by a radio station traveled to several music festivals in Finland, where they transmitted shows about the social element of the sauna culture.

The 2010 Mobile Sauna Festival in Teuva, Finland showed a number of innovative designs for the sauna. For example the pocket-sized saunas for one person at a time. Other designs were applied to relict agricultural machinery, horse carriages, and truckloads.

Finland is not the only country using mobile saunas. The mobile sauna is also found in Russia and Estonia, especially in remote areas, although they tend to be used by the locals rather than tourists. See more mobile saunas on the website: Saunasessions

Storm and tornado tours

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Tourists interests are wide-ranging with some wanting to experience phenomena which others would like to avoid.

Storm Chasing Adventure tours has offered storm chasing tours in North America since 1997.  The firm aims consistently to be the first on the scene as storms form and they offer the customer an opportunity to be closer to tornadoes and severe storms, but still keep safe.

Storm Chasing Adventure Tours employs technology to be able to locate storms. The firm was the first to offer a state-of-the-art lightning detection system that can detect and track thunderstorms up to 300 miles away. In 2000 Storm Chasing Adventure Tours started using came up satellite weather information and radar inspection when following storms in order to provide the best possible experience for the tourists.

The lead vehicle is the most highly equipped chase vehicle in Tornado Alley, looking like an armed war instrument, for the safety of staff and tourist. Most tornadoes in the United States form in an area called “Tornado Alley”. This area includes parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska.

All kinds of people are chasers. There are actually very few scientists doing primary research. Most people chase storms because they are interested in meteorology and because they want to see severe weather up close. Others are interested in taking pictures or videos of the storms. Finding a tornado is not that easy. Some experienced chasers spend 10-12 days hunting for every minute they see a tornado.

Storm Chasing Adventure has received quite some media attention and there are also other companies trying to fill into this niche. Being in time, getting close and yet being safe is the main issue. Planning and organization are a continuous challenge when offering this type of product.

Finding travel companions

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Globetrooper is a website for adventurous travelers who want to create trips themselves and invite people from all over the world to join them. On the website the users can browse through a list of trip offers, when the creators are looking for companions to go to places as Chernobyl, or the Gobi Desert, or a gang to take a roundtrip on Indian Railways. Some tours are visits to film locations, others are challenging trekking or mountain climbing. Some trips are of long duration, other people seek company for only a few days. Some primitive, others in luxury.

There are many reasons for traveling in groups, such as stated on Globetroopers website: to make new friends, for increased safety in difficult regions, to learn from each other, and of course, to share your most memorable experiences with people who can appreciate them.

Globetrooper members who decide to join a particular trip are listed as “confirmed troopers”. Others are “followers”, people did not decide yet. Profiles of the organizer and companions are provided.  When a trip is first announced, a blog ensures an ongoing debate on the planning, where bloggers can suggest extensions, amendments etc. The planning of the tour is a public matter.

The tours are rated according to: difficulty, culture shock, remoteness and risk. Estimated costs are indicated as well.

The website also provides other travel tips and travel inspiration.

Globetropper is an example of an emerging “mass mingling” trend, where people meet up across national borders, age and social division in order to find others who share an interest with.  Mass mingling describes the phenomenon of how people are now living large parts of their lives online and connecting with people from all over the world through virtual networks, and eventually, perhaps even meeting each other.  These people use technology to bring online activities to the real world through the use of GPS and mobile online access. Meetings are more impromptu, temporary meet-ups of strangers, mobs and crowds with similar interests, hobbies, political preferences, causes and grievances. Many of these (temporary) meet-ups will revolve around generating public attention, or getting something done.

Viral marketing, the Korean way

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Igawa Haruka is a well known Japanese actress. In order to attract tourists’ attention to Korea as a tourist attraction, the Seoul based marketing company “designfever” invented a viral marketing campaign, which created an attention and rumor about Haruka in Japan.  The idea was to tell a (fake) story about Haruka falling in love with a Korean actor.

The campaign was launched in 2008 by  the national Korean tourist board. The campaign was organized, with first, an imitated news TV transmission, suggesting that the love affair was a scandal. Second, teasers aimed at creating more attention. Last “reporters” attempted to follow Haruka on her visits to Korea. During this the visitor would see many interesting sights of Korea. Testimonies added to the semi-scandalous value of the whole undertaking. On the internet visitors were able to interact, as if they were also paparazzi.

Designfever won an award for the campaign, but there is no mention of the point of view of Haruka.

Utilizing farm buildings for tourism

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Over the past few decades, most European countries have experienced a rapid depopulation of rural areas, particularly such areas that are remotely located. This is mainly due to the difficulty in finding employment outside of agriculture. Not surprisingly, tourism appears to be a suitable economic activity that can be developed and enhanced in these areas. Many projects aim at attracting investments that can catapult a development process. However, external financing is generally hard to activate for small places.

UNDP has given support to the high-altitude villages of Leshten and Kovachevisa in the Pirin Mountains in Bulgaria in order to combine the need for tourism jobs and for the preservation of culturally valuable buildings. The mechanism is fairly simple (and also used in other locations and by other funding bodies): the farmers are subsidized to renovate their farm buildings to accommodate tourists. The building work has to be done according to preservation standards launched by the authorities, otherwise reimbursement will be refused. The initiative is supported by professional marketing and promotion.

The renovations are important to attract tourists for longer than a day, as most people look for some comfort. A careful renovation which aligns with the building traditions of the area also adds to its visual attractiveness and assists the locals in establishing a pride in their area.

This transformation is often a long lasting process. The mentality and competences of the locals have to be reoriented. The renovations themselves are not sufficient to boost the number of visitors, catering, trails, attractions etc. must be established as well. A number of destinations endowed with natural and cultural beauty have successfully, over many years, completed the transformation from agriculture to agritourism.

The Canadian Tourism Research Innovation Project has compiled a list of research resources on the issue of innovative rural tourism development. The message is clear: It is of utmost importance for the local communities that tourism development takes place in a consistent and innovative way. Recent depopulation in countries with a very rich historic building culture, for example Italy and Greece, is a major challenge for authorities and communities.

Soundscapes Africa

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Sound is an important part of any experience. Therefore sound design has become an ingredient in the development of tourism experiences, taking into account and used by many museums and attractions. Restaurants and hotels also work with soundscapes,  hereby attempting to compliment other design features their desired image.

The full extent of the use of sound has not yet been reached. The project Listen to Africa provides some indication of the future of the sounds for marketing and the promotion of destinations.

Listen to Africa is not the work of a destination, it is an initiative of two individual and independent travelers. The Listen to Africa expedition is a two year journey by bicycle to record some of the sounds of Africa – from oral histories and music to soundscapes and wildlife. As indicated on the webside “recording and publishing sound seems an appropriate way to communicate from a continent that has so much to say and is so rarely heard outside of its own borders.”

The two initiators claim not to have fixed ideas about the subject matter, the Listen to Africa website will inevitably reflect the interests of the team: human rights and humanitarian welfare, wildlife and environmental protection, music and citizen journalism. They were keen to work with African people and groups along the way, especially in local and community radio, podcasting and blogging.

Those interested in the soundscapes of Africa can follow the trip on the web, and listen to the sounds of mangroves, transport sounds, wildlife, music, market sounds, etc.

The website has a very active blog function, where many people who are interested in Africa comment on the sounds and the pictures. The journey is very personalized, and followers on the internet are keen supporters who pay a real interest to both the travelers and the places they are visiting. Obscure places in Africa,  without any promotional costs, are exposed on Listen to Africa.

Below is a podcast of the Yellow Casqued Horn Bill from www.listentoafrica.com.

Baby coral sponsorships on Bali

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Sponsor a baby coral. That is a tempting opportunity offered on the coast for Bale in Pemuteran. It is expensive to work with re-erection of the reefs, therefore sponsorship is necessary to create funds for the project, and at the same time motivate the tourists to be responsible when they visit areas with vulnerable corals. When sponsoring, the tourists will get his name bent in metal.  The metal is sunk into the sea, and future corals can grow on it. The tourists get a picture of the metal and a certificate. After a year, the sponsor will receive another photograph which shows how the coral has grown.

The objective is to expand the project as it has wider economic implications. The coral reefs protect against erosion of the beaches. This is critical for hotels, and therefore hotel owners can be found among the sponsors.

For more than a decade authorities and NGO’s have worked on reestablishing the vulnerable and threatened coral reef. What they do is explained on Biorock’s website: “Coral nurseries built using the Electrolytic Mineral Accretion Technology (Biorock®) of Hilbertz and Goreau provide unique advantages for restoring coral reefs. Corals grown on mineral accretion are exceptionally brightly coloured and rapidly growing, support dense fish populations, and are more resistant to all environmental stresses except bombs and poisons. The first projects in Indonesia were built in the Pemuteran Marine Protected Area in June 2000 by Hilbertz and Goreau, working with Yos Amerta and Gahawisri, in front of the Yos Dive Shop at Pondok Sari, and in front of Reef Seen Aquatics. Three more structures were added in October 2000 in front of the Village Sea Temple, during an international training workshop on coral nursery construction (see Workshop Report for details). The Workshop was funded by a grant from the Leslie Jones Foundation to the Global Coral Reef Alliance’s coral reef restoration program, and donations in kind from Yos Dive Shop and Pondok Sari Hotel. The success of these structures in stimulating rapid coral growth was apparent within months, leading to requests to greatly expand the project. Taman Sari Hotel donated further funds to support the construction of new projects in March 2001.”

The initiative is followed by scientists and other  researchers.

Beach exploring and contributing to environmental protection

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

The Island of Sylt on the German west coast is a popular holiday destination, mostly for a domestic market. The island has long sandy beaches and access to the rough North Sea with all its charms. The area is rich in flora and fauna and remains from the sea wash onto the shore. This gives interesting objects of study for those who take a walk along the coast

The iPhone application Beachexplorer was created to assist tourists who want to know more about what they find on the beach e.g. shells, algae, fish.

It is possible to:

  • identify and get information pages about the organisms that are found on the beach
  • find out the number of times that kind of animal has been reported already and when
  • get additional pictures of the object
  • see a map that shows other places where the animal/object  has been reported.

The information can also be shared with friends via Facebook.

With a large community of tourists and people who visit the island Sylt, Schutzstation Wattenmeer (The environmental protection unit) and biologists can in the future analyze findings in greater detail. The geographical coordinates and dates are important to understand animal population. The set-up, which activates visitor as well as locals, is part of the objectives to protect the ecosystem of the Wadden Sea

A similar use of tourist collected information for research purposes can be found in Ecocean.

Total Ski School – innovation for people with disability

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

The non-profit organization Totalskidskolan ( The Total Ski School)  is in itself not new, but it is quite unique and has developed in more recent time since moving its base to Åre. Totalskidskolan is a ski school that welcomes all skiers with a permanent disability – visual, physical, mental or learning. The target groups should not be denied the joy skiing.

The working goal is that skiing is for everyone. Anyone who has the interest will be provided with the opportunity to experience the speed, snow, mountain environment, joy and excitement of skiing. The organization arranges kids’ ski camps, youth weeks and ski school weekdays during the winter season. A significant amount of work has been done to develop equipment and methods that compensate for any handicap.

It is important for the organization that expensive equipment is not a hindrance for the participant. A financial organization ensures that special arrangements and equipment do not effect the price he/she pays. The price paid is the cost that other visitors to Åre pay for their ski school and hire of equipment. A token is given to Totalskidskolan which then hence subsidizes the costs. The methods and philosophy have been an inspiration to many other countries worldwide.

The history of Skidskolan illustrates the importance of creative people. Ski enthusiast Anders Ohlsson broke his back in 1976. “Anders and his friend Theo started to construct a device to fix Anders legs in a stance suitable for skiing. They soon discovered that their device was not safe for skiing in fact it was the complete opposite. They began to develop ideas for a ski with a seat –a sitski. Around the same time in America the modern sitski was showcased in a Disability magazine. In 1987,  Sitskigruppen was founded under the management of SLAO (Swedish Lift Areas Organisation)  with finance from Allmänna arvsfonden and sponsors. The project was a success an when it ended in 1992, Anders immediately started a new project that was planned to last 3 years until 1995. Demand for sitski course was huge and during the first project we had become aware that there were many other people with disabilities that wanted the opportunity to ski. Skiing was now available to all whatever their requirements. This project was called Sitskigruppen Totalskidskolan.”

In 1996  Totalskidskolan took part in a project with Handikappinstitutet and Allmänna arvsfonden to create a richer leisure time for people with disabilities. Totalskidskolan built up a material pool to satisfy the need for leisure equipment for winter sports. The project finished at the turn of the year 1998/1999. Totalskidskolan continues to run the hire pool of equipment acquired during the project to satisfy the need for winter equipment.