Archive for February, 2011

Grønbechs Gård

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Crafts & Design Center Bornholm – Grønbechs Gård is a private association with only one employee on the payroll.

We are partly subsidized by the municipality and partly commercial. We show art/ craft and design, host conferences and lectures and act as a selling agent for the artist showing with us.

The center is solely run by 40 volunteers, these 60-70 yr old act as the front personnel and are therefore  a rich resource for service innovation. The volunteers come from diverse educational and vocational backgrounds but all share the same pioneer spirit when it comes to the establishment and maintenance of the center.

As the only strategic staff I spend too few hours in front of our customers and rely most of our improvement to input I get from our volunteers. I try to draw one big road for where the center is going in order to direct but still leave space for the volunteers to add their ideas. The volunteers have a solid foundation in the local community which is paramount for the center to broaden.

Most new ideas are therefore concerned with the service and entertainment of local guests. The dialogue with guest in the exhibition rooms are once again inspired by input I get from our volunteers.They know what special needs old and young have regarding print size and placements of information about artist. I try to be very humble in my approach: to listen and act on most of the concepts the front personnel suggest.

Still is a strategy that walks on two feet: planned and emergent, and time with my volunteers staff is always to scarce.

Mai Ørsted, Centerleder Grønbechs Gård

Aarhus By Light – interactive mural entertainment

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Aarhus by Light is an experiment in media facades. As part of the media facades project, he Concert Hall Aarhus, one of the largest in Europe, presents a new interactive media facade that invites guests and passers-by to encounter and partake in a new dimension of the renowned cultural institution. Luminous creatures live in the facade. As the guests approach, they enter their world which is itself part of the city. The creatures are social beings, and they enjoy other people’s company – most of the time…

Aarhus by Light from Tobias Ebsen on Vimeo.

The interactive installation is developed in a project called “Digital Urban Living“, which is a collaboration between the city, the university and independent media and entertainment agents. Thus it is an example of creative constrallations that transcend traditional borders and enhance the tourism product.

Sustainable destination development in Punta Cana

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Punta Cana is the biggest tourism destination in the Dominican Republic, and the third biggest in the Caribbean, attracting more than 2 million visitors a year. What began as a hotel development in the early 1970s has grown to include the Grupo Punta Resort and Club, Punta Cana International Airport, Punta Cana Ecological Foundation, and Punta Cana Community Foundation, among other destination attractions and real-estate developments. The project involved building an entire infrastructure in a region of the country that was not previously developed at all.

Grupo PUNTACANA built the first privately owned international airport in the world, as well as a flourishing town where middle-income families and workers live in their own homes and are provided with medical services, a fire department, security, paved roads, water and sewage services, electricity and garbage disposal.

PUNTACANA was also the first resort in the region to construct a water treatment facility. Freshwater used in the resort is treated through the use of anaerobic digestion and settling ponds instead of harsh chemicals. It is then recycled for irrigation of green areas. Potable water is also monitored for quality and safety.
The group built its own industrial laundry facility to handle laundry, not only for its own resort but also for other independent hotels in the area. The machines are powered by heat energy from steam generated in an adjacent electric power plant to conserve electricity. The industrial laundry facility uses that steam in the operation of the drying equipment.

The company employs well over 1,700 people, 99% of whom are of regional Dominican origin, and it invests over US$3,085,000 annually to support their corporate social and environmental responsibility initiatives.

Even before sustainability was a word used in the Travel & Tourism industry, Grupo PUNTACANA made a decision to build an airport that reflected the local culture and had a soft environmental footprint. The international airport, which handles major airlines from all around the world, with up to 250 flights a week, used local stone, wood and thatch as building materials. The group made sure the building was no higher than the surrounding trees, and it opted against air-conditioning (for the tropics, this was a radical decision), choosing instead to use large ceiling fans that it had designed to provide adequate air flow. Trees were left growing through the airport building itself, giving a sense of integration with nature.

To service the airport and its resort, PUNTACANA created a recycling centre which processes 2-3 tons daily of plastic, cardboard, paper, bottles, etc. It also created a highly effective water management system that is overseen by an internal environmental quality control department, geographically distributed to minimise pressure on the aquifer. This modern pumping system controls and helps conserve the amount of water used at the resort.

All water used in the facility is either recycled in the plant operations or treated in the water treatment facility and recycled in irrigation.

PUNTACANA established the first golf course in the Caribbean to use paspalum hybrid grass, which can be irrigated with salt water, further saving ground water resources. This led to a reduction of over a million gallons a year needed for golf course irrigation and led to the adoption of paspalum grass by resorts throughout the Caribbean. To share best practices, PUNTACANA helped to launch the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST), and PUNTACANA’s CEO was its first president and remains on its governing board.

The resort has also developed the Partnership for Ecologically Sustainable Coastal Areas. This project is a public-private partnership to protect and restore threatened coral reef ecosystems. The partnership has pioneered eight marine education modules in three schools in the Punta Cana region to teach basic concepts of coastal ecology and conservation. Over 450 local students and 11 teachers have participated in the programme since 2007.

In 2005, as part of its social outreach programmes, Grupo PUNTACANA began working with the nearby Rural Clinic of Verón to improve free healthcare services provided in the region. The clinic is the only primary care facility serving the local community.

To help educate tourists on destination stewardship, guests are encouraged to learn about PUNTACANA’s conservation efforts and sustainable development. The company published a book, A Natural Way of Business: Grupo PUNTACANA, An Unusual Partnership in Sustainable Tourism, which is available to guests in each room. Punta Cana now represents 25% of the foreign exchange for the entire Dominican Republic and has the highest per capita income and lowest level of unemployment in the country.

Diablo Canyon Rural Planning Area

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Diablo Trust is a land management team that was initiated in 1993 by two farming families the Metzgers and the Prossers to provide a forum for the community to actively participate in land stewardship.

The Diablo Trust is an innovative approach to rural planning in Arizona between 1998 and 2000, called the “Growing Smarter Legislation”. Landowners were encouraged to petition for the establishment of Land Trusts that would effectively assume planning responsibility for rural faming lands and adjacent tenures within Arizona. With the approval of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors the Diablo Trust was formed in 2003. Subsequently a planning meeting held at the Flying M Ranch in Fall 2003 and the Diablo Canyon Rural Planning Area (RPA) was formed. It was the first Trust of its kind in Northern Arizona and effectively transferred control of the planning and permitting process for the Diablo Canyon Area to the Diablo Trust.

The goal of Diablo Trust is to create a range of economic opportunities in support of private landholders and traditional uses while preserving open spaces for future generations. The sub-goals are:

  • Sustaining open space;
  • Living in balance with biodiversity;
  • Producing high quality food;
  • Restoring watersheds;
  • Creating stable, living soils; and
  • Achieving community.

Drivers of Innovation

The key driver for the formation of the Diablo Canyon RPA was necessity, and fear that the traditional cattle ranches and the families that run them would not survive. They aimed to protect traditional agriculture by preserving farmlands and developing options for value-adding products, tourism and alternative land-uses.  Two families, the Metzgers and the Prossers have ranch properties adjoining Diablo Canyon and they both recognized that they needed to join forces to preserve their land and the traditions connected to those lands. They also recognized the need to communicate with the local community and conservation groups regarding their efforts to preserve grasslands not only for cattle, but also for the wildlife that inhabits the area.

Antelope, elk and deer co-habit with cattle on their properties and they have made considerable effort to protect wildlife habitat by working with the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Besides practical measures such as fencing cattle out of wetlands and using rest-rotation grazing during drought periods, they have also taken some innovative steps to incorporate, collaborate and communicate with the wider community under the banner of the Diablo Canyon RPA. Finally, there was a desire to pass on a viable business operation to future generations of family farmers, which in itself is a key dimension of economic and social sustainability.

Process of Innovation

There were two steps involved in this innovative approach to saving and sustaining land and traditions in the area. First was establishing the Diablo Trust as the entity that would assume planning responsibility for the area. This was undertaken by the Metzger and Prosser families, owners of the two long-time ranches in the area, the Flying M and the Bar T Bar Ranches. They began a process of petitioning the County Board for approval to form a rural planning area. The second step was to develop the Diablo Regional Plan which would encompass all of the multiple land uses within this area of approximately 426,000 acres. The area was a “checkerboard” of different land uses and private, state and federal tenures, and ranged from forests to high desert country (see figure 1). This area in north-east Arizona is the heartlands of the American West, once characterized by the Ranchers and cowboys who were the stuff of legends and the source of images portrayed through books and movies of the “wild west”.

Now, there are many competing lands uses and the process of planning and managing the land involved many stakeholders, as well as integration with the County Comprehensive Plan. There was a need to educate the public of the importance of public land ranching and the environmental stewardship practices that ranchers had in place. A weekend workshop was the venue for the ranches to recruit new members of the trust, such as the Sierra Club (and American environmental organization), who were not aware of the ranchers’ efforts with regard to land management and preservation.

With regard to commercial operations, a variety of land use options were considered worthy for inclusion in the Diablo Regional Plan. All the options had a commercial focus and some had additional environmental benefits and included:

  • Value Added Beef
  • Tourism, Recreation and Education
  • Wood Products
  • Energy Development
  • Housing

Examples of each of these options are cited in the plan and include fresh or frozen beef products, “dude ranches” and other tourism, recreation and education opportunities, firewood products, wind power generation and housing development.  However, each option presented their own challenges and barriers that limit their economic viability and/or cultural desirability.  These will be discussed in the next section.

Barriers to Innovation

There were many barriers for these farming families, not the least of which was the global trend toward intensive farming of beef in feedlots leading to the failure of traditional farming methods such as cattle ranching.  Another less tangible barrier was the perception held by members of the Diablo Trust that “they could do anything” on their lands, which turned out not to be the case.

The production of high quality, natural or organic beef for niche markets had been done in other parts of the West, and three examples — Babbitt Ranches, Oregon Country Beef and Ervin’s Natural Beef — were cited. A key decision is whether to provide the beef product in fresh or frozen form. Getting these products to market would require considerable investment in infrastructure and distribution systems which presented a major financial barrier.

Tourism, recreation and education also presented many barriers. Hosting and accommodating visitors on the ranches would require a huge effort by farmers, who are already busy with their farming activities. Other on-farm activities involving recreation and education programs were also considered, but their small scale meant that they may not be commercially viable. The cost associated with public liability insurance is also a major barrier to entry into this form of tourism, especially if an authentic experience of ranching and all of the hazards associated with it are to be offered. Finally, the presentation and communication skills of the local workers who would work in tourism are also a constraint.

Wood product production was considered as an innovation that would address two issues. Firstly it would reduce the area of Juniper and Pinion trees, making more land available for grazing. Juniper was an invasive species that was destroying grasslands and a program of reduction was already in place. Secondly it provides a source of commercial firewood production to meet demand in the cold Northern Arizona winters. However, tree-clearing and firewood collection is highly labour-intensive and there are many other sources of fuel for home log-fires, including packaged, manufactured logs with guaranteed three-hour burn times and even with crackling that imitates the sound of real burning wood!

Commercial banks of wind turbines that generate power for the grid can be found on many farming lands, and the rent that these sites generate for land owners is substantial. However, they have a tendency to ruin the rural vistas and aesthetics and as such meet with considerable resistance whenever they are proposed in open landscapes. View sheds in Northern Arizona can extend for 60 miles or more and in themselves provide a great sense of space for the millions of tourists that view the area on the way to world-class attractions such as the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley.  Locating Wind Turbines on farms requires consideration of not only engineering factors such as proximity to the grid, but also aesthetic considerations and effects on vistas and view sheds.

Finally, housing development perhaps presents that biggest issue for farmers, as land sold off for housing will be lost to farming forever. All farmers, no matter where they live, want to retain or indeed expand their land holdings in order to attain economies of scale and more economically viable farm production.  Partial sale of farmlands would however enable farmers to keep their Ranch houses and the majority of their lands, so a careful plan for developing land has to be put in place.

Innovation can be both necessary and practical and will not always require extensive research and new technology, especially when it comes to dealing with the universal problems of rural land management. By working with local, state and federal agencies, community and conservation groups and each other, these two long-time farming families have taken considerable steps to improve land management practices, conserve habitat for wildlife, maintain their farming traditions and ensure that the land remains representative of all of the values associated with the West.

Tasting Arizona

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Tasting Arizona is a consortium of tourism, non-government, indigenous, farming, education, community, festival and food organizations that aim to provide ‘local flavor’ to customers in Arizona (see Table 1). Tasting Arizona began as a series of workshops held in 2007 as part of a project of the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University. The philosophy behind Tasting Arizona is that visitors want local flavor and they have identified a range of food products that represent the taste and feel of Arizona. Wild foods such as flour made from the Mesquite bean and pure varieties of fruit and vegetables are just two examples of traditional local foods that have been revived.

The benefits of this revival extend well beyond providing visitors with local flavors, as these foods are linked with preserving traditional farming practices, conserving areas for wildlife, educating youth, keeping food pure and free from genetic modification, maintaining biodiversity and protecting cultural traditions.

Drivers of Innovation

Tasting Arizona believes that wild and traditional foods are good for everybody – producers, consumers and tourists. In addition to the community benefits there are indications that wild foods have previously unknown health benefits.  Certain foods such as white corn are central to traditional cultural ceremonies yet these pure varieties are under threat from cross-pollination with genetically modified varieties of corn.

Hence the drivers of innovation in Tasting Arizona can be summarized as:

  • Maintaining food purity and biodiversity;
  • Protecting local cultures and traditions;
  • Conserving natural areas;
  • Reviving farm lands; and
  • Educating the public (especially youth) about local foods.

Process of Innovation

The first step in reviving the traditional and wild foods was to create a food network with local people to:

  • Bring back local farmer’s markets;
  • Support local farms;
  • Fostering of Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs);
  • Demonstrate demand for local foods;
  • Grow food in community gardens; and
  • Contribute to organizations that are helping maintain and strengthen food systems.

Bringing back local farmer’s markets provides a place for celebration of local foods and interaction between producers, restaurants and consumers. Supporting local farms involves identifying traditional food varieties, orchard restoration, sponsorship of festivals and food events, inviting chefs to prepare local produce and creating food and wine trails.  These activities will enable visitors to discover local foods which will increase demand and encourage more producers to get involved. Engaging with youth in creating and farming community gardens that grow local varieties of produce is a tool that is used to educate the local community, increase demand and strengthen supply. Tasting Arizona is also introducing wild foods to visitors and residents in familiar ways, such as cookies made from Mesquite flour which is naturally sweet. This has been so successful that demand now outstrips supply. Another initiative is ‘Wild Food’ walks. These walks provide educational opportunities for linking wild foods to wildlife and preserving natural areas.

CSAa is a direct connection between local farmers and the people who eat their produce. The aim is to foster a mutual commitment: communities of eaters commit to supporting a local farmer for a season. In return, CSA participants receive fresh, seasonal produce—sharing in the risks and bounty of farming.

The declaration of themed National Heritage Areas has provided an opportunity for the consortium to access funding for the development of tours and the production of maps of farming and wild food areas in Arizona and neighbouring States. In this way, tourists can be engaged in discovering new foods and support local producers.

Barriers to Innovation

The challenges are many. First both natural and farming lands are under increasing pressure from larger producers and non-local produce, to satisfy demand from customers who have become used to buying out-of-season and non-local produce.

Second there are limitations of the scale of production that prevent traditional and wild food producers from achieving continuity and volume of supply. Third there is as yet no distribution system in place for local foods.

Fourth locally produced food has been declining as water is being diverted for other uses. Fifth there is a lack of place-based agriculture and agricultural diversity as the trend to source mass-produced foods from outside of the local area continues.

This case demonstrates that a creative and innovative approach to food production can not only enhance tourism experiences, but it can protect local traditions, restore farmlands, maintain natural and agricultural biodiversity and move farming and native communities toward sustainability of their land, traditions, culture and community. Collaboration is the key to renewing food systems and creating local networks that produce, protect and promote traditional and wild foods.

Interactive wall in a tourism office

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

The multimedia wall in the tourism office in Cape Town allows the visitors to get a new and far more animated version of the guide book or the tourist brochure. The visitors can activate animations of attractions in the area, and the sceneries are illustrated and text information is also displayed. Multiple visitors can play at the same time. The installation helps the visitors to plan their day in Cape town.

The video goes behind the screen and explains the technology.

Big and interactive screens are increasingly used in tourism, in order to create experience, animate and inform. For example the Maze Funhouse in Chicago has installed a interactive floor for children. The floor animates the fire of Chicago and involves the kids in the firefighting.