Destination management tips from visiting lecturer Doug Lansky

On August 31st, we welcomed Doug Lansky as a guest speaker for the Contemporary Issues in Marketing class on Bulle campus. As an expert on the topics of travel and tourism management, Doug is an acclaimed key note speaker for major industry events. He recently wrote a book about signage and set up a related exhibition in Sweden, and he writes for well-known guide books and travel journals. As one can see in his Tedtalk about Destination Management, Doug is a captivating speaker who incorporates funny examples of the troubles of the tourism industry.

Overall, the tourism industry seems to be suffering from some growing pains. Look at the numbers and you’ll see why: the tourist population has doubled in the past 20 years and is expected to double again over the next 20. International tourist arrivals reached 1133 million in 2014. Travel and tourism make up 9% of global GDP, and the industry is the world’s largest employer, responsible for one in 11 jobs. Within the next decade, it is anticipated that this industry will create an additional 75 million jobs and international tourist numbers will reach 1.8 billion by 2030. While this industry represents great opportunities for employment and economic development, the rapid growth of tourism has also created overcrowding and has reduced the authenticity and quality of the travel experience in some destinations.

Through examples of tourism failures in contrast with best practices, Doug showed us the things that tourism and destination marketing organizations are getting wrong, and he provided suggestions for concrete actions that can improve the guest experience, attract new tourism, and make destinations more profitable. Our students got plenty of ideas to keep in mind as they venture out into this fast-evolving world of destination marketing trends. After the presentation, Doug answered some questions that were compiled by the students and staff which you can watch here, or read below.

Key trends in destination marketing, an interview with Doug Lansky.

  1. What are the recent trends in destination competitiveness?

The thing is it’s more of a level playing field. It used to be that only the big players had ad agencies and had really slick campaigns. Now, everyone’s doing that and it’s sort of levelled the field, and the level has become a lot higher. So now they’re all trying to stay ahead and thinking about what’s the next thing, how do they take care of social media, how do they handle creating new product. These are the areas where it’s starting to get more competitive, the “Wild West” of tourism.

  1. What are the major changes in the tourism industry over the past 10-20 years?

Let’s just talk about one of the big changes in terms of social media. It’s something I mention often in my talks and I think it’s a good thing. Sites like Tripadvisor and other peer-review channels have levelled the playing field. Before, it was the people that had the big financial backers that could pay for the big ads and TV space. Now, if you do a great job, have a great hotel or a great attraction, and you have great service when you’re there and a really good, strong product, you get rewarded now. People now look to these peer-reviews as the new form of marketing, they might have heard about something from somewhere else, but then they go onto Tripadvisor and they see that this place actually had a higher review and they will get more investigative about it, they have more information at their fingertips and they can make smarter decisions.

  1. To what extent do Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) help the destination to achieve its tourism objectives?

Well, the DMOs try to get everybody paddling in the same direction. That’s sort of what they want, they’re trying to provide an overall direction, strategy, a brand. And their hope is that the individual stakeholders will rise up to that challenge. If they say “we’re creating a kid-friendly destination”, they want to see more kid-friendly attractions that will come and support that vision. So, the DMO is sort of setting the tone, but they need the stakeholders to rise up, they can’t do it alone. And the question, the really key question is: is the DMO going to have to get more involved in the development? Will they have to really do research on it, to fund it, to have city planners involved, or even to push by getting a seat at the table in the city planning and influence the direction that the city takes, if it’s something that’s too big for market. I think that’s one of the big issues they are wrestling with right now.

  1. How can destinations protect their uniqueness and what should be communicated to the customer?

It’s not easy to protect a place. At some point they need to stand up to McDonald’s and Burger King and Hilton and all these other brands, or at least when they come on board. If Hilton wants to come on board, let’s say, they could say that instead of building this really big hotel, they could say, “you can invest in some really small hotels that fit these zoning and architectural or cultural parameters.” So they have to really figure out what they want as a product and then protect that product. Otherwise it’s too easy to get watered-down and then they don’t have an individual, unique voice anymore.

  1. What are the most common factors that negatively affect tourism and destinations?

Well the biggest one overall is overcrowding. Overcrowding is a huge reason that people stop visiting. And it’s not necessarily that they say it’s crowded, it can be that it brings down the service level. It’s not easy for a place to function at a high level when they’re at 100% capacity. It can be the long queues at different places along the way. It’s not just overcrowding on the main street. It’s how it affects a lot of things. So let’s say that’s one of the biggest trends. And then another question is “What can they do about it?” And I think the number one thing they can do is to stop letting the hotels and the airlines dictate the number of people. They have to sort of figure out the number, and it can be wherever the bottle neck is, maybe it’s how many people fit on the walking street. You don’t want people to be smashed in like its New Year’s Eve on Times Square all the time. So you need to figure out what the carrying capacity is and then find ways to limit that, preferably with free market. I don’t know that you want to use draconian measures and have someone standing there saying you can come in, you can’t come in, but if you can find other ways such as ticketing for some of the popular attractions, I think that’s the direction it’s going to have to go.

For more of Doug’s insights into destination marketing and tourism management, visit his website www.douglansky.com or check out his author’s page on amazon.com for his books.

A big thank you to Danial Rahbari, our Academic Media Producer, for filming and editing this interview and to our faculty member and lecturer Anu Laukkala, who organized Doug’s visit for the Contemporary Issues in Marketing class.

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