Connecting

With places & with each other

innovators are designing the future

Connecting

With places & with each other

innovators are designing the future

Connecting people

Impactful travel experiences go hand in hand with encounters between people; small, treasured moments with other travellers and residents, encounters with guides, taxi drivers and other people from the tourism services industry. Geniality, a warm welcome, involvement and a willingness to help all contribute towards a high-impact travel experience. The appeal of a place, therefore, is largely based on the hosts (residents and service providers) and the encounters between visitors and residents. It is therefore all about the experience of the person-to-person relationship. Proud hosts are delighted to share their place with visitors. Pride in your ‘place’ is an important ingredient in a flourishing community.

Connecting with the power of the place

The large-scale listening exercise showed that a powerful travel experience often corresponds with an intense experience of the place itself. It’s all about experiencing the specific identity of an area; the lifestyle and values, the socio-political situation, the natural world, art and heritage. Each place showcases its own unique character, has its own DNA and preserves its natural and cultural heritage. Consequently, the place is distinct from others and thus becomes more appealing. Residents are proud of their place and visitors are surprised. They are inspired and challenged, and feel committed and connected. They remember the place. Places have a soul, they are home to people. The strands of a place’s DNA encompass the stories, history, important moments, functions, heritage value, traditions, culture, the community life. The DNA is what makes a place so unique. The identity of people, communities and organisations determines how the DNA of the place is approached, experienced, and how it is handled. It is important to identify the location’s DNA and to communicate about it honestly. That’s what 'expectation management’ is all about. However, that’s not to say that you should adapt the place to expectations, wishes or the sensitivities of the audience. But it does mean that a place may evolve or even mutate. A place is a dynamic entity that is constantly developing.

Place keeper(s)

Aside from a legal owner, most places also have many other ‘owners’. They feel connected to the place, live within it, manage and cherish it. These ‘place keepers’ could be residents, entrepreneurs, associations, organisations and governments. They experience the place’s unique spirit and soul and make sure it continues. A place keeper can fulfil various roles. He can strengthen, monitor or support the location by talking about it. A place keeper can give a place a voice and strengthen its future opportunities so that people have a more impactful experience and learn more about it, and the community gains more benefits. A place keeper can set and monitor the boundaries of a location so that the DNA is retained and the location is respected. Examples of place keepers: Rangers for the Hoge Kempen National Park, the residents of Venice, a city council that imposes a maximum number of visitors per guide, …

Connecting people with places and with one another via art, for example …

“A beautiful example of a cultural project whereby tourists are connected to residents is the Triennial in Bruges.” All over the city, you can find modern artworks that can ‘touch’ you and encourage discussion. “During the Triennial, you see a blend of visitors and residents around the city. The place in the Reien where you can swim, for example, attracts the local youth but also the tourists who come to see the art.” The artists were invited to collaborate with residents on their project. “This project also helps to illustrate a different, contemporary Bruges. It connects the old Bruges with contemporary art. It fits into the city’s DNA and showcases the fact that the city is not just an open-air museum but also a living place.”

Vincent Nijs, VisitFlanders

Or these beer makers …

“I’d love to tell you about Jazz Bilzen Beer. In 2017, a group of friends took the initiative to create a new beer, to honour the Jazz Bilzen festival and cherish the corresponding memories. Jazz Bilzen, the legend, was launched in April 2018. A community has grown around the beer, involving people who love the beer itself, and the memories of the festival, explain its significance to visitors, and toast the stories from the past. Every year, for seventeen years, a special beer will be brewed. That beer will always hark back to one of the festivals. This can then link into some sort of tourist event. The development of a Jazz Bilzen experience, i.e. stories, music, the place, exhibitions, brewing beer and tasting. And what's even more amazing: there is no clear plan and no leader. There have been no subsidies or enormous investments. Jazz Bilzen Beer is the result of a desire, connection and voluntary efforts, along with the goodwill of a few entrepreneurs who have offered investment and support.”

Griet Bouwen, Nieuwmakers

How can you strengthen the place? Where is it happening already?

  • Experiment with other forms of travel and new opportunities for (tourist) experiences and involve the location's DNA. Visitors will learn about the place in a different way as a result. Examples: bare footpaths, wild camping, canoeing in the city …
  • Support people who keep traditions alive, who bring the DNA to life. Examples: The Last Post at the Menin Gate, prawn fishermen in Koksijde, …
  • Involve new people, add new elements, and broaden existing elements to make the place more dynamic or to redesign it. Examples: Bulskampveld, t’ij in Kruibeke-Bazel, The taste of Jazz Bilzen Beer …
  • Make financial investments in the place. Examples: Flanders Meeting & Convention Center Antwerp, The English Convent, cultural Hostel Bed Muzet …
  • Create new forms of investment: public/private whereby the public element also includes various organisations or citizens, such as cooperatives and crowd-funding in the local community. Examples: the picnic months at farms (Westtoer), cinema Roma …
  • Make places virtually accessible. Examples: the heritage app Faro, Historium …
  • Develop experiences in a multisectoral and sensory manner. Examples: art project Palingbeek, Art in the Landscape, Triennial Bruges …
  • Use the available expertise to strengthen the DNA. Examples: mills and bakery in Bokrijk where traditional craftsmanship lives on in a contemporary economy...