The tourism of tomorrow will be different, whether we like it or not. What tourism can we create that matches the challenges of the future and establishes a positive balance for the traveller, host and place? And just as important: how do we shift in that direction, what do we need to see and do differently? Various voices were heard during think-tanks. The Canadian organisation expert Gervase Bushe delved deeper into how transformation works and proposed a new leadership vision in this context. Stefaan Vandist suggested designing tourism concepts on the basis of new balances. Jan van der Borg emphasizes attention to local carrying capacity. And Anna Pollock is launching the concept of flourishing destinations.
Gervase Bushe / leadership in transformational times
Gervase Bushe, Canadian expert in leadership and organisational development, takes an in-depth look at how transformation works and the role that leaders take in this context. Bushe suggests that it is important to start by clarifying why transformation is required. “Stop focussing on growth and redefine the success of tourism”, says Gervase. “Design an appealing, generative image for the future and start with many, small experiments that fit into the generative image. And, just as important, welcome people and organisations that wish to take part in the transformation.”
What type of leadership is required in order to take us into the future with confidence?
- Recognise that change and innovation comes from below
- Understand that partnerships flourish on the basis of equality
- Ask questions (instead of giving answers)
- Welcome experiments as a learning opportunity (and not as a threat)
- Realise that people are encouraged by the question; “How can what I do be a solution for what you encounter?”
- Recognise and nurture people’s potential, qualities and talents
- Be aware that nobody is responsible for someone else’s interpretation
- Understand that change and innovation occur when people share a goal and an identity
- Know that context is everything and every situation requires a different approach (copying a model or approach doesn't work)
Jan van der Borg / Local carrying capacity as an anchor-point
Carrying capacity is the most important anchor point for the policy of every tourism destination, says Jan van der Borg, professor in geography and tourism at the KU Leuven. A destination can only develop sustainably if the overall, collective benefits from tourism are greater than the costs. If the costs outweigh the benefits, the destination will reach a turning point. Then further development will significantly damage the destination. This collective tipping point defines the carrying capacity of the destination. For example, tourism can help to ensure that valuable heritage is retained, thanks to income from visitors. If the same location sees too many visitors, however, the heritage will suffer. Or, visitors can create a cosy atmosphere but if there are too many of them, this same crowds can lead to irritation. Professor van der Borg suggests that the big challenge for tourist destinations is understanding where you are in relation to that collective tipping point. It is up to local governments to find out when the balance at a location is under threat, what added value and negative effects tourism brings, and what external influences affect this.
Stefaan Vandist / Designing on the basis of new balances
We asked trend-watcher and innovation expert Stefaan Vandist how we can create (tourism) experiences that lead to added value for residents, visitors, other stakeholders and the place itself? Stefaan introduced the concept of a compass. This provides direction for designing innovative tourism experiences. The central point of the designs is a quest for new balance. Then, the question becomes: what happens with the balance between technology and tradition? Between profit and significance? Between competition and collaboration? The idea of Jo&Joe hotels, for example, was developed in this way. A hotel created by millennials, for millennials. The concept is based on stimulating encounters between residents and visitors and among visitors themselves.
Anna Pollock / The flourishing community is the basis
The tourism of the future emerges out of flourishing local communities, according to Anna Pollock, from the UK. She defines tourism destinations as places where travellers are welcome and the encounter between guests and hosts have a positive impact on the whole system. We must focus on the host, suggests Anna. We can encourage local hosts to build a relationship with the place where they live and work. Generate a love of the place and help them become aware of the unique qualities it has. “This will infect the visitor with amazement and consideration, which then goes home with them.” The potential transformational power lies in the encounter between guest and host. And that cannot be organised in a standardised manner. Anna: “If you can engage the host's talent for welcoming people, it will really enrich tourism. What you then create is not something that has to grow bigger but something that must thrive and evolve.” Anna is inviting the sector to take a broad view of reality. Just like every living system in nature, we must see the system in its context, and on this basis, take up a valuable position in the world and undertake responsible actions. Not only to do well as a company or sector. But to do well so that the whole world, communities and people can flourish.
Tourism of the future is for everybody. For travellers, residents, entrepreneurs and policy. Innovation, beauty, connections and hospitality can be created anywhere in society. Look around you. Listen to the place where you live or work. What do you love about it? What is the place asking you? What is your dream? What surprise would you like to pull off? With whom? Leadership is not about being the boss. Leadership means believing in something, daring to stand up for something. Which initiative needs your leadership? What quality can you use to help build a flourishing community and destination?