Wednesday, 23 January 2019

How to fix travel | Doug Lansky | TEDxStockholm

How to fix travel | Doug Lansky | TEDxStockholm
06 Aug

Translator: Annika Bidner Reviewer: Mile Živković Travel has gone from this — brave, uncharted, unique and authentic destinations to this — (Laughter) — safe mass market destinations and big business And by big business, I mean 1

4 trillion dollars last year, in international travel alone OK, it's making money But let me ask this: are we making travel better? Better for the traveler, better for the destination, better for the stakeholders? My theory, and what I plan to demonstrate today is that we can use some of these driving forces, uniqueness and authenticity, and a profitable business model, more profitable than the one they use today, to help fix some of the key problems with travel And by the end of this presentation, you're going to learn what you can do as travelers to have a more enriching and unique travel experience no matter where you go OK, so if you look at the trends, travel's gotten a lot cheaper

In 1939, a basic transatlantic economy ticket cost 12,000 dollars, if you injust for inflation Today you can get basically the same flight, with improved flight safety, a movie of your choice, for less than 10% of the cost You just have put up with this (Laughter) It hasn't just gotten cheaper, it's gotten faster and more comfortable You can now get from your ice-cold apartment in Stockholm to the heart of the Amazon rainforest in less than a day, where you can ride around on a jungle boat, in a jacuzzi, and sip mimosas

I'm not making this up, you can actually do this (Laughter) And the longest part of that entire journey could very well be in the airport, where you had connecting flights Getting back to my original question about making travel better Comfort and convenient are nice, but these things have some side effects Just 50 years ago, if you went to any of the major destinations of today, you had to learn the local language

Not just to ask for directions, but to order a meal, even check in to a major hotel And today there's this super highway of tourist-friendly stuff, English signs everywhere, guidebooks, apps, tourist information centers All these things, by the way, done with the best of intentions, but they keep visitors from having any real organic reason to interact with the locals And when I mean organic interaction, I'm not talking about this (Laughter) Let me pause for a second and ask a really important question

Why do we travel? The reason I do, and I don't think I'm alone here, is to experience something different Something we don't have at home And destinations want to offer something different That's their unique selling proposition The reason you should visit them, and not any of the other hundred thousands of destinations around the world, that also have sun, beaches mountains and good food

So we want something unique, and they want to offer something unique But what really happens? Well, it may be easier for us to get there, but it's easier for everything else to get there as well So it's not surprising that destinations get a tourist wheel, hop on-hop off bus, water slide, convention center, historical museum, aquarium, Madame Tussauds wax museum, Hard Rock Café, H&M, Starbucks, Hilton, Dunkin Donuts, Fridays, Marriott, Subway, 7Eleven, KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Benetton, GAP, Disney Store, Häagen-Dazs, Burger King, IKEA, and of course, a segway tour Ladies and gentlemen — (Laughter) I present the modern unique tourism destination (Applause) There's another interesting trend you'll probably spot as well

Here's how many Pizza Huts are currently in Manhattan Here's how many are in Beijing Here's how many KFCs are now in Manhattan, and how many in Beijing Here's how many Walmart superstores are in Manhattan and how many are in Beijing Yes, it would seem that Chinese don't seem to mind Americans selling their own crap right back to them

(Laughter) (Applause) The one place you won't see any of these chains is on the Beijing tourism website They understand that you might venture into a KFC while you're there, but you're not traveling to China to experience a KFC They're not alone in this, I'm not picking on Beijing, this is just standard operating procedure for any DMO, a Destination Marketing Organization They're the ones tasked with inspiring you to go visit them And there are over 4,000 of them around the world, and it's growing all the time

They understand not every destination has a Sistine Chapel or pyramids of Egypt to attract people, so when they hire an ad agency to help bring people in, they might dress up the destination a little bit, show things that you might have a hard time experiencing when you're there Like a rainbow on their website or brochure Hard to replicate without a rainbow machine (Laughter) Or they might show synchronized whale breaching It happens probably once every 50,000 whale tours

(Laughter) Or they might show this color for the ad in India, when the water actually looks like this (Laughter) Too many tourists on the beach? Just crop them out Or in this low pix resolution image, of an actual brochure from Brazil of the same beach, they simply hid the tourists on top of a hill (Laughter) Of course it's hard to live up to the advertising, partially because no one's policing it, but imagine how this would work with a real company? Could you imagine, you see the ad for this, you go out buy one, you get it home you open it, and it looks like that? (Laughter) You take it back to the store, "Hey, this is just a piece of cardboard! It doesn't do anything" And they go, "We're just a marketing organization

Can't help" How is that any different from showing that on your website, and providing that? That's why I believe the DMO is going to have to evolve into a management organization And some places already are This is the island of Guam This beach was cleaned with tourism promotional funds

And it's already paying off They've already gone to number one on Trip Advisor And they're getting great word of mouth I think I have shown that diversity and quality control can go out the window as a destination grows But let me take a second to look a little closely at the growth

Here's how much the world population has grown over the last 63 years 184% In that same time, international travel has grown over 4,000% So there's over a billion international arrivals today In just ten years, that's expected to double, to nearly two billion

Now you've been to Gamla stan, old town here in Stockholm, you've seen how busy it is in the summer, you can barely walk on some days, what's that even going to look like with twice as many people? It's hard to imagine And forget about Stockholm for a second, what will Rome look like with twice as many people? Or Barcelona, with twice as many people? It's tricky And as professor Östberg just explained, sometimes we can't even see it, because our views are so shaped by the marketing Here are two cruise ships, the Escape and the Getaway Nothing against the cruise line, I just like the names of the ships

You see, the population density is about a million people per square mile on these ships In some of the most crowded slums in the world, like here in India, it's 800,000 The cruise line has managed to convince us that we're getting away from it all, in some of the most crowded conditions in the world (Laughter) (Applause) And that's not the only marketing oddity You might wonder, how do the small guys compete, how does this little place compete with a marketing powerhouse like Paris or Las Vegas? Often they go this route, they say how unspoiled they are, or undiscovered, and even when they don't, the media likes to jump on to that as well, and also tout how undiscovered or unspoiled it is

What are they trying to say? Hurry in and help spoil what's left? (Laughter) What kind of strategy is that? If that's our clever approach to tourism, why not just come out with something like that? (Laughter) Visit China, shoot a panda, while supplies last (Laughter) Wouldn't it be better to help protect some of these cultural treasures? And if not just for us, what about for the locals who suddenly wake up and find they're living in an overpriced and overcrowded tourist center? The airline see trendy new places, and they add more flights The hotel industry see strong occupancy rates and they add more hotels And these two segments of the industry are very influential, and can help grow a destination quickly The thing is that they don't really care how many visitors are at the tourist centers, or at the attractions, as long as the number of people in their hotels and on their airlines is just right

In fact, you'll never see a hotel suddenly jam more people into your room And you're not going to see an airline selling standing room only, or tickets to sit on someone else's lap Except maybe Ryanair (Laughter) (Applause) But even Disney closes their doors a couple of times a year when they hit maximum capacity The thing is, they're not alone

It's not just the airlines and the hotels Other stakeholders want more tourists as well The thing is, they've taken their eye off the ball Which is in this case, a quality visitor experience that starts the moment they arrive in that place, and lasts until they leave And not doing that can shortchange the visitor and mean it's not a great long term strategy for growth

Now we've all seen night clubs lose popularity and go under We've seen entire shopping malls get abandoned We've seen hotels go bankrupt And despite the general growth in tourism, we've seen entire destinations go into decline In fact, here's a report from the European Commission called "Destinations in decline

" And the number one reason: congestion; it's another word for overcrowding Go to Trip Advisor, put in overcrowded, you'll get almost a hundred thousands results You can see what they're saying, it would have been good, but it's overcrowded Even at resorts where people go into so called "beach rage" from other people putting their beach towels too close to them And academics paint an even gloomier picture

It gets popular, and then it goes off Or this one, that came about six years later, by professor Richard Butler, which shows that you get in this overcrowded range, and then it either goes down, or somehow, it goes back up So how does it go back up? What's the magic formula? What can destinations do to keep it going back up? Here's the first step: be unique That means standing up to the franchisers, especially in your cultural city centers, we don't need to have a McDonalds in downtown Milan It means that if you are creating a destination, make it unique to the place it's in

Like this one, the Stockholm's relatively new Abba Museum, a great example The other thing is growing organically Wouldn't it be great if you could claim your destination was never overcrowded? The first step in doing that is figuring out how many visitors your destination can actually hold And it's not as simple as just adding up the number of people that fit into the hotel rooms in the city Which is the traditional way of doing it

You want to think of it more like this: you could jam a hundred people into your home, if you had a dinner party and everyone held a paper plate, and you did it buffet style, and everyone stood like this But if you want to have people sit down right there, and you've only got eight seats and eight plates, there's your capacity In tourism, capacity is getting defined by how many airplanes can land on the runway Or how many buses they can jam into the parking lot, without much regard to how many tourists can actually get into the attractions, or that the city centers are starting to feel like tourist ant farms Go back to this little dinner party analogy, they're thinking standing room when they should be thinking seats and silverware

It doesn't matter how culturally sensitive the visitors are You could put 500 eco travelers into your town, and it's going to feel overcrowded There's a tipping point, from when it goes from being really cool and authentic to feeling touristy And it's largely due to the number of visitors per local or per square kilometer Let's take these examples, Reykjavik, they get 5

7 annual visitors for every local, San Gimignano, Italy, gets 43,000 Which do you think was recently described as a cool authentic place to visit in a travel magazine? And the thing is, here's the trick But how can we grow tourism and limit it at the same time? That's what's going to worry these places But wasn't this a tough sell? We're going to speed up traffic by stopping it Certainly we can, with smart ideas, we can learn a lesson from Reykjavik or Iceland, in their fishing industry, which became extremely lucrative once they self-imposed a quota system to limit the catch

And like fish, tourists belong to everyone and no one And they often go after them to the point where it becomes unprofitable Spending too much on marketing to attract visitors that are reluctant to go Too many hotel rooms that stand empty in off-peak season And these long lines – people aren't just tired and upset that they have to stand in a long line, they are also not able to eat, shop or otherwise inject their precious tourist money into the local economy

We have think carefully about providing a better experience And if tourism hopes to have a lucrative future we have to treat tourists and visitors with respect, not jamming them in to different situations of manufactured experience (Laughter) So the solutions to this — One is just to impose visitor permits It doesn't have to be a rich club where you have everyone paying a lot of money to get in You could give them away, or have some paid, some for students that are cheap, free ones that go with a lottery, or very cheap passes that go to people who've taken the time to learn the language or have family in the area

I think a more interesting solution is simply this, the free market Plus a little transparency When you're booking a flight like this to Stockholm, you have the supply and demand right there You can see it, make a smart decision Same when you're purchasing a hotel

The thing is, when you're booking here, what you can't see, say six months in advance, or even next week, is how busy the attractions are going to be We don't know So maybe you show up, and there's an awful lot of demand and not much supply And we couldn't make an informed decision But imagine if we could

If we could know that, and see they were full on the date we were thinking of going, so we just change the date Its availability, we book it Yes, that does mean more advanced planning, but isn't that better than going to an overcrowded destination, maybe waiting all day and not even getting in, or just using up your whole day in a queue? So what can you do to have a more authentic experience, no matter where you go? The first step is to look inward, at your interests Say you like whatever Ultimate frisbee

You're going to Stockholm Look online for an ultimate frisbee club They happen to have one – the Stockholm Syndrome (Laughter) They even have a map where they practice, and a calendar You can get in contact, ask if you can join! You like fencing? See if you can join a local fencing club wherever you're headed

Just shoot them an email in advance And hotels can get in on this Ask your guests what their interests are, and help connect them Oh, you like birdwatching? Let me connect you with a local birdwatching club For free! Make friends with people, in an organic way

And you're going to create a unique and enriching experience for everyone Travel like a guidebook writer, not a guidebook reader Let's say here in Stockholm, you want to go out to a new, cool place to eat, are you going to buy a guidebook? I hope not The information here is nearly two years old, at best What do you do, you look online, or you go to a newspaper

You can do that when you travel, even if you go where you don't know the language Go to a local newspaper, and there's something called Google Translate One click, and it's in whatever language you want Book a table, you'll be the only travelers there Is doing everything I explained today going to solve everything that is wrong with travel? No, of course not

But I hope it can serve as a framework to fix some of the key things, and create long-term sustainable and profitable growth for the tourism industry, and help you get an enriching and authentic experience, no matter where you go Thank you so much (Applause)

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