Portugal, I must say, kind of sticks on me. The call to speak at INATEL’s forum “Tourism for All” came second only after keynoting at Tourism Portugal’s Heritage Fair in Coimbra, complemented by attending Lisbon’s delicious World Food Tourism Summit earlier this year. Sharing once more, and representing this time, the “creative tourism movement” (thank you so much, Greg Richards & Caroline Couret, for your excellent referrals!) in the beautiful Algarve region, just half an hour’s flight south of the Portuguese capital city Lisbon.
The title of this year’s forum presented by the International Organization for Social Tourism (#ISTOForum2015) & Portugal’s INATEL Foundation is “European Tourism For All”, focusing on Future & Innovation. Clearly, we must be talking creative travel networks here.
Portugal’s INATEL Foundation covers the areas of Tourism, Sports and Culture, currently celebrating its 80 years jubilee. Its name loosely translates into Portuguese Institute for Tourism & Leisure Industries, having well over 300 employees in the head office of Lisbon alone.
The destination of the Algarve receives around 40% of tourism in Portugal, reaching around 17 million overnight stays in 2014 alone. Despite (or because) of this influx of visitors, the region is subject to a heavy burden of seasonality: Most tourists arrive between May and October, calling for new ways of thinking and moving beyond the “summer, sun & beach promise”. One example of this is what I could see here last year through my visit of Loulé Criativo, creative travel as a means to revive disappearing crafts and traditions in the interior of the Algarve.
So let me tell you some important conclusions of what we learned during this year’s INATEL #ISTOForum2015 – “European Tourism for All”.
First of all, Alain Liberos, representing the European Commission’s Tourism, Emerging and Creative Industries Unit, talked to us about the continued importance of tourism in Europe. “The tourism industry counts as the third most important economic sector of the European Union. To this day, Europe is still the first destination for tourism worlwide, totalling around 40% of global market share. However, the forecast for 2030 is to be only 30%. The challenge we have therefore lies in maintaining, and raising, a continued attractiveness of Europe in order to remain competitive with other parts of the world.”
Loic van Cutsem, of the Oksigen Research Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, continues with an outlook on the challenges provided by change in the following areas: Demography, environment, community (the new digital age), poverty, health, as well as ethical goods & services. Social innovation, he argues, creates new ideas, services and models to better address social needs and issues. In his belief, it is all about identifying cracks in existing models, where social innovation can tap into. These models are usually tailored, participative, empowering, multidisciplinary and demand-led, e.g. “ServetTheCity.Brussels”, or services provided by the “Repair café”. It is a “Living Lab approach”, as exemplified by a YouTube video called “Smart DMO Tourism Knowledge Community Platform”.
I must say that I really, really enjoyed Xavier Font‘s speech on this first morning of the conference, representing Leeds Beckett University as well as the International Centre for Responsible Tourism. Supported by lots of compelling statistics, he urges us to think about the following issues: “Change will only come from consumers changing their behavior. In the United Kingdom, one out of ten people are foreign-born, in Zurich this number rises to four out of ten. There is a growing blur between leisure, holiday and “home time” among these people. What is more, our era sees a lot of “tipping points” being reached: Climate change, for instance, is going to make our motto “Tourism for All”, accessibility for all, a real challenge. Besides, we are moving from solidarity to what we call “empathy fatigue“: Every time a new event is happening in the world, people respond with “I already gave … I get tired of donating.” We need some fundamental societal change of values to reverse this change, this way of thinking. …”
“In the UK, the best neighbour is the one you never hear, you never see, and who never causes you any trouble. I am Spanish. To me, this is very weird … My wife, who is English, thinks I am weird. Now, I believe, she got used to me ..” (Xavier Font, #ISTOForum2015, Algarve, Portugal).
Corporate Social Responsibility, he believes, should encourage us to act in the common good of all people. It is, however, not necessarily a vehicle to change society. Hotel chains and cruising companies, above all, have a problem with implementing CSR strategies. According to his research, there is a lot of greenwashing being done, while at the same time, society and consumers are expecting more from the companies they are buying from. How to address this growing gap?
“As much as we need to build a social movement, the following problem persists: Many businesses with deep social commitments are not scalable. The key, therefore, lies in integrating those bottom-up, often idealistic business models into networking models built by people who will and are prepared to learn, to integrate them, and to follow and take on some leadership. That, in turn, may inspire more people to find other ways of doing things and look ahead at meeting the future in a brighter, more positive way.”
My honour, challenge, and pride, was to follow Xavier in his trailblazing urge for a new paradigm shift. Here is, therefore, to Creative Travel and to thinking outside the box!
In my presentation about creative travel & Social Media innovation at this year’s INATEL #ISTOForum2015, I encouraged my audience not only to think within industry standards and limits, but always to look at the bigger picture as well. What, according to your opinion, is the message in this video provided by my talented videographer friend Caspar Diederik?[su_vimoe url=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/139913605?color=22a600&title=0&byline=0&portrait=0″ width=”800″]
If ever there was a brand message, it certainly is very subtle. At the end of the day, I and many others believe that it is all about great storytelling. Human, real & personal at that. As well as conveying important messages to relevant audiences that need what you can provide them with, to put it in a more marketing kind of way. I love to tell all of that, through the virtue and happy pleasures of my creative travel round the world experiences, as well as promoting my dear book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook“, which has only just launched. Check this out.
Joining my panel was a really interesting talk provided by Lucía Hernández (@Luciahdez3) on community tourism development along all lines of the travel experience (transport, accommodation, and activities in the destination you are visiting). I welcome you to check out the interesting models of a collaborative economy through her company “OuiShare” here:
Next up, France, Portugal & Italy are presenting interesting examples of social tourism, business innovation and integrative marketing.
Delphine Joannet, Corporate Social Responsibility manager of VVF Villages in France, looks at how to combine economic activity for its holiday villages with social action and responsibility, notably with regards to local suppliers and employees. VVF Villages have yielded a direct economic turnover of € 42 million in 2014 alone, with four out of five employees believing the company to add value to the dynamics of everyday, social life. This is a staggering figure, given that 89 villages all over France are concerned. Delphine concludes by reminding us Mahatma Ghandi’s famous words: “Be the change you want to see in this world!”
Rui Calarrão, from Portugal, then presents an interesting programme on how to host 5000 refugees from the Middle East in Portugal, focusing on training and integrating them into society by providing assistance to families all the way to a so-called “Solidarity Hotel“.
Finally, Claudio Nardocci together with Valeria Gherardini, of the UNPLI Unione Nazionale Pro Loco d’Italia, introduce us to “Aperto per Ferie – Open for Holidays” project run notably in the Italian Tuscany region. Close to 3000 rural villages there had been faced with the threat of being abandoned. The plan was therefore to turn these little villages into travel destinations, devising plans for schools, volunteers, citizens, traders, and local governments to get involved. The organization UNPLI’s role was to create local demand for this form of travel. Preference was given to all those villages which showed strong rural traditions & high potential benefits from increased levels of tourism. An important goal has been the continuous information process of citizens in local villages, called “Il Turismo di Sogni”, all the way to creating a digital database, “Memoria immateriale“, a kind of online storytelling platform. Have a look at this entertaining YouTube video to learn more about the project:
The second day of INATEL’s #ISTOForum2015 has been dedicated to digital marketing strategies, innovative business & co-creation: “Listen, learn, locate.” More up here to conclude …
… following first the compelling arguments of Francesco Berrettini, of Inesting.com, talking to us about digital marketing in an aging world. He argues that “71% of people aged 65 or older are online at least once a day. Two in three senior citizens use the Internet to search for travel planning and booking options. Videos and photos emotionalize this digital content. I encourage you to create a blog, share your local knowledge, and foster engagement on Social Media – especially with regards to this active and very dynamic target group.”
… it is all about engaging with customers throughout the entire tourism value chain. “There is a big shift from old to new consumer behaviour. New consumers are about stories, about co-creating experiences, about embodied experiences. We travel for treasure moments. Have you ever thought about it this way?”
People these days, she argues, are moving from creating content all the way to challenging governments. As a company therefore, by demonstrating help and actively listening to customers’ conversations, you can surpass expectations. “If my mobile is not close, I feel insecure”, she laughs at one point, but hits a nerve: The generation of so-called millenials, i.e. people born in the year 2000 or after, are all about sharing, liking, and networking … They do no longer watch TV. They watch what they want, when they want it, through whatever platform is available to them. “The future”, Elina tells us with a smile, “is augmented reality & gamified apps. Well no .. The present, rather.”
“We are facing a digital revolution that radically changes industries. Mobile strategy is the future. Customers are sharing everywhere, all the time. People are talking about you. They are sharing information about you. You cannot afford not to be part of that conversation. They will do it anyway. All the way to taking over your reputation. Branding, as we know it, is no longer led by DMOs. It is co-created by consumers. It goes all the way to, ‘We don’t trust marketeers … They want to tell us our opinion.'” (Elina Michopoulou, #ISTOForum2015, Algarve, Portugal).
Thank you too, dear Elina, for all your insights, knowledge and expertise!
For more (picturesque) impressions of the conference, please head over to my Flickr Photo Gallery from the Algarve: