5 key learnings for a destination marketer

In the spring semester 2020 I attended a very interesting course called Destination Marketing, which is a part of the Tourism Marketing and Management master’s programme. The course gives an overview on different aspects of destination marketing in the rapidly changing world and offers interesting content for anyone interested in destination marketing. Here are my 5 key learnings from the course: 

Destination vs a company 

Traditional marketing approaches are a good basis for destination marketing. However, destinations are not companies, which makes a huge difference in their marketing. Every destination marketer should keep in mind a few differences between destination and company marketing. Marketing strategy for a company does not necessarily fit the needs of a destination. 

Whereas a company can control basically everything they do in terms of marketing, a destination management/marketing organization (DMO) has very little control on the execution of a marketing strategy. A destination is a complex entity consisting of different actors and stakeholders, which are not bound to any strategies or plans made by the DMO. A DMOs goal of course is to make a marketing plan that benefits all.  Still there might be companies in the area that have completely different goals and business objectives. Those are very likely not to follow the strategy by the DMO.

Probably all destinations try to communicate some kind of brand. A company can control quite well how they communicate their brand to the customers. The image of a destination among visitors is however strongly dependent on the encounters between the visitors and the local operators. A DMO can’t control the quality of the actual visitor experience.  

 

Operant resources 

Every destination has some tangible and intangible resources that it can use for competitive advantage. However, the resources as such don’t create competitive advantage. Firstly, operand resources, such as sun and sea, exist in other destinations, too. Secondly, the destination has very little control on them. There is nothing a destination can do to get more sunny days than it already has.  

The potential sources for competitive advantage lie more in the interaction between the destination and its stakeholdersA destination must recognize, which are the potential competitive advantages it can create with stakeholder collaboration and how to do that. The knowledge and skills to do that are called operant resources.  The heart of a destination’s competitive advantage lies In the operant resources. In conclusion, a destination marketer must understand the difference between the two types of resources and enhance the use of operant ones in the destination marketing. In many cases this requires the collaboration between a variety of different stakeholders.   

 Smart destinations and data sharing 

Digitalization is inevitable in tourism business. It is changing also the function of destinations and how destination marketing and management organizations are working. Smart tourism and smart destinations are very popular concepts in tourism business of today.  

The core of destinations has traditionally been something physical, e.g. attractions, activities and availability. Nowadays, technological aspects are more and more important. A  more customer-oriented approach in destination marketing is needed But it’s wrong to think that technology is all in all. After all, technology is just a tool, it’s not the core of destination marketing. Leadership, innovation and collaboration are also key issues if a destination wants to be smart. Real time engagement, mobile technology, online inventory and co-creation are just a few examples of the features of smart destinations.  

Purchasability and online inventory have traditionally been a problem in many destinations. Luckily, destination managers have realized this and are working on making the buying of activities and other services easier online.

Another problem many destinations still face is data. One key feature of smart destination is the use of data that they are getting from customers. The problem here lies in the collaboration. It would be crucial for the individual tourism companies to share the data with other companies and the DMO.  This way the whole destination profits from the data. In real life, most of the companies keep the data to themselves. This is quite understandable – many companies fear that they lose their competitive advantage against other operators in the area. Here the help of the DMO is needed – trying to change the attitude and view of the companies. Even though being competitors, the companies must still learn to collaborate with each other. That is the only way to a customer-oriented, smart destination.   

 

Impact of consumergenerated content on the brand 

Most of destination marketers recognize the importance of consumergenerated content in their marketingSocial media posts about the destination and online reviews by customers are free marketing and visibility for a destination. Destinations often encourage consumers to write something about their destination. The possible threats are in many cases taken into account. Consumers can post something negative, which of course is not desirable but with an action plan can be managed.  

However, the impact of consumer generated content on the destination brand is something that destinations might overlook. Because of Web 2.0 and social media, destinations no longer are the major controllers over their brand and message. Nowadays, the branding content on the internet is based on interaction and participation of the consumers. Consumers can post whatever they like on social media, whereas in the past the destinations controlled the distribution of information. Nowadays, a brand can even be totally created in social media by consumergenerated content 

For destination marketers it’s important to notice that consumergenerated content does not necessarily match the brand that the destination wants to communicate. It can be totally different than marketergenerated content. For example, consumer generated content rarely includes the formal elements of the brand, such as slogans and logos. After all, those are important elements in marketer-generated content. What should the destinations do when the control of the brand is largely outside of the company?   

Authentic content 

Last but definitely not least I want to highlight the importance of authentic content. Internet and other media are full of marketing content created by marketers. From the highly scientific and empirical research we conducted on our lectures (discussing in the classroom), we got the results that traditional destination marketing videos are not interesting enough. No one wants to look at nice views with peaceful background music for longer than a few seconds. People are interested in authentic content with local people. Visitors don’t come to a destination with the main reason of spending money there but to learn something and educate themselves. This means that destination marketers need to shift their mindset from consuming to learning.  

Onthe destination marketing course  we had an interesting workshop with the CEO of VisitKarelia Jaakko Löppönen. He pointed out an issue with this approach that they as the destination marketers are facing: If the marketing material can’t be made by marketers and agencies but rather by the local people, who is willing to produce this content? And what kind of content should it be? The resources they as a DMO have are limited and often the more traditional content by agencies is the only option. This is an important question for us students as the future destination marketers to think about. We should totally forget the traditional destination marketing and focus on something new and innovating. Skills and knowledge to do that will be the competitive advantage of destination marketing and marketer of tomorrow.  

How has technology influenced the rise of LGBT tourism?

 

 

What is LGBT tourism all about?

LGBT tourism is the process of tourism product and service development and marketing that caters the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. This specific segment of tourism provides opportunities to select destinations, accommodations, transport, events and so on, which are LGBTQ+ friendly. These create options for LGBT tourists to travel while feeling welcomed and respected. As the modern world moves towards a more inclusive and open-minded attitude, this area of tourism keeps growing with potential and is one of the fastest-growing tourism segments. For more information see https://www.iglta.org.

Technology and its impact on LGBT tourism

Technology has had a significant effect on awareness and attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people and issues relating to them. UNWTO: Global Report on LGBT Tourism (2012) shows that countries with progressive policies towards LGBT individuals gain more economic benefits from tourism. It also shows that there are improved social benefits resulted from LGBT friendly brand image. This image is formed by inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity.

Using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) enables tourism businesses to gain competitive advantages in promotion and marketing, in addition to reinforcing the operations and strategies in the industry. Development of ICTs has enabled tourists in the LGBT segment to actively participate in the creation and sharing of their tourist experiences. This is done by activating conversations in social media with friends, family and others. Development of ICTs has created an opportunity for people to connect despite geographical and physical boundaries. This has decreased the effect of isolation commonly associated with the LGBTQ+ community.

Social media has had an essential role in strengthening the formerly silenced and sidelined voices. Various online, brand and marketing campaigns such as “It gets better” and Spotify: Pride stories, have carried out hope for a better future for the representatives of LGBTQ+ community. However, while the positive awareness and acceptance get better, the negative backlash is fueled. Specially targeted hate campaigns towards the LGBTQ+ community showcase the popularity of homophobic and transphobic convictions people still hold.

LGBT tourist behaviour

As a tourist segment, LGBT tourists have fairly high spending power and more opportunities to travel off-season. Tourists in the LGBT segment utilise all available ways of communication, with a high focus on channels and online platforms developed for this community in particular. These channels and platforms include such as online forums, specified websites, apps and various social networks.

As tourists, LGBT people like any other tourists connect to and use technology, digital and online tools before, during and after travel. Before travel, they utilise the internet to search for LGBT friendly places to visit and while travelling engages with the rest of the community through posts and pictures in social media. After travel, they evaluate the services and use e-WOM to share their experiences. Some applications are specifically catering for this tourism segment, like Misterbnb. This is similar to Airbnb but the accommodation hosts are LGBTQ+ friendly. Another great mobile app is Wimbify. It combines Couchsurfing and Airbnb with a way of meeting other people in this community.

What are the ways to grow as a destination for LGBT tourism?

The question arises; how the tourism industry can gain an advantage of the positive impacts of technology to grow LGBT tourism and is there a way to minimize the negative impacts? Destinations should jump on the bandwagon of creating awareness on inclusiveness and tolerance towards this community. If not existing already, they should develop tourism products and services that are authentically LGBT friendly. Additionally, creating specified marketing campaigns plays a huge role in attracting these tourists and getting the destination on the map as an LGBT friendly tourism destination. This can be achieved through smaller actions as well. It is as simple as using a small rainbow on websites or advertisements. Website design should include inclusive visuals to welcome this segment of tourists. Destinations can add a section for options focusing on LGBT tourists, such as LGBT events calendar in the destination.

It all comes to education and understanding, ensuring that all staff members understand, respect and value all customers equally. Taking the time to research how other LGBT friendly destinations are performing and learning from them is worthwhile. Because there is various online platforms and channels specifically for the LGBT community, tourism product providers should utilise them to engage with tourists. Additionally, they can be used to co-create tourist experiences by involving LGBT customers in every step. Including aspects for LGBT tourists in the company strategy and values, regardless of which tourism segment the business caters creates the potential to emerge in this tourism market.

Overall, the key is to utilize the endless opportunities technology and digitalization has provided in more open-minded, inclusive and tolerant fashion.

 

References:
  1. British LGBT Awards (2019). Winners 2019 – British LGBT Awards. [online] Britishlgbtawards.com. Available at: https://www.britishlgbtawards.com/winners-2019/ [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].
  2. Last, M. (2019). How technology has changed the LGBT+ experience. [Blog] Available at: https://technation.io/news/how_technology_has_changed_lgbt/ [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].
  3. Liberato, P., Liberato, D., Abreu, A., Alén, E. and Rocha, Á. (2018). LGBT Tourism: The Competitiveness of the Tourism Destinations Based on Digital Technology. Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, pp.264-276.
  4. UNWTO (2012).Global Report on LGBT Tourism. AM Reports: Volume three. [online] Madrid: UNWTO and IGLTA. Available at: https://www.e-unwto.org/doi/pdf/10.18111/9789284414581 [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].
  5. IGLTA (2019).The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association > Home. [online] Iglta.org. Available at: https://www.iglta.org [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].

DTTT Global 2019, Day 2

The second day (Read about the first day here) of DTTT was all about technology and digitalization. What we can learn from data and how we can benefit data in place branding, leading and marketing.

Lead with data. Do marketing with it, learn from it, optimize – optimize – optimize – then do it again.

Head of Telia data technology Tapio Levä gave an inspirational speech on things you can do with data in Finland. Tourism sector statistics have been depended on interviews, surveys and such, where they calculate and estimate overall income to the area. Well, I have some good news: No more guessing! Data that you can get from mobile phones is mind-blowing: You can see e.g. from where the tourist is coming, how long he/she stays in the area, where they go during their stay etc. And most importantly: no more guessing about day visitors which does not stay at hotels: they are included in the statistics as well!  Tapio Levä told us an example from Ed Sheeran’s gig in Helsinki – where the estimation was 9 m. € in revenue – from 2 days!

(Source: Tapio Levä’s presentation 5.12.2019)

Data gives us access to information what we have not to be able to see before. In discussions throughout the day, it was clear that using data improves collaboration with the stakeholders and it gives tools to understand tourism flows better. By using data, the traveller’s customer journey is possible to form from the first idea to get abroad to marketing after the visit. It is essential to learn constantly from your data and optimize your marketing by how your data is changing. E.g. in Benidorm, they understood from data that tourists from the USA are interested in their destination and are talking about it and changes their marketing strategies based on that.

In Ireland, they’ve put data into some serious work. By utilizing data they’ve built up a detailed customer journey and touchpoints. In practice, they collect data on how one tourist acts during their stay. Based on that data AI builds customer profiles and recommendations with future tourists with a similar profile. A massive project with 48 m. cookies and 1,5 m. digital touchpoints. WOW!

Content is king – Tell a story worth hearing!

As I love great stories and marketing, I want to showcase a few examples heard during DTTT on great stories utilized around destination brands.

In Vienna, they celebrate Ludvig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday and Capital of Music –title year in 2020. One way on how they combined LVB’s to a digital era, was to combine Alexa with Beethoven.

They did a project, where the integrate a vivid story of Beethoven with Alexa’s voice commands. With a command “I want to hear something about Beethoven” Alexa tells a 2 min long story about how he has lived his life in Wien. After one story it gives 3 more alternatives to where to continue with the story. So, it’s kind of a book I’ve read in my childhood where after one chapter you can choose what alternative you take.  Except that you communicate with Alexa and hear the story from it.

(Source: Andrea Kostner DTTT 5.12 (A model from the storyline plots)

I think that this was a great example of how to build up great stories that combine place history and place attachment with place branding. And I instantly started to think about how could we in Finland e.g. take advantage of this in Jean Sibelius’s 160th birthday in the year 2025.. 🙂

The USA also used storytelling by creating unique stories around its destination brand based on the musical history of the country. They collaborated with “minor” actors such as MTV, BBC, and Spotify and let them create content independently around the topic. One result with Daily Telegraph was this microsite where the stories were combined with the evolution of music 

Collaboration with open API

It’s obvious that technological solutions revolutionize tourism research and gives huge opportunities to destinations in optimizing and personalizing tourism flows. More importantly, it emphasizes collaboration IN the destination. Today, your business does not exist if you are not on Facebook and you don’t have a webpage – but tomorrow you don’t exist if you don’t collaborate. You don’t survive if you do things just by yourself.

tomorrow you don’t exist if you don’t collaborate.

Collaboration is in the focal point also now in Saimaa – where they try to achieve a title for the European Capital of Culture for the year 2026. To do that they must collaborate with 4 provinces all together – tourism, culture and most importantly, the local people. Digital tools and technological solutions give great tools on achieving this by first collecting data from all the stakeholders in one place and secondly, sharing that knowledge with anyone whose interested. The first thing to create collaboration is that stakeholders are aware of each other. Not just inside one city or just inside one province – but in Saimaa and Finland and the Nordics etc. To gain a competitive advantage you must collaborate and think big.

Conclusions:

  1. Digitalization enables collaboration, it can make collaboration more visible and open via different kinds of platforms. Data provides information on what has been “hidden knowledge” before. This knowledge can be used on planning customer journeys etc. Besides just planning – you can see in real facts how you have succeeded in your plans.  Sharing is caring – no matter if you are a DxO or RMO, tourism stakeholder or just an average Joe. Sharing knowledge with each other creates stories, gives data, creates collaboration, gives a competitive advantage. By utilizing data and technology, that work is more easily done.

2) The second conclusion is that AI is here. We are in the middle of a big change in society where digitalization, automation, AI and robots are already here. There’s no use on denying and fearing that robots are taking on the world. Let’s face it: we are living in the middle of sci-fi society. When you think about what kind of things we already have, it is something I couldn’t dream of in my wildest dreams in my childhood. ( but I’m still waiting for the flying cars!) Instead of living in fear, you have to look forward and figure out ways on how to utilize this efficiently. I think in this sense I saw quite a few good examples on how to utilize data efficiently what it comes to the tourism sector.

That’s my view from #DTTT Global 2019, hope you enjoyed it!

Tourism Marketing and Management to start studying extraterrestrial tourists

Today is an excellent day to launch our new mission: we will focus now on how to make our world more hospitable for extraterrestrial tourists. There have been concrete sightings of UFOs for decades, clearly suggesting that we are constantly being visited by extraterrestrial aliens.

In 2017 we at Tourism Marketing and Management programme started educating postgraduate students at University of Eastern Finland with the mission of making tourism better. However, as a result of recent strategy meetings, we have identified an even more prominent research stream.

Research on extraterrestrial tourists

When we started looking into the topic it came as a bit of a surprise to us how little academic research could be found even remotely connected to intergalactic tourism. Sure, there are already academics studying space tourism, but this research is mostly focused on humans as tourists, like almost all other tourism topics before it. Based on the number of sightings Earth must be a popular tourist destination for aliens, but the academic literature on the topic is almost non-existent. This is what we now aim to change.

UFOs
Extraterrestrial tourists arriving

Various new research topics

There are several different topics that our research group and our students will start examining. First of all, we are interested in their travel motivations: why do the aliens undertake such long interstellar voyages to visit Earth? We are also interested in what makes them choose Earth among all the planets in the universe? What makes Earth so special? Understanding these topics helps us to better design our destination to meet traveller needs. Even though finding respondents for our survey might prove challenging we are close to signing a memorandum of understanding with NASA and hopefully will be able to interview our guests at Area 51. A new form of collaboration is needed to cater for the needs of these customers, as well as to rethink the traditional definitions of tourist destinations.

We will also study the sustainability of interstellar tourism by calculating the dark matter emissions of travelling to Earth from many of our major source markets. A global study will be conducted to calculate the economic impacts of extraterrestrial visits as well as what kind of effect the alien tourism has on our culture. The results should provide us with important knowledge to guide our marketing decisions to a more sustainable direction.

The search continues, now for tourism research purposes.

Unique postgraduate programme

This novel research stream will differentiate our programme and take it to the next level. This is evident with the success of our latest recruitment process. Professor April S.F. Ools (Ph.D.) will start developing cross-cultural marketing and management at our programme. We will be the only academic postgraduate programme to really see the big, intergalactic picture of tourism.

Understanding this seldom studied tourist group will contribute to our understanding of the world and offer novel insights into tourism as a research topic as well as an industry. The students graduating from our programme will be innovative out-of-box thinkers with unique intercultural communication capabilities and understanding.

Are you looking for an international tourism-focused master’s degree programme in business? Tourism Marketing and Management programme by University of Eastern Finland provides a unique learning experience for students who have finished their bachelor’s degree and are looking for new skills and knowledge in developing tourism industry in a sustainable way. Read more about the programme at www.uef.fi/tmm.

 

 

The most important concept in destination marketing?

What is a concept or a term that every destination marketer should know and understand about destination marketing? I think I found it. It is very catchy. A bit marketing-oriented even. Quickly thought, something far-fetched? But coherent and makes a lot of sense when thought more deeply.

It gathers up something very wide in one tight, distinct term. It makes me go “aha” and to nod. Have I now learned the most important concept during my master studies in tourism?

Destination DNA

Understanding Destination DNA is the key to plan and implement destination marketing. The identity of a place, the code written there by nature, the basic framework of a certain destination. It is something not to invent. It is something that already exists and has existed for a long time. It cannot be faked to be something it is not or changed to something else.

Destination Marketing DNA

Destinations, embrace your identity!

Place DNA is the destination’s competitive identity, and that’s why it is important to dig out. It must be deeply understood and commonly agreed among the entrepreneurs and residents in the area – the destination’s ‘frontline ambassadors’: those with whom visitors come into contact.

It is the atmosphere, the setting, and surrounding, the natural staging of the destination. It makes the genuine holiday experience possible to happen, to exist.

Or can the DNA of a destination change?

Actually, will it – eventually – anyway?

No. It won’t. Destination DNA is something that stays as it is. Presence, personality, and characteristics change. Or rather, develop. It is important to distinguish these two.

As important as it is for a destination to be well aware of its DNA, it is important to understand that once it’s known, it cannot be ignored, left unattended or unutilized.

What matters the most in destination marketing?

People build the destination marketing

Destination DNA is the basis of “what” and the core for “how”. Also, it gives the visitor a purpose, “why”. What makes a certain destination special? How are the available attributes possible to experience during the visit? Why should someone visit in the first place?  Therefore, an essential concept in tourism marketing and management.

As I stated in the beginning, learning this term got me captivated by its importance. Destination DNA – I pondered, maybe even the most important realization considering my tourism studies? Well, it is a term. A written, nicely formulated concept. Putting into practice, another thing. And who does it?

The people.

People behind the product, the service,

the experience.

Heart and soul to destination marketingThe final touch, in connection with the customer, comes from the business owners and the employees. They, the people, are the ones who transform the destination into a tourism product. Into experiences which breathe the place atmosphere.

And they add their own personal DNA into it,

 to make it memorable for the people.

For the customer.

 

 

 

Get a master’s degree in tourism business

Are you looking for an international tourism-focused master’s degree programme in business? Tourism Marketing and Management programme by University of Eastern Finland provides a unique learning experience for students who have finished their bachelor’s degree and are looking for new skills and knowledge in developing tourism industry in a sustainable way. Read more about the programme at www.uef.fi/tmm.

TMM developing tourism business at Etelä-Konnevesi region

Our International Master’s Degree Programme in Tourism Marketing and Management (TMM) has started a collaboration with municipalities of Konnevesi and Rautalampi and tourism stakeholders in the region. The concrete first step in this collaboration was a two-day workshop on developing nature tourism in the Etelä-Konnevesi region, organized in Konnevesi research station 14.-15.3.2018. Together with Anne Hyvärinen, project manager at a regional tourism development project, two days full of tourism business content were designed and tailored for the region.

Tourism insights and knowledge

The idea of the first day was to bring in all the actors to the same level when it comes to tourism marketing and management in a nature tourism destination. The day started with introductions and three short group work presentations by our students. As a preliminary assignment, our students had examined how the region is represented on the Internet from the perspective of potential tourists, both domestic and international. They also gave a quick overview of the recent development of the region in combination with development possibilities.

Making tourism better
Nature tourism workshop at Etelä-Konnevesi region

From the student presentations, it became obvious that the region has a vast tourism potential, but the problem is that very few know about this hidden gem. Most tourists that come to the region just visit the Southern-Konnevesi National Park, even though the region is full of interesting, high-quality and distinctive tourism businesses. Thus we were able to pinpoint the tourism development problem to marketing and sales, as well as networking between the actors in the region.

Besides our students, there was a wide range of presentations from local entrepreneurs and tourism personnel, Jyväskylä UAS and Visit Jyväskylä, and Johku. The tourism in the region and development possibilities were discussed from many different viewpoints, providing a great overview of the topic.

Networking and collaboration

At the end of the first day, we had the chance to visit a local rural tourism business Suopirtti Highland and meet their “hairy cows” (ie. highland cattle). It was indeed an experience for all of us. Afterward, we had a chance to taste delicious locally produced dishes at restaurant Mierontie. The restaurant also had a unique, wooden interior design made by local Jukola Industries. At the end of the second day, we had the chance to visit the National Park and experience KalajaRetkeily hospitality from Markku Utriainen. These visits only reinforced our view that there are many great and original tourism products and services in the region, but very few have ever heard of them.

Tourism services at Etelä-Konnevesi
Local tourism services

Professor Raija Komppula emphasized at the workshop how important collaboration and networking are for tourism businesses. Not that much can be achieved by doing things alone. Tourists seldom choose a destination based on one tourism business. Tourists are looking for an amalgam of experience that they can enjoy during their trip and only by working together a region can provide tourists what they want.

Tourism business development

Our students are now working with individual tourism businesses as their second assignment. Each student was assigned with a tourism business with their own development possibilities. The businesses gave our students practice-oriented tasks connected to topics such as marketing mix development, service packaging, experience design, technology adoption and new-service development. Our students will provide each involved business a short report that guides the businesses to take the next steps.

Students in a nature trail
TMM students and staff at the Etelä-Konnevesi National Park

Collaboration with TMM

We have built our programme so that this kind of destination and business collaborations are possible. Our students performed really well during the workshop and have clearly learned a lot during this past year they have been studying with us. We will continue our collaboration with Etelä-Konnevesi region and are also open to new possibilities to make tourism better. If you are interested in collaboration, please contact me at juho.pesonen[at]uef.fi.

Complexity of academic research

To understand the world

I’ve started my university (academic research) studies this autumn. I´m 32 years old, and I like my age. At least for me, the somewhat life experience gives a better feeling in this rather complex overall feeling that I am having at the moment. I will get back to this later.

I’ve realized the complexity of dealing with academic research and creating my personal content into it, in this world of “no- black and white, “no- single wrong or right”- dilemmas of academic studies in general. This is not totally new founding for me – but now I am really in this in practice, because of my master degree studies in Tourism marketing and management programme.

Accepting, and using common sense

Recently I asked from my professor during one lectures discussion – How I can know whether it is fine or correct to use some “basic” theory as a background of some subject from what I’m trying to write about, or not?  She answered (looking at me first with the facial expression of “exactly- good question, but…” and then she gave me and the group the answer of her that there is no clear answer for this, you need to use your common sense in these cases for making your decisions and choices.

I´m little surprised that it feels so disturbing for me, (or whoever involved in the academic research), that it is, at least usually, very hard to find the one and only truth or theory for some subject or theme that we are studying. I happen to be quite flexible and highly spontaneous personality myself.  So it makes it even weirder. I come back to my age-thing. Because of it, and maybe other reasons too, I’m still very happy not to be stressing this issue too much. I’m fine with it, I understand that I’m not alone with it, – I’m just reflecting it.

Dreaming about getting that absolute truth out…

Though I’m very curious to know, whether I’m actually capable at some point during my studies to get use of the theory or truth which I can use as an “absolute” for some subjects research findings or as a suggestion of my own for some topic.

My teacher said that “the only constant thing in this world is change”, as a starting point for further discussion. I agree mostly with this statement, however, I cannot say it is an absolute truth to everything. It is somehow easy, comfortable and kind of highly secured for me to realize and feel, that example the most important theories for researchers to use, apply and form formulate something new (!) already exists.

Hong Kong, 2011 (Jenni Kaitila)

Or not

This gives me huge importance when dealing with the almost absolute complexity and no- single truth experiences while I’m studying the life of academic research. I remember also, that this same teacher stated the truth about also agreeing that in fact, the main theories and typologies in general already have been founded before. And the timeless value of sources which exists in those. He said this during the information technology- courses discussion session, and I absolutely liked the moment and the fascinating, yet somehow secured feeling of having the experience of learning same time about the new world and information technology – and somewhat it’s relying on still in the theories presented and founded already from decades ago.

Hong Kong (Macao), 2011 (Jenni Kaitila)

Using Pixel Hotel idea for entrepreneurship

Can we own a hotel or start hotel business with our limited money? You may think that the answer is no. But, I would say Yes, and you will probably agree with me if you take a closer look at pixel hotel business idea in Austria.

Pixel hotel is a new form of hotel business which I recently learned while studying tourism destination marketing course. I got so interest to this idea that, I wanted to learn more about this and share my thoughts.

Whenever we think about a hotel, what usually comes to our mind? A nice tall building with lot of rooms in different floors with many other facilities. But, Pixel hotel is just the opposite. “The city is the hotel” which is the slogan of pixel hotel and it works like that. This new idea of hospitality industry came into existence in 2006. The idea originated from a concept made by a group of young architects and designers in Linz, Austria.

Pixel hotel is a cultural enterprise in Linz, with the aim of giving guests a direct experience of unusual accommodation with certain particularities. Another aim of this association is to utilize unused properties in urban and rural areas in profitable way. This also gives an opportunity to their guests to stay close to their travel destination. Hence, tourists get more time to travel. Targeted tourists are those people, who love watching things a bit slower and bit closer. As an accommodation project, it has become an international recognized brand which was cited as an example of innovative tourism in 2009. Rooms of pixel hotel are scattered in whole city which can be an old building, workshop or basically anything which can be used as accommodation.

Picture of the first prototype Pixel Hotel which was in an empty garage.

Similarly, for pixel guests, there is not any certain restaurant to offer lunch and dinner. Rather guests are invited to discover the local food and culture and to know the story of that place.

In my opinion, this is a very nice business idea to learn from. This idea can be utilized to start hotel business with very little money and with minimum preparation. Another competitor in the market is Airbnb, but people who rent apartment there usually own only one apartment and that is not their main source of income. On the other hand, an establish hotel is always more reliable to the guests and more profitable.

How Pixel hotel idea can be utilized in Finland

Finland is a big country with very little population. Most of the tourists’ services like hotels and transportation facilities are available mainly in big cities and in the center areas. So, when tourists visit Finland, they tend to stay in those places which are close to their hotel and where public transport are available. Because of this, attractions in small towns and places remain unknown and undiscovered by most of the tourists. But, we can utilize pixel hotel idea here to arrange accommodation and other facilities for the tourists in all over the country, then it may appear as an attractive tourists’ service for those who will plan to visit Finland in future.

Idea: A simple house can be used as a hotel

Moreover, there are many empty houses and apartments in every cities and towns which are ready to use or with little arrangements can be made ready to rent to make money. People can use this idea to start their own business with a limited money and minimum risk.

Source: http://www.pixelhotel.at/index.php?id=1&L=0

From Marketing Strategy to Values Strategy

Having been processing the concept of marketing strategy during the ongoing autumn due to our course on destination marketing, the concept of strategy has been wandering in my mind. What does it actually mean and how important is it for a (tourism) company?

Applying the concept of strategy

In his book Valonöörin käsikirja (A lightneer’s guide) Frank Martela poses the questions What are our goals, what things are worth doing? and What can we do to reach our goals? as the central questions about the human life. He also points out that too often we do things that we didn’t actively choose to do. Too often we spend time on social media or Netflix though our goal is to do sports and be physically in a good condition. Or maybe we feel pressure to do certain things or maybe we just accept them because that’s how people always have done them. I think these questions and thoughts can be applied to business strategies as well.

During our course on marketing it was highlighted how important the mission, vision and values of the company are when creating a strategy. Another author and teacher Jim Collins reveals in his book Good to Great ways to develop a good company into a great one, based on a broad research. One of the core findings is to first find the right people around you, to keep them around you and then to “figure out the best path to greatness”. Also because with the right people you can more easily face changes in the changing world: “if people are on the bus because of who else is on the bus, then  it’s much easier to change direction”. This can also be seen as a value-based approach: when there’s a group of people who share the same values and hopefully the same mission, it’s easier to set the direction.

Getting the right people on the bus (although the bus might need to be repaired along the way).

 

 

 

Don’t get stuck to the word: it’s about the content

Wikipedia, tells that the word ‘strategy’ derives from the Greek word stratēgia and the original meaning would be something like “art of troop leader, office of general, command, generalship” and that a strategy is a “high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty”. The other week I also had the chance to hear some thoughts about marketing from Timo Kiuru, who works as a creative director for different companies. In his opinion the term ‘strategy’ shouldn’t be used at all. He still stressed the importance of values and to on a weekly basis check if you have been acting according to your values.

It was a very inspiring speech and I also agree that we shouldn’t get too stuck to the word itself or think that if there’s some kind of a strategy, everything will fall into places. The importance of the content of the strategy, the goals and actions have to also be highlighted: a strategy is no use if it’s not concrete, applicable and if it’s not applied. For a company it’s quite essential to define some sort of a strategy. If there is a high level plan with at least some values or core thoughts that are important and/or motivating  it can’t go very wrong. Also, possible changes in the plan don’t necessarily mean it was wrong in the first place.

Setting a direction.

Get a master’s degree in tourism business

Are you looking for an international tourism-focused master’s degree programme in business? Tourism Marketing and Management programme by University of Eastern Finland provides a unique learning experience for students who have finished their bachelor’s degree and are looking for new skills and knowledge in developing tourism industry in a sustainable way. Read more about the programme at www.uef.fi/tmm.

Management by wellbeing

Mindfulness, victorious corporate culture, growth rates that the board cannot accept, going to the gym with your bosses, hiring a personal business coach, fighting loneliness… does not sound like a traditional Finnish management style, does it? In one company it is.

Managing corporate culture and people at SMT

Our Tourism Marketing and Management Programme had the privilege to have CEO of travel and event agency SMT Kirsi Paakkari as a guest speaker to discuss with us about managing corporate culture and people in a way that enables a tourism business to grow.

tourism business management
Kirsi Paakkari discussing corporate culture in tourism

She has successfully merged two ill-performing businesses into a victorious one in a shrinking market, not an easy feat at all. It requires a lot from a manager to change the direction of a business and reach double-digit growth rates. Sometimes traditional Finnish management by perkele (traditional Finnish curse word) style might just not do it. Managers make many choices that define company performance.

Focus on employees management

Kirsi has clearly chosen to focus on the employees of the company. It was great to see how she monitors and leads the wellbeing of her people. She is also managing her company with metrics and data as much as possible while still listening to people. This might be the only way to reach her goal, which is to make SMT the best service company in Finland. This goal is also dependent on trust. Leadership requires trust in many forms. Employees have to trust their leaders and trust in the future of the company. In addition, the manager has to trust the employees, why hire people you cannot trust?

tourism marketing and management
Management education for students

Our student Lari Turunen appreciated how Kirsi decided to bring new people from outside the industry to create new ideas for the company. Lari also noted that when you are building a new culture for a company you have to invest in it. Mergers should not be only about saving money and making companies more efficient but they should also be seen as an opportunity to start anew.

Management by employee wellbeing is similar to human sigma management and has a sound basis in academic literature. There are many challenges ahead for SMT as they integrate with American Express Global Business and are more and more focusing on a growing event market. It will be interesting to see how the company manages these changes and how management by wellbeing works in the future. Could it be the direction of future leadership in Finland or even globally?

Get a master’s degree in tourism business

Are you looking for an international tourism-focused master’s degree programme in business? Tourism Marketing and Management programme by University of Eastern Finland provides a unique learning experience for students who have finished their bachelor’s degree and are looking for new skills and knowledge in developing tourism industry in a sustainable way. Read more about the programme at www.uef.fi/tmm.