Reality 2017

Reality 2017

Seven questions asked to Frank Go

Frank Go, emeritus endowed professor of Event and Tourism Marketing in the Department of Marketing Management at Rotterdam School of Management/Erasmus University, Netherlands, and co-founder of the Heritage, Tourism and Hospitality, International Conference passed away on 7 May 2017.

This webpage was created on 7 April 2017. In seven questions he tried to capture a little of the discussions we had lately and of what he thought should be on the agenda of researchers and professionals working in the field of Heritage, Tourism and Hospitality. He gave the webpage the title Reality 2017.

Should you like to elaborate on the questions and answers, please do so and send your thoughts to

1. The tagline of HTHIC2017 is “Narratives for a World in Transition”. Why “a world in transition”?

Past performance of the tourism sector is not indicative of future results. Kondratieff’s wave theory presents a systematic framework enabling policymakers to distinguish economic cycles lasting from 40 to 60 years with intervals of expansion, stagnation and recession. In contrast, Daniel Smihula believed that each new cycle is shorter than its predecessor. Smihula’s work based, in part, on Kondratieff’s wave theory, resulted in six waves as follows:

1. (1600-1780) The Wave of Financial Agricultural Revolution
2. (1780-1880) The Wave of the Industrial Revolution
3. (1880-1940) The Wave of the Technical Revolution
4. (1940-1985) The Wave of the Scientific-Technical Revolution
5. (1985-2015) The Wave of the Information and Telecommunications Revolution
6. (2015-2035?) The Wave of the Post-Informational – Technological Revolution

The most recent fifth wave (1985-2015) has been characterised by the internet, mobile technologies and digital gadgets, rendering communication practices ‘mobile’ embedded in a global net. These developments had a profound influence on organisations at the Heritage, Tourism and Hospitality (HTH) intersection. Advanced applications of tools facilitated the efficient netting of information and communication systems.

However, importantly, it also transformed countless aspects of our social life. Not always for the ‘common good’. Consider, for example, how Airbnb contributes to rapid, yet, often uncontrolled growth of the tourism sector in the urban and rural contexts. Thereby, often placing the fragile ecosystems of historic centres and natural systems under threat, with a dramatic negative effect on the quality of life of residents, particularly in the (inner) urban areas (of e.g., Amsterdam, Aix-en-Provence, Barcelona, Berlin, Bruges, Prague, Venice).

What are practical ways during the sixth wave that universities might get involved in e.g., to develop and deliver policies that stimulate stakeholder engagement at the HTH intersection aimed at optimising both their inter-organisational performance to coordinate and control tourist flows so as to improve the well-being of host community residents and visitor experience?

2. Who leads the planning and governance of the tourism sector?

For national, regional and city governments the governance of pairing tourism and cultural heritage has proven problematic. In addition, few jurisdictions appear well prepared to cope effectively with the consequences of the sixth wave of the post-informational ‘revolution’ (2015-2035) its costs and benefits.

More specifically, Rifkin (2013) points to the emergence of lateral power when new forms of communication technology converge with renewable energy regimes derived from e.g., wind and solar. Samsoe (Denmark) is the world’s first 100% renewable energy powered island. Its natural heritage serves as a tourist magnet for interesting hikes. On the mainland, Copenhagen Sustainable Brands 2016 brought “brand, business, and sustainability professionals from across the globe together to learn and share how to leverage sustainability, drive innovation and create value for their organisations.”

Researchers and practitioners should think of the specific challenges associated with the transition and explore some of the emerging models. These may assist in the planning and implementation of heritage tourism and hospitality production and consumption opportunities, and mitigate the chance of pitfalls. In a more crowded, more interconnected, more volatile, and more unstable global environment cooperation in markets are, paradoxically, becoming more relevant. Consider open-source movement ‘invaders’ such as Wikipedia, which built world class software without market incentives. Amazon and Google which built fame and fortune by drawing and enhancing the internet.

How can organisations at the HTH intersection develop governance-based on the role of institutional arrangements (Alvarez, Go and Yüksel, 2016) to overcome the threat of global competition – often meticulously organised around win-lose models? In order to revitalise local economies and social communities.

3. Why narratives?

The shift in ‘hard power’ from firms and destinations that determine what tourists need (then apply marketing, to confront the way in which competition influences the imagery, and meet their offerings) to the ‘soft power’ of networks of tourists and firms who co-create brand value, may be a defining shift in market structure in the 21st century.

In the face of diversity, there has been increasing interest in examining issues from an ‘outside-in’ to ‘inside-out’ perspective focused on identity. Storytelling/narratives play an important role in including the important psychological-social, cultural-emotional story of consumers and their brands in the branding equation, thereby re-instating the basis for the traditional construction of self-identity (Fournier, 1998).

Destinations (places, regions and routes) can place their story as a metaphor in the mind of (‘outsiders’) tourists, students, professionals and other visitors on short-term assignment so that they can grasp quickly the essential features of the host culture, i.e., what its members (‘insiders’) consider important. For example, Gannon (2004) used the Italians’ passion for opera as metaphor to describe Italy, its cultural mindset and its key features: “the overture, spectacle, and pageantry, voice, externalisation, and the interaction between the lead singer and the chorus”.

How can organisations at the HTH intersection develop a new literacy of cooperation for managing the complex dilemmas – such as dealing with ‘fake news’ – in the 21st Century?

4. Who claims the governance for sustainable rural development?

My colleagues Mariapina Trunfio, Maria Della Lucia and I used various dimensions of social capital (cognitive, structural and relational) to raise stakeholder awareness that the local identity and heritage resources represent important assets, which are typically not effectively used. Given appropriate knowledge sharing these could be converted into ‘authentic’ tourism products.

How might such non-economic factors be applied to achieve sustainable rural development e.g. at the Amalfi Coast? The latter is characterised by the extraordinary beauty of its extensive terraced landscapes. Many visitors have been enthralled by this fascinating special place. In particular, its historical importance and the traditional method of terraced agriculture maintenance applied by farmers derived from the Incas.

Unfortunately, the terracing systems of the Amalfi Coast are in decline, due, in part, to the transition towards a growing local tourism economy. The effectiveness of terracing systems, in mitigating erosion and landscape degradation, depends on regular construction and proper maintenance.

Go, Milne and Whittles (1992) identified five key issues associated with dispersed coordination and control which impact the broader spatial-temporal context in which (heritage) tourism is developed:

  • Diversity of the tourism sector causes responsibility for managing tourism development to be deferred to a series of organisations that often operate without a clear mandate.
  • Lack of political will has been a common failing to implement policy, both at the local level and by national governments.
  • A key aspect of policy implementation failure is that authority to implement does not accompany the mandate to implement.
  • Budgets (or rather the lack of them) are insufficient to carry out the job.
  • A final common failing is the lack of a mechanism to monitor success of implementing tourism policy.There exist an underlying trade-off between cultural heritage and agriculture, tourism reflected in the interests of residents, farmers, tourists, government agencies and others. How can stakeholders adopt a new perspective which embraces more fully the relationship between tourism and the political economy?

5. What about sustainable tourism/sustainability and narratives?

Successful’ tourism carries the seeds of its own demise. This becomes increasingly evident as the pressures from the dominant tourism growth paradigm, based on shareholder interests, increasingly stimulate ‘uncontrolled’ tourism growth. Mass tourism, which threatens the cultural and natural assets of European destinations. Not in the least the quality of life of their residents.

Governments lack the means to pinpoint limits, to monitor levels of use and stress and respond with effective controls where appropriate. The sustainable tourism paradigm is accountable to stakeholder interests. However, private, public and civil society actors often have their own objectives, interests and agendas. They typically lack a policy agenda which helps them to understand the complexity of strategic change in terms of three essential dimensions: context (e.g., both internal and external), process (e.g., implementation patterns), content (e.g., objectives, assumptions captured in a compelling narrative).

Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) serves as example how to build a policy agenda, which converges the three essential dimensions. For the past 15 years TNZ successfully marketed the film series, based on the work by Oxford philologist and one of the most famous authors of the 20th century J.R.R. Tolkien (content). This spawned a phenomenon of fans of Lord of the Rings (process), drawn by the ‘magic’ of the ‘Middle Earth’ (context).

Said Seth Godin: “If your story doesn’t work for you anymore, rewrite it!”

Research Arja Lemmetyinen (Turku School of Economics) and I conducted (2010), shows that a multi-authoring approach can serve as a powerful medium to motivate stakeholders, amongst others, through storytelling. In turn contribute to brand identity building, in a network of cruise Baltic destinations. Researchers might enquire whether transferring narrative research into good practice, and vice versa, channeling practitioners’ demands into advisory agendas.

How might HTH stakeholders use a multi-authoring approach to script a story, which contributes to building a brand identity in a network in a manner which helps them to occupy a position for heritage tourism policy alongside traditional urban, agricultural and rural development concerns?

6. And shared space?

Recently, the streams of refugees and migrants to EU territory have reached a critical dimension due to multiple causes of flight: wars, infringements of civil liberties, environmental catastrophes, and malnutrition. Despite the measures and proposals of the government of industrialised countries, the pressures of massemigration contribute to the reshaping of the relational dimension of ‘places and spaces’ across and beyond Europe as cultural tourism destination.

Particularly, the increase in the volume and globalisation of mobility raises in effect a motivational continuum of extremes. On the one hand, refugees based on migrant citizenship claim their human rights. On the other, investors, residents and tourists wish to protect their rights of ownership and user-ship to engage with cultural spaces and places. The rights and responsibilities of both contribute to potential tensions and conflicts within the communal context. Shared space raises a dilemma.

In addition, in this world in transition, characterised by globalisation, continuous growth in tourism, migration and mobility based on migrant citizenship, there is the need for researchers and practitioners alike to explore the possibilities of reframing tourism beyond “the tourist gaze” and study the interaction, dialogues and conflicts that arise between visitors, hosts, political and cultural institutions in the representation and re-use of the past for touristic purposes.

How to reconcile the responsibility to preserve and revive the relics of historic legacy for co-creating memorable heritage tourist experiences with the necessity to model a ‘Marshall Plan’ to channel the waves of massmigration, in the present and future?

7. How susceptible are jobs at the HTH intersection to computerisation?

HTHIC2017 is in pursuit of a blend of both extremes in their conceptualisation, development and promotion of content to capture innovative heritage-based tourism products, principles and practices, represented by value propositions, ranging from factional accounts, legend, myth, fiction and fantasy.

HTHIC2017 invites participants to explore the possibilities of reframing tourism, beyond “the tourist gaze” and critically assess how to frame (cultural) heritage-based destinations systematically, to represent multi-authored stories within a holistic narrative.

Objectives and assumptions, underlying an identified coordinated story that seek to give meaning and status to heritage objects, endowed with symbolism and power generating a spectrum of emotions from pleasure and belonging and exclusion.

Targets to converge the individual narratives of stakeholders in a variety of roles, often with conflicting objectives, interests and agendas, improve the effects of interaction, dialogues and conflicts that arise between visitors, hosts and cultural institutions in the representation and re-use of the past for touristic purposes.

The effectiveness of stories in terms of their contributing to memorability, entertainment value, people-centered nature and economy (costs/benefits) for strengthening a common destination brand identity and practices that turn trade-off in a win-win situation.

Selected references

Alvarez, M.D., Go, F.M. and Yuksel, A. (2016). Heritage Tourism Destinations. Preservation, Communications and Development, Wallingford: CABI.

Fournier, S. (1998). Consumers and their brands: Developing Relationship Theory in Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Research, 24(3), 343-372.

Frey, C.B., & Osborne, M.A. (2013). The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization? Oxford: Oxford University.

Gannon, M.J. (2004). Understanding Global Cultures Metaphorical Journeys through 28 Nations, Clusters of Nations, and Continents, Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Go, F.M., Trunfio, Mariapina, Della Lucia, Maria (2013). Social Capital and Governance for Sustainable Rural Development, Studies in Agricultural Economics, 115: 104-110.

Go, F.M., Milne, D., & Whittles, J.R. (1992) Communities as Destinations: A Marketing Taxonomy for the Effective Implementation of the Tourism Action Plan. Journal of Travel Research, 30(4), 31-37.

Lemmetyinen, A., & Go, F. (2010). Building a brand identity in a network of Cruise Baltic destinations: A multi-authoring approach. Journal of Brand Management, 17(7), 519-531.

Rifkin, J. (2013). The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is transforming energy, the economy and the world, New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Smihula, D. (2009). The Waves of technological innovations of the modern age and the present crisis at the end of the wave of the informational technological revolution, Studia Politica, Slovaca, Bratislava. (1): 32-47, ISSN 1337-8163.