Finally, a third set of research goals are those related to customer ratings and reviews, usually obtained through social media tools or specific portals such as Tripadvisor. This is basically another channel to obtain a mix of quantitative (ratings) and qualitative (reviews) information to complement the other sources, taking into account that the customer feedback is voluntary and hence the data cannot be considered statistically representative. Many research goals may be envisioned in this section:
- Detailed ratings on specific accommodation services, restaurants, activities, etc.
- Detailed ratings on general issues about the destination such as feeling of locals’ hospitality, cleanliness, availability of good information, transport services, etc.
- Reviews commenting about the tourists experience in accommodations, restaurants, activities, etc.
- Reviews and discussions commenting about the tourists experience and impression on general issues that they consider especially relevant about the destination.
Furthermore, as mentioned in the previous section, social media may be a good source of candidates for the qualitative research. By analyzing the reviews, proactive and creative tourists may be identified, and they are also likely to enjoy the chance of giving their opinions and ideas about the destination needs and opportunities for improvement.
Mobile apps may also be designed to establish a direct relationship with the tourist, incentivizing these to give feedback (reviews and ratings) on many aspects of the destination. The potential of mobile apps for obtaining information from the tourists is especially interesting, thanks to the capacity to convey such feedback on-site right after the experience when it is still fresh in their minds.
Marketing 3.0 intends to engage tourists and other stakeholders in the social networks to obtain their collaboration in co-creating experiences, stories and marketing contents, but also to control the brand to keep its activities aligned with the mission and to become brand ambassadors. Creative tourists are expected to be keen on providing ideas and critical opinion on all issues related with the destination’s management and development. Therefore, destinations developing towards a tourism 3.0 model are likely to attract many of these creative tourists and have plenty of participation at no cost in the monitoring activities.
Up to what extend do you think that social media reviews and ratings should be considered as representative of the tourists’ satisfaction?
Beyond the content creation contests to be carried out in the virtual collaborative platform, co-creation should be also facilitated and explained through educational workshops, especially for the enthusiast stakeholders. In co-creation workshops, attendants would learn how to cooperate in creating marketing designs for merchandising products, and tourism products based on life-changing experiences.
The marketing design co-creation workshops would be carried out by expert designers who would provide training on the design techniques to facilitate the development of artistic skills among the interested stakeholders. They would also be trained in team working to facilitate cooperation.
The product co-creation workshops would be organized by the Product Managers, who would explain the development process and key success factors for creating life-changing tourist experiences according to the mission of the destination, as explained in the Product development strategy section. This would be mandatory for local service suppliers, who should be mixed with other stakeholders to balance the co-creation process with a similar amount of inside developers and outside developers.
Co-creation workshops should be organized by DMO as a way of promoting product development throughout the destination, with the participation of local DMC. However, this idea could also be developed by DMCs themselves, even individually as long as they can gather enough contributors.
Do you envision other possible contributors or other possible outputs out of the co-creation workshops?
The design of the integration strategy requires making the local service suppliers envision the future of the destination through the development of this model, and listening to understand the different levels of risk attitude and enthusiasm that the project inspires, identifying their fears and concerns about the integration process. This should be done through the Partner Discovery process, encompassing three main steps:
- Mobilizing community leaders. The first step is to create awareness about the need for a new destination model, presenting a consistent proposal as a starting point, and establishing a common language to discuss about the new model. Community leaders are the first to participate in the discussion, though in the following phases other community members should also be consulted.
- Upon presentation of the first proposal, the second step consists on getting feedback and understanding of the locals’ concerns, problems, needs, fears, and aspirations that the model has to address. Hereby we may identify different partner profiles, with different concerns and aspirations, which set the direction to refine the integration formulas to accommodate all profiles.
- Designing. Based upon the feedback and insights obtained from community leaders, the initial prototype(s) should be rethought to adapt to the previously unknown requirements. Both “design” and “understand” are parallel processes interacting constantly along many rounds to revamp and pre-test the model, its formulas and the valuation criteria to integrate businesses into the platform.
Regarding the development strategy for integrating partners should consider several development phases stating the milestones when priorities change. For instance, the second phase should not start until the platform is able to operate providing all services for a minimum flow of visitors. This may entail also a spatial development strategy in which the model scales up when a determined area is fully or almost fully integrated into the destination model.
Would you consider any other step or issue in the partner discovery process?
When attempting to integrate the local service providers into the platform, we are likely to find different attitudes with regards to their confidence on the project and their will for keeping the control of their business. Further, this attitude may change over time, for it is necessary not only to offer many integration formulas attending different risk attitudes or want for autonomy and ownership, but also to offer a flexible system that allows them to shift from one to another integration status.
For instance, the range of integration formulas could go from the full integration exchanging the business ownership for platform shares, to the lowest possible integration status in which the business is associated to the platform only by having to comply with certain service quality standards to take advantage of the aforementioned benefits of the platform. In between these formulas, there could be intermediate formulas guaranteeing a minimum profitability, but also with a limited dividend, to accommodate those with a medium level of risk aversion. As showed in the following table, in many cases we should distinguish between the integration of businesses and properties.
|Owner’s risk perception
||Properties (premises, facilities, land, etc.)
||Renting or selling to the platform
||Association in low integration status
||Integration with guaranteed profitability
||Integration with guaranteed profitability
||Full integration at all risk
||Full integration at all risk
Detailed information about the implications of each option would be provided to partner candidates, to help them visualize the pros and cons of every option. In general, these could be the following:
||Disadvantages & Obligations
||· Keep ownership of the business
· Take advantage of platform’s marketing
· Advantageous deals in key supplies
|· No influence on platform’s policies
· Compliance with service standards
||· Guaranteed shares’ profitability
· Right to vote on platform’s policies
· Preferential marketing deal
· Free or subsidized training & assistance
|· Limited shares’ profitability
· Limited voting power
· Loose business ownership & control
· Fix salary + bonus, subject to penalties when failing to comply with rules
||· Stake in platform’s profits to the fullest
· Full right to vote on platform’s policies
· Preferential marketing deal
· Free or subsidized training & assistance
|· Loose business ownership & control
· Fix salary + bonus, subject to penalties when failing to comply with rules
· Risk of no profits in case of platform’s poor results
Hereby it is necessary to remark that partners associated to the platform –in low integration status- would be also encouraged to invest in the platform to take advantage of its profits and have the right to vote when deciding the platform’s policies.
Besides, there should be a specific integration and development strategy for the new entrepreneurs encouraged through the platform development policy, establishing many integration options and setting their path to regain full ownership of their business in case they eventually wish to do so. For instance, as it happens with new employees, many new partners –especially the micro-entrepreneurs in the poorer layers of the community- should follow a trial period during which they are trained, coached and closely monitored to assess their suitability as integrated service suppliers.
What challenges do you foresee when integrating partners through this “formulas strategy”?
With regard to the new approach intending to establish a closer relationship with tourists, there could be many possible kinds of research goals:
- Tourists’ needs, problems, and concerns in view of identifying insecurities and discomforts to be addressed through improvement or development of new services and facilities.
- Tourists’ motivations and aspirations to sense the convenience of developing new products or even revamping the destination model towards a 3.0 model to satisfy the aim for mission driven tourism activities.
- Tourists’ opinions to pre-test ideas on new products or marketing initiatives, to ensure their viability and adequate development.
In this point, research should be conducted on the issues that concern the creative society, to better orientate on defining missions that engage the human spirit of most stakeholders. The researched issues are to be chosen by the Destination Management Organization (DMO) with room for participation of local private stakeholders, as with the quantitative surveys. These research goals are to be attained through qualitative methods, such as in-depth interviews and focus groups to get a deeper insight on the researched issues. The access to the sample is here a bit more complicated than in other research projects. Hereby are envisioned some ways to identify the desired sample representatives, bearing in mind that these have to be selected according to specific criteria related to the research goals in every case:
- In the quantitative surveys, through which the pollsters know their sociological and motivational profile
- In social media discussions about the destination and topics related to the research goals
- In the accommodation, in collaboration with the supplier
- On-site when practicing activities related to the research goals
To successfully carry out this task it is necessary to clearly define the target profiles and get the cooperation of the local service suppliers such as accommodation and activity suppliers, which ultimately also benefit from such research. Once identified suitable candidates, these should be invited to participate in a meeting with an interviewer or a focus group, in exchange for a voucher for some of the destination’s services.
The outcomes of the qualitative research are to provide insights and ideas which serve as a basis for further research with quantitative methods.
Would you consider any other goal when researching for tourists insights?
Let people vote for stories, experiences and other ideas through the social networks or mobile apps. Reviews and ratings are the key brand performance indicators applying to both experiences and stories. Because community members risk their reputations when giving reviews, only brands with high integrity are likely to obtain good reviews and ratings. Destination executives’ role is to ensure the brand integrity rather than trying to stimulate reviews by sponsoring them, which could be regarded as manipulation.
To develop an “exigent” rating system, community members could only vote for one, two or three stories, and would be rewarded if their nominated stories were eventually awarded, to motivate them to read carefully and make thoughtful ratings.
Such contests could be based on existing platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, etc. This way, the created content is more likely to become viral and foster the destination’s brand awareness and image throughout the social networks, as well as to draw new visitors to the destination website and getting to know the creative activists better. Contests are rather suitable for DMOs, considering the necessary budget and infrastructure, though school based contests could be far more affordable, also for medium sized DMCs.
Do you envision other tactics to encourage online contribution in the content creation process?
When designing the value proposition and the business model architecture, the first step in the strategy formulation is to define the mission. This should be done by listening to all the local stakeholders to identify current and future challenges affecting the local community and the specific constituents of these challenges (disadvantaged persons, minorities, elderly people, etc.), mostly those in the base of the pyramid. Further, it is advisable to identify concerns related to the protection of the environment or the cultural heritage. The local communities are the first ones who have to be engaged with the mission, and so their opinion and will should play a decisive role on the mission definition.
The next stage entails searching for solutions that can be powered through the tourism activities, which involves finding ways to transform the tourists’ lives to satisfy social needs and motivations which may also be understood as another mission focused on the socio-cultural transformation. Participation of communities of creative people should be encouraged from this stage. This process starts in the strategy formulation phase, but continues permanently as the main goal of the open innovation system where all stakeholders are empowered to participate.
Then, another key step in the strategy formulation is to identify the key partners and key resources the destination needs to start the virtuous circle that leads to expand the model. They are the ones that make the destination and the business attractive enough to progressively attract and engage new partners and a growing network of customers, some of whom turn into brand ambassadors. The usual core stakeholders to engage in the first phase are to be:
- Local government, providing infrastructure, long-term shareholding and institutional support
- Investors, so long as there need to be carried out significant investments in tourism infrastructure
- Owners & operators of existing key tourism infrastructures
- Land owners of the areas where the new tourism infrastructures should be built
- Operators for the new key tourism infrastructures
- Community leaders, who should influence and engage the local community
- Channel partners such as Tour-operators and Travel Agents with key market influence
- Opinion leaders such as journalists and bloggers to spread the first stories to their followers
Furthermore, it is necessary to define the partners’ profile for all resources and activities that are to be outsourced, establishing the prioritization criteria for the selection process and negotiation key points.
Moreover, the development of the destination model needs to define a strategy which sets the priorities on the requirements partners should comply with in relation to the value brought and mission commitment. In this regard, we will probably not always find the necessary service suppliers sharing our mission and values –especially at the beginning-, and so we will need to understand their values and expectations in order to build win-win collaboration. Progressively, as the model scales up, the strategy prioritizes partners who share our mission and vision, eventually replacing those who do not.
Would you suggest different roles for the core stakeholders mentioned above?
When focusing on environmental protection and sustainability, in the case of nature-based tourism destinations, there are many roles that the destination model may take:
- Collaboration with research programs (either by universities, corporations, government, etc.) or environmental protection programs (private foundations, NGOs, government, etc.) by lending some of the facilities, programming volunteering activities related with the field work, etc. In some cases, the open innovation system could serve also as crowdsourcing resource for innovative ideas. Alternatively, the destination could also serve as a pre-testing field for new eco-friendly products.
- Creating awareness among stakeholders about the environmental issues and challenges of the destination, by educating them on the threats and the good practices that should guarantee the protection of the destination’s environment, in order to create a network of environmental ambassadors that spread these concerns and good practices.
- Integrating environmental friendly facilities and practices within the main business activity, thus minimizing the impact on the environment. These facilities and practices could also be leveraged for educating and creating awareness about the environmental challenges, thus accomplishing the aforementioned role at the same time.
The indicators to track the environment related mission should be designed by environmental experts according to the established goals aligned with the mission.
Beyond the aforementioned main benefits, there may be other positive impacts such as those related to cultural protection and promotion, socio-cultural change and human development on both the local communities’ side and the visitors’ side. These benefits may be difficult to measure and are most likely to be assessed through the kinds of stories that are created and their popularity.
A series of Whitepapers are to be released featuring case studies to illustrate how the destination model 3.0 approach may be applied in various tourism destinations.
Would you consider other roles to be played by the destination board?
The main objectives when tracking the tourism activity in local destinations are to monitor:
- Evolution of the accommodation offer by type and location
- Demand seasonality by type and location of the accommodation
- Evaluate the satisfaction of local businesses with the tourism activity
- Characterize types of demand, clustering them according to their geographical origin, length of stay, type of services used, seasonality, motivations, trip organization, type of group, activities and places visited, loyalty to the destination and expenditure.
- Satisfaction, intention to recommend, and intention to repeat visit.
These are to be attained through quantitative research methods, resulting in a periodical series of statistical data to be delivered throughout the local and regional industry stakeholders’ network. Hereby it is important to note that these quantitative surveys may work as omnibus surveys, in which business owners may pay for introducing questions related to their business’ information needs.
These data is to be obtained through two different quantitative methods:
- For data on occupancy rates, occupancy satisfaction, origin of demand and length of stay, telephone based survey to the accommodation owners has to be carried out, right after every period of two weeks. This should use a sample representing 20% of the total capacity, to obtain a 98.5% of reliability. The occupancy rate is a weighted average for the number of available beds calculated from the answers of each establishment in the sample.
- For data on characteristics of demand, satisfaction and intention to recommend, an on-site survey has to be carried out either in the tourist areas or in the hotel lobbies. This is designed in many stages: firstly, areas are stratified to ensure that samples are taken from each area. Secondly, primary sample units (towns) with significant tourist accommodation capacity are selected. Then, intermediate units (establishments) are sampled randomly from clusters. Finally, individual units (tourists) are selected in a systematic random way from within each establishment.
The results may be delivered through both web-based updates every two weeks and an Annual Report to be delivered to all regional stakeholders.
Would you consider any other research objective to be monitored?
Storytelling training is the process through which stakeholders develop their storytelling skills to be fully empowered in telling stories about the destination. Creating compelling stories is an art for which special techniques need to be mastered, and special skills have to be developed.
For instance, to be compelling, the stories have to be real and driven by lesser known characters like any community member, so as to be regarded as a community symbol, a symbol of the collective power of consumers leveraged in networks in front of corporate giants. Furthermore, they should use metaphors such as balance, transformation, journey, container, connection, resource or control. Characters, plot and metaphors are the three components necessary to move people.
The destination’s communication platforms (website, Facebook page, etc.) should facilitate, encourage and reward tourists for sharing their experiences in the form of compelling stories. The Whitepaper “Marketing destinations through storytelling” is to explain all the details about this essential training process for successful storytelling.
Do you think that learning how to craft and tell a compelling story is an experience many people would like to live among the values driven individuals?