Tourism and Culture….

The Travel Needs Ladder (©2012, Goeldner &Ritchie, p. 206)
The Travel Needs Ladder (©2012, Goeldner &Ritchie, p. 206)

Why do we travel?  Is it just because we need to escape, and get away from our mundane lives?  Or is it more?  Is it to spend frivolously on souvenirs?  What are our motivations to travel?  Is there some underlying cause?  Perhaps one we aren’t aware of?

I remember my 20s & 30s were marked with a thousand questions.  I was trying to navigate the waters, trying to figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  I realized now, after much and continued speculation, I was searching for a deeper meaning in life.  All of my basic needs were met, and I was progressing up Maslow/Murray’s pyramid.  I thought life was a bit mundane, ordinary.  I wanted the extraordinary, and I always felt something ‘more’ when I filled up the gas tank, and escaped.  I still fill that way.

I wanted to get out and explore the world at large.  I wanted to see if people felt the same as I did about life.  I couldn’t live the life that my parents had chosen, my brother or sister.  I was conflicted at the traditional pattern of life.  I saw the merits of that existence, but I have always wanted more.  I wanted the “road less traveled.”

I realized that I wanted to know the world.  As a manager, I knew that any one person from around the world could walk through my doors, and I needed to have the cultural intelligence to have a conversation.  I realized that the US is not the center of our world.  That there were other countries out there with just as fascinating populace, and landscapes.  That prompt, that thought tugged at my heart, pushed and pulled me to act.

And you are at that point in your own life.  Your mind full of questions, and apprehension, that seem to be overwhelming.  Listen to that voice, because it will help you to be a better manager.  A leader in today’s tourism/hospitality environment is one that understand’s the greater context of our world, and can apply the underlying principles of cultural intelligence.

As Goeldner & Ritchie (Tourism, Principles, Practices, Philosophies (2012), p. 211) suggest, a student, and subsequent manager, one needs to learn to:

  • recognize that travel experiences are the best way to learn about other cultures
  • identify the cultural factors in tourism
  • appreciate the rewards of participation in life-seeing tourism
  • become aware of the most effective promotional measures involving an area’s cultural resources
  • realize the importance of cultural attractions to any area promotion itself as a tourist destination
  • evaluate the contributions that international tourism can make toward world peace.

Now, I know, that many can’t travel the world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience from afar.  You have an instrument in front of you, your computer, and access to the Internet to arm yourself with information.  As I said before information is one of the drivers of our industry.  It is the most important driver in the world.  Without information, there is ignorance.  And that ignorance leads to fear, leads to misunderstanding.  We can’t be afraid of tourism, our its different sectors.  As the aforementioned authors have indicated, culture will be the defining attraction variable of a destination (p. 212).

Tourism is about interaction, about relationships.  We understand ourselves, and others through tourism.  And that is the crux, to step out of the uncertainty of life, and into a greater light.  Progress from a limited awareness to a greater awareness, and be open to all the worlds uniqueness.

Tourism is a vehicle for peace.  Because we have eliminated the fear, the unknown, and see the world for its truth.  That all cultures have lines of commonality, and divergence.  That our story might just be similar to others.  That diversity is a good thing.

I told you the story of my visit to family in Germany.  That my cousins that I was staying with didn’t speak a word of English, and that I had to rely on their daughter for interpretation.  Yet, one night, my cousin (that was my Father’s age), and I sat down in front of the TV to watch Germany play England in ‘footie’, soccer.  We found a platform to communicate, because we both were soccer fans.  We could talk a common language, and break through the tension that existed, because of my lack of knowledge of the German language.  I knew my faults, and still wish to this day, that I had learned German from my father.  I know that to be a worldly person, I need to go further, farther in my own development to bridge the gap.  I must not wait for others, that I must strive for that higher level thought.

Berlin CathedralYet, during that visit, I made several trips.  I traveled to Berlin, and saw several attractions.  I have been a student of history, and wanted to know more about the trials Germans experienced during WWII.  I wanted to see the concentration camps, to understand the suffering of others.  Bergen BelsenI wanted to get back to the roots of my family, and understand the hardships they had to endure, and their own triumphs of spirit.

I was looking for the authentic, to find those remnants from our not too distant past.  I was really a combination of several tourist categories:  cultural, ethnic, and historical.

So, returning to that original concept.  The reason for your travel may not truly be entirely articulated.  When asked, you may tell the interviewer, you traveled for fun.  But deep, down in that part of you, that is always changing, evolving, you also came to experience a different place, a different culture.  You wanted greater meaning to your life.

And so do your visitors.  The purpose of their trips, their escape, their travel, has several reasons.  A manager will recognize that their visitors will have a multitude of reasons.  Again, it is about asking the right questions, not trying to assume you know for certain their reasonings.  Value will be realized if we take that extra step to be more present in our global village.

Tourism, travel is a journey…and life is that journey….

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