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Help me to get rid of all the bloody guests around here!
Sunday, 9th March 2014
Source : Roland Wildberg ~ Exclusive from ITB 2014
Doug Lansky about how to cure overcrowded destinations and attractions with new intelligent visitors management technolgies.

He's a hallmark for penetrative and entertaining lectures about tourism: Already on last year's ITB the appearance of prominent U.S. travel writer Doug Lansky formed a varied and entertaining part of the program.

And this year again the brilliant speaker gave a professionally mounted presentation by addressing an especially big annoyance, at the most desperation of presumably every tourist (and tour operator): Long queues and full beaches.

Tourists seek refuge at calm places but frequently destroy exactly the desired atmosphere at those locations by overcrowding. And this is ultimately the result of a dilemma: on the one hand, there is a steady growth of tourism. This is mostly business objective.

On the other hand, already many destinations are overexploited. Therefore, Lansky did expressed the question: Is there any possibility to take use of technology also in this case? Is a world conceivable in which people do not miss any more, because they do not have to queue any more?

Meet the authentic

But before the writer dealt with this specific question he tied at the last year's lecture and asked again rethorically: "Why do we travel? To experience something, which we cannot find at home! It is always the same. Starbuck, IKEA, McDonald's are everywhere.

Always the same labels, same hotel room, etc." The locals are what makes the difference." In this context, Lansky criticized also the identical slogans in tourism marketing. "Each region works out a claim. But no one's going anywhere because he likes the slogan." People want to meet the authentic, not the interchangeable slogans.

This authenticity is not just any content. Here he addressed the content creator to dogma: there is a "social media inflation". The fact that social media grows every year 900%, inflate the hit rates – but this not necessarily might have an impact on the people's real behaviour. Spectacular and successful social media campaigns do not necessarily increase the number of bookings. You must give people the possibility of rather draw themselve a picture. "Help the people sell your destination!" Lansky cried into the audience.

Following his approach, one may suggest that presenting a destination online cannot be the end of the story. Rather, it is the specific interactions, which can guarantee a success. And here overcrowding is harmful. If people do not go anywhere, because it is crowded, then even the best social media concept won't help.

You can 'photoshop' the most beautiful beach pictures – if a beach is dirty and crowded, people just don't go. "When overcrowded is a problem, people don't go." And this overcrowding expression of it not even be that a region is constantly sought after. It is often only the high season when there's no space between bath towels. During the rest of the year the beach may be a yawning gap.

Attractions need to grow organically

After Lansky has captured the problem quite aptly, he tried to show technological means to tackle this problem. Because not everyone can follow the example of Uganda, which limits the number of daily visitors that can see the gorillas. And hope to attract people by lower prices in the off season will not work if those responsible for the peak are old and wealthy and then go just when they want.

So how can visitor flows be controlled in a city with different attractions? It is important to ensure organic growth. If only a certain aspect of a region grows (E.g. hotels) but not restaurants and attractions are expanded, then overcrowding is pre-programmed. "You need all attractions on board". And you need technical solutions to simplify processes.

For example, through mobile ticketing. You can orient yourself to airline booking systems, Lansky recommended. Bookings are based on times frames. At the same time you should call people's attentions on the alternatives. Anyone looking for a popular destination via Web, should also be confronted with alternatives. Aim actively to steer the flow of visitors. "This enables organic grow of the destination".

All players must be on board

However Lansky showed some methods to solve the problem, the limitations that exist in an open market had become visible. Usually it is difficult to prohibit the construction of a hotel just because the main tourist attractions are crowded.

Organic growth as an alternative to the overcrowding is only possible if all local stake holders act together. This might work out perfectly only in exceptional cases. And it is comprehensible that in the field of business with tourists, the solidarity between potential competitors may be limited.

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Roland Wildberg is Travel Writer and Correspondent based in Berlin, Germany. He started as an Editor for the National daily 'Die Welt' (tourism section), later on switched to a freelanced career and nowadays mainly publishes on the Web. Observing the hospitality industry has always fascinated him as it looks like the perfect combination of sleeping and writing – work-live-balance at its best.

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