Harbinger Consultants

Culture + Complexity + Change

TALK | Cultural Tourism

Last night we attended a seminar with Helen Palmer, a UK based cultural tourism consultant, who addressed the role of cultural tourism in destination marketing. For Palmer, “Cultural tourism is about understanding the collective cultural offer of a destination, matching that offer to (and connecting with) the ‘wraparound’ industries (food, drink, hotels, shops and so on) and making sure that it’s all packaged in a way that is meaningful to the consumer.”

Palmer’s key points included:

  • Recognition of a shift from arts marketing (push) to visitor experience (pull) – the visitor must be at the centre of programming
  • Cultural offer creates differentiation
  • Addressing and measuring regional economic benefits, including multiplier effects, impact and competitiveness. However,  evaluation is not done consistently or rigorously.
  • Your place is your brand – steering clear of slogans and logos as they often aren’t meaningful
  • Know your offer – audit your assets for day and night experiences
  • Collaboration and information sharing across sectors and institutions and beyond ‘joint marketing’
  • Experience of all audience segments needs to be considered
  • Social media is not an add-on; it’s integral and must be done well. Don’t underestimate the power and reach of bloggers and other social media commentators.
  • Visitor experience benefits from a curatorial approach and the development of itineraries

Palmer’s talk affirmed our own approach in recent projects that have been attentive to place-based and destinational approaches to visitor experience. In our work in the Central West, we have stressed the need for visitor focused tourism initiatives and the need to understand who the region’s visitors are and what they want. Experience is more than just ‘doing something’. According to Tourism Tasmania, there is a difference between activity and experiences:

An activity is usually focused on the physical action, with little connection to the meaning or significance of the place in which it occurs, such as sightseeing, bushwalking or swimming.

An experience, however, goes beyond an activity to provide a higher level of engagement with the sense of place and local people and a greater depth of involvement and understanding of both.

Experiences are a combination of place, infrastructure, services and interpretation.

This means that experiences need planning and development, and should be greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not just a ‘big thing’ or a museum: “The whole experience – place, infrastructure, services and interpretation – is greater than the sum of its parts. To maximise the experience then, it’s necessary to maximise all these layers”. This is certainly how we’ve approached our work, with careful development of a more integrated and dynamic destination management approach attentive to visitor experience.


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