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In the world of business in the 21st century, there is increasingly a new ethos — that of collaboration.
Although competition for customers is still very much the name of the game, a new (or renewed) and mutually beneficial behaviour has emerged in which all parties in the mosaic clearly play a role in sustaining the overall industry.
This is especially true of the global travel and tourism industry — the largest on the planet — in which there are an increasing number of specialists who contribute to the return on investment to national, regional, and local economies.
Those who work in the field of public relations are essential to the industry and play an increasing role in the contemporary culture of travel and tourism, which is also becoming much more issue-oriented as the electronically plugged-in travellers also become key players. Today’s travellers are much more media-savvy and also much more in control of their decisions about where and how they wish to travel.
Judy Hammond and Glenn Cameron are PR specialists who epitomize the goals and vision of the corollary PR industry.
Because of the recent global recession, travellers are now demanding more “bang for their buck”; but at the same time they are looking for meaningful and enlightening travel experiences — in short, lifelong learning through travel.
This also means that niche markets, in which travellers can pursue their particular interests, have become even more important. And the niche market phenomenon also underscores the interconnectedness of this global industry in which transborder dialogue has also become a priority. New and much more experienced travellers want to feel engaged in the destination and to be able to internalize their travel experiences.
“Fun” is also still the name of the game
The expanded concept of travel in which all senses come into play also requires PR specialists to re-examine the very nature of fun. Suffice it to say that one of the most important personal objectives of 21st-century travellers is to experience the insight, enlightenment, and consequent pleasures that have always been inherent in travel.
What has changed is that there is a much broader spectrum of audiences that travel destinations can now appeal to. And, as Judy and Glenn comment in this podcast, Boise can compete with Boston through multidimensional resources that the Internet has made possible.
Also inherent in any destination is a narrative, a “story” that is contextual as well as cultural. And the story is multifaceted in that it is a blend of elements such as history, heritage, the arts, nature and the environment — and the list goes on. Those who work in the public relations field are also part of that narrative in that they facilitate the telling of the story using many skill sets. Those who work in PR also have a high degree of transferrable skills, also a priority in the world of business in the 21st century.
Oral history — storytelling — has always been a key ingredient in human culture, and many in the PR field are therefore also public educators in the most comprehensive sense of the word. With the increasing free flow of people on the planet, this also means that travellers are much more attuned to, and appreciative of, cultural differences.
Although we all still travel with a certain amount of enthnocentric baggage, travel has increasingly become the most experiential form of learning; and a means to an important end, that of transcending cultural borders.
And those in the PR field who work with destinations in order to reveal and celebrate their full narrative, are therefore also public educators in the most comprehensive sense of the word.
As the Travel Industry Association of America points out on its website, travel and tourism represents the third largest retail sales industry in the United States. Moreover, it is also that nation’s largest service export industry, and one of that country’s largest employers.
In the United Kingdom, tourism accounts for 7.1 percent of total employment. In the city of London, tourism is eight percent of GDP and that city’s second largest industry.
Face to face travel
Even though the number of travellers who are either booking online or researching their own customized travel has grown in leaps and bounds, there is still a fundamental need to interact in a meaningful way with a destination.
PR firms like Judy and Glenn’s Clear Communications, still emphasize this participatory and grassroots form of travel. And given that more people on the planet now live in urban centres as opposed to rural communities, the need to reconnect on many other levels is even more critical.
Therefore PR specialists help design marketing plans and strategies that build rapport between destinations and their potential markets.
This too is part of the narrative.
Travel, like public education, has never really been a linear experience; and today it is certainly no longer a straight line between the destination and the customer.
Once we decide to “go there,” the travel has already begun. And PR specialists help destinations define and enhance the contextual nature of their “product” in order that the traveller arrive more informed and more prepared.
Furthermore successful marketing plans always respect the needs of the consumer.
At the same time, they analyze carefully who all the stakeholders in the travel and tourism industry are, and why the notion of interdependence is fundamental to it. Above all, they recognize that the consumer is also a stakeholder as well as a partner; and in the work that the PR folks do they emphasize and communicate this message.
With all due respect to Marshall McLuhan, a travel destination is both message and medium … process as well as event.
And this is something that we have learned from the world of social media, which has also become increasingly important to the travel and tourism industry.
What is essential and critical to any travel destination is the way in which the message is communicated; so that travellers return from a destination with a clear sense of the place and have developed a long-term relationship with it.
Effecting such a relationship is a creative endeavour — and the principal challenge of any public relations specialist.
However, what is even more important is to create a sense of the people in the place, and to communicate this to the target markets. This may be the primary skill of those who work in public relations.
See also …
2. Glenn’s hometown of Winnipeg … Winnipeg: Light and Enlightenment on the Canadian Prairie
If you or someone you know are looking for a career in public relations, this website may be an important source of information for you.
© All photos courtesy of and copyright of Glenn Cameron CLEAR Communications; with the exception of Rainbow Falls Provincial Park (image of tents by the water) which is copyright of Ontario Parks.