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Are We Doing Tourism Backwards?


Yes this is a serious question. And it’s one that I have come to believe to be true and I'll tell you why.

Many moons ago I was working in a remote region of Indonesia. And I do mean remote. This place was so far off the tourism map that not even an Indonesian traveller was likely to discover it. Especially when there are so many sparkling jewels of destinations littering the map to attract their attention.

But, there I was sitting around a table with a group of young entrepreneurs identifying opportunities for tourism development.

The first thing I did was unroll my giant map of the area to much laughter as the map was far bigger than me. Then I asked the entrepreneurs to show me all the things in their mind tourists would want to see and do. Orangutan forest walks of course were top of mind, followed by waterfalls, lakes and big trees. My now rather colourful map was surrounded by a mass of pretty pleased faces nodding at how many sites they could take these elusive dollar-wielding international tourists they were after too. But how to get them to come?

And that is the point I flipped the script...

I asked these guys what they did on weekends. What they had done during the Eid holidays. And what they wished they could do with their family and friends. In a matter of minutes we had identified a myriad of exciting and concrete business opportunities that could be developed for a market that was right there. And even better, a market that was looking for things to do. Even better, it was product that would also attract people from neighbouring villages who were likewise wanting other things to do with their family and friends on weekends.

What this shows is that the risk of thinking the high paying international tourists is the be all and end all of tourism, is that we miss all the opportunities in front of our noses.

I have come to term this approach to tourism development that I have practiced over the years 'localisation.' Because it is based on the premise that if we create better cities and environments to live in, that we create places more people will fall in love with.

So are we doing tourism backwards?

Without doubt, and Covid has made this even more apparent.

So what does this mean for you right now?

It means that you, like these entrepreneurs, no longer have to wait for international tourists to come. You have the same opportunities these young entrepreneurs had to create product for the market on your doorstep.

If you want to know how to apply this to your own product/destination/markets DM me here.