How to fix travel | Doug Lansky | TEDxStockholm

How to fix travel | Doug Lansky | TEDxStockholm

Translator: Annika Bidner
Reviewer: Mile Živković Travel has gone from this — brave, uncharted, unique
and authentic destinations to this — (Laughter) — safe mass market destinations
and big business. And by big business,
I mean 1.4 trillion dollars last year, in international travel alone. OK, it’s making money. But let me ask this:
are we making travel better? Better for the traveler, better for the destination,
better for the stakeholders? My theory, and what I plan
to demonstrate today is that we can use
some of these driving forces, uniqueness and authenticity,
and a profitable business model, more profitable than the one
they use today, to help fix some of the key problems with travel. And by the end of this presentation,
you’re going to learn what you can do as travelers to have a more enriching
and unique travel experience no matter where you go. OK, so if you look at the trends, travel’s gotten a lot cheaper. In 1939, a basic transatlantic
economy ticket cost 12,000 dollars, if you injust for inflation. Today you can get
basically the same flight, with improved flight safety,
a movie of your choice, for less than 10% of the cost. You just have put up with this. (Laughter) It hasn’t just gotten cheaper,
it’s gotten faster and more comfortable. You can now get from
your ice-cold apartment in Stockholm to the heart of the Amazon rainforest
in less than a day, where you can ride around
on a jungle boat, in a jacuzzi, and sip mimosas. I’m not making this up,
you can actually do this. (Laughter) And the longest part
of that entire journey could very well be in the airport,
where you had connecting flights. Getting back to my original question
about making travel better. Comfort and convenient are nice,
but these things have some side effects. Just 50 years ago, if you went
to any of the major destinations of today, you had to learn the local language. Not just to ask for directions, but to order a meal,
even check in to a major hotel. And today there’s this super highway
of tourist-friendly stuff, English signs everywhere, guidebooks, apps, tourist information centers. All these things, by the way,
done with the best of intentions, but they keep visitors from having any real organic reason
to interact with the locals. And when I mean organic interaction,
I’m not talking about this. (Laughter) Let me pause for a second
and ask a really important question. Why do we travel? The reason I do,
and I don’t think I’m alone here, is to experience something different. Something we don’t have at home. And destinations want
to offer something different. That’s their unique selling proposition. The reason you should visit them, and not any of the other hundred thousands
of destinations around the world, that also have sun, beaches
mountains and good food. So we want something unique,
and they want to offer something unique. But what really happens? Well, it may be easier
for us to get there, but it’s easier for everything else
to get there as well. So it’s not surprising
that destinations get a tourist wheel, hop on-hop off bus, water slide,
convention center, historical museum, aquarium, Madame Tussauds wax museum,
Hard Rock Café, H&M, Starbucks, Hilton, Dunkin Donuts, Fridays, Marriott,
Subway, 7Eleven, KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Benetton, GAP, Disney Store,
Häagen-Dazs, Burger King, IKEA, and of course, a segway tour. Ladies and gentlemen — (Laughter) I present the modern unique
tourism destination. (Applause) There’s another interesting trend
you’ll probably spot as well. Here’s how many Pizza Huts
are currently in Manhattan. Here’s how many are in Beijing. Here’s how many KFCs are now in Manhattan, and how many in Beijing. Here’s how many Walmart superstores
are in Manhattan and how many are in Beijing. Yes, it would seem
that Chinese don’t seem to mind Americans selling
their own crap right back to them. (Laughter) (Applause) The one place you won’t see
any of these chains is on the Beijing tourism website. They understand that you might venture
into a KFC while you’re there, but you’re not traveling to China
to experience a KFC. They’re not alone in this,
I’m not picking on Beijing, this is just standard
operating procedure for any DMO, a Destination Marketing Organization. They’re the ones tasked with
inspiring you to go visit them. And there are over 4,000 of them
around the world, and it’s growing all the time. They understand not every destination
has a Sistine Chapel or pyramids of Egypt to attract people,
so when they hire an ad agency to help bring people in, they might
dress up the destination a little bit, show things that you might have
a hard time experiencing when you’re there. Like a rainbow
on their website or brochure. Hard to replicate
without a rainbow machine. (Laughter) Or they might show
synchronized whale breaching. It happens probably
once every 50,000 whale tours. (Laughter) Or they might show this color
for the ad in India, when the water actually looks like this. (Laughter) Too many tourists on the beach? Just crop them out. Or in this low pix resolution image,
of an actual brochure from Brazil of the same beach, they simply hid the tourists
on top of a hill. (Laughter) Of course it’s hard
to live up to the advertising, partially because no one’s policing it, but imagine how this would work
with a real company? Could you imagine,
you see the ad for this, you go out buy one, you get it home you open it, and it looks like that? (Laughter) You take it back to the store, “Hey, this is just a piece of cardboard!
It doesn’t do anything.” And they go, “We’re just
a marketing organization. Can’t help.” How is that any different
from showing that on your website, and providing that? That’s why I believe the DMO is going to have to evolve
into a management organization. And some places already are. This is the island of Guam. This beach was cleaned
with tourism promotional funds. And it’s already paying off. They’ve already gone
to number one on Trip Advisor. And they’re getting great word of mouth. I think I have shown that diversity
and quality control can go out the window as a destination grows. But let me take a second to look
a little closely at the growth. Here’s how much the world population
has grown over the last 63 years. 184%. In that same time, international travel
has grown over 4,000%. So there’s over a billion
international arrivals today. In just ten years,
that’s expected to double, to nearly two billion. Now you’ve been to Gamla stan,
old town here in Stockholm, you’ve seen how busy it is in the summer, you can barely walk on some days, what’s that even going to look like
with twice as many people? It’s hard to imagine. And forget about Stockholm
for a second, what will Rome look like with twice as many people? Or Barcelona, with twice as many people? It’s tricky. And as professor Östberg just explained, sometimes we can’t even see it, because our views
are so shaped by the marketing. Here are two cruise ships,
the Escape and the Getaway. Nothing against the cruise line,
I just like the names of the ships. You see, the population density
is about a million people per square mile on these ships. In some of the most crowded slums
in the world, like here in India, it’s 800,000. The cruise line has managed to convince us
that we’re getting away from it all, in some of the most crowded
conditions in the world. (Laughter) (Applause) And that’s not the only marketing oddity. You might wonder,
how do the small guys compete, how does this little place compete with a marketing powerhouse
like Paris or Las Vegas? Often they go this route,
they say how unspoiled they are, or undiscovered, and even when they don’t, the media likes
to jump on to that as well, and also tout how undiscovered
or unspoiled it is. What are they trying to say? Hurry in and help spoil what’s left? (Laughter) What kind of strategy is that? If that’s our clever approach to tourism, why not just come out
with something like that? (Laughter) Visit China, shoot a panda,
while supplies last. (Laughter) Wouldn’t it be better to help protect
some of these cultural treasures? And if not just for us,
what about for the locals who suddenly wake up
and find they’re living in an overpriced
and overcrowded tourist center? The airline see trendy new places,
and they add more flights. The hotel industry see strong occupancy rates
and they add more hotels. And these two segments of the industry
are very influential, and can help grow a destination quickly. The thing is that they don’t really care
how many visitors are at the tourist centers,
or at the attractions, as long as the number of people in their hotels
and on their airlines is just right. In fact, you’ll never see a hotel
suddenly jam more people into your room. And you’re not going to see an airline
selling standing room only, or tickets to sit on someone else’s lap. Except maybe Ryanair. (Laughter) (Applause) But even Disney closes their doors
a couple of times a year when they hit maximum capacity. The thing is, they’re not alone. It’s not just the airlines and the hotels. Other stakeholders
want more tourists as well. The thing is, they’ve taken
their eye off the ball. Which is in this case,
a quality visitor experience that starts the moment
they arrive in that place, and lasts until they leave. And not doing that
can shortchange the visitor and mean it’s not a great
long term strategy for growth. Now we’ve all seen night clubs
lose popularity and go under. We’ve seen entire shopping malls get abandoned. We’ve seen hotels go bankrupt. And despite the general growth in tourism, we’ve seen entire destinations
go into decline. In fact, here’s a report
from the European Commission called “Destinations in decline.” And the number one reason: congestion;
it’s another word for overcrowding. Go to Trip Advisor, put in overcrowded, you’ll get almost
a hundred thousands results. You can see what they’re saying, it would have been good,
but it’s overcrowded. Even at resorts where people
go into so called “beach rage” from other people putting
their beach towels too close to them. And academics paint
an even gloomier picture. It gets popular, and then it goes off. Or this one, that came about
six years later, by professor Richard Butler, which shows that you get in
this overcrowded range, and then it either goes down,
or somehow, it goes back up. So how does it go back up?
What’s the magic formula? What can destinations do
to keep it going back up? Here’s the first step: be unique. That means standing up to the franchisers,
especially in your cultural city centers, we don’t need to have a McDonalds
in downtown Milan. It means that if you
are creating a destination, make it unique to the place it’s in. Like this one, the Stockholm’s
relatively new Abba Museum, a great example. The other thing is growing organically. Wouldn’t it be great if you could claim
your destination was never overcrowded? The first step in doing that
is figuring out how many visitors your destination can actually hold. And it’s not as simple as just adding up the number of people that fit
into the hotel rooms in the city. Which is the traditional way of doing it. You want to think of it more like this: you could jam a hundred people
into your home, if you had a dinner party
and everyone held a paper plate, and you did it buffet style,
and everyone stood like this. But if you want to have people
sit down right there, and you’ve only got eight seats
and eight plates, there’s your capacity. In tourism, capacity is getting defined by how many airplanes
can land on the runway. Or how many buses
they can jam into the parking lot, without much regard to how many tourists
can actually get into the attractions, or that the city centers are starting
to feel like tourist ant farms. Go back to this
little dinner party analogy, they’re thinking standing room when they should be thinking
seats and silverware. It doesn’t matter
how culturally sensitive the visitors are. You could put 500 eco travelers
into your town, and it’s going to feel overcrowded. There’s a tipping point, from when it goes from being really cool
and authentic to feeling touristy. And it’s largely due to the number
of visitors per local or per square kilometer. Let’s take these examples,
Reykjavik, they get 5.7 annual visitors for every local, San Gimignano, Italy, gets 43,000. Which do you think was recently described
as a cool authentic place to visit in a travel magazine? And the thing is, here’s the trick. But how can we grow tourism
and limit it at the same time? That’s what’s going to worry these places. But wasn’t this a tough sell? We’re going to speed up traffic
by stopping it. Certainly we can, with smart ideas, we can learn a lesson from Reykjavik
or Iceland, in their fishing industry, which became extremely lucrative once they self-imposed
a quota system to limit the catch. And like fish, tourists belong
to everyone and no one. And they often go after them to the point
where it becomes unprofitable. Spending too much on marketing to attract visitors
that are reluctant to go. Too many hotel rooms
that stand empty in off-peak season. And these long lines –
people aren’t just tired and upset that they have to stand in a long line, they are also not able to eat,
shop or otherwise inject their precious tourist money
into the local economy. We have think carefully
about providing a better experience. And if tourism hopes
to have a lucrative future we have to treat tourists
and visitors with respect, not jamming them in
to different situations of manufactured experience. (Laughter) So the solutions to this —
One is just to impose visitor permits. It doesn’t have to be a rich club
where you have everyone paying a lot of money to get in. You could give them away,
or have some paid, some for students that are cheap, free ones that go with a lottery,
or very cheap passes that go to people who’ve taken the time to learn the language
or have family in the area. I think a more interesting solution is simply this, the free market. Plus a little transparency. When you’re booking a flight
like this to Stockholm, you have the supply
and demand right there. You can see it, make a smart decision. Same when you’re purchasing a hotel. The thing is, when you’re booking here, what you can’t see,
say six months in advance, or even next week, is how busy
the attractions are going to be. We don’t know. So maybe you show up, and there’s an awful lot of demand
and not much supply. And we couldn’t make an informed decision. But imagine if we could. If we could know that,
and see they were full on the date we were thinking of going,
so we just change the date. Its availability, we book it. Yes, that does mean
more advanced planning, but isn’t that better than going
to an overcrowded destination, maybe waiting all day
and not even getting in, or just using up
your whole day in a queue? So what can you do to have a more authentic experience,
no matter where you go? The first step is to look inward,
at your interests. Say you like whatever. Ultimate frisbee.
You’re going to Stockholm. Look online for an ultimate frisbee club. They happen to have one –
the Stockholm Syndrome. (Laughter) They even have a map
where they practice, and a calendar. You can get in contact,
ask if you can join! You like fencing? See if you can join a local fencing club
wherever you’re headed. Just shoot them an email in advance. And hotels can get in on this. Ask your guests what their interests are,
and help connect them. Oh, you like birdwatching? Let me connect you
with a local birdwatching club. For free! Make friends with people,
in an organic way. And you’re going to create a unique
and enriching experience for everyone. Travel like a guidebook writer,
not a guidebook reader. Let’s say here in Stockholm, you want to go out
to a new, cool place to eat, are you going to buy a guidebook? I hope not. The information here
is nearly two years old, at best. What do you do, you look online,
or you go to a newspaper. You can do that when you travel, even if you go where you
don’t know the language. Go to a local newspaper,
and there’s something called Google Translate. One click, and it’s in
whatever language you want. Book a table, you’ll be
the only travelers there. Is doing everything I explained today going to solve everything
that is wrong with travel? No, of course not. But I hope it can serve as a framework to fix some of the key things,
and create long-term sustainable and profitable growth
for the tourism industry, and help you get an enriching
and authentic experience, no matter where you go. Thank you so much. (Applause)

15 thoughts on “How to fix travel | Doug Lansky | TEDxStockholm

  1. Interesting. I think another issue that needs to be addressed is how wealthy countries and poor countries address issues that tourist care about. Less of a DMO issue and more of a government wide issue. I also think the tourist themselves can do a bit more research. With the explosion of blogs and Tripadvisor, tourism information is more up to the minute than ever. Off peak travel is definitely a force that many travelers should embrace. Flexibility is the key on both sides. 

  2. Good points Doug.  DMAI's Destination Next Initiative is helping DMOS understand about challenges in the future and how we should look at creating stronger bonds with community, economic development , government officials and overall destination infrastructure decision makers.  We need to leverage our tourism expertise to help impact how cities are being developed, renovated and enhanced.  The quality of the travel experience will serve to improve the quality of life for all the citizens in each destination.  DMO executives are working hard to be at the table with every decision maker in their communities to affect change.  Thanks for the thought provoking ideas Doug

  3. Thank you Doug Lansky! Yes to all of this – why I often fail to enjoy travel explained brilliantly. Excellent tip to Google local newspapers and use Google Translate to understand. Will definitely use that for our upcoming Malaga / Spain trip.

    Speaking as a local more than a traveller, I would like to add: less is more. I would prefer to travel less, but of higher quality/intensity. This could mean spending more money, but does not need to mean that. It could also mean, spending more time in defining and finding out exactly what a high quality trip to each traveller in his/her own way. That could be a consulting service, enjoying bits of the trip before actually going in joint preparation. Preparation of fun things makes (just as) happy as the fun things themselves.

    A side effect/outcoming of such prep convos, could be to find elements of the ideal trip nearby, or craft your home (town) to provide them. Improving day to day living that way.

  4. I just finished the original subtitles for this talk, so I hope this will open up for many translations, to spread this inspiring talk to non-English speakers as well.

  5. Impressive video clip! Sitting here at Y&S FOOD! we like to come across this amazing content. We produce Travel & Food videos too, around the the world, and therefore we are frequently looking to get inspirations as well as ideas. Thank You.

  6. Why does one compare Manhattan to Beijin, not New York and Beijin ? Is it just me who's thinking thats, irrelavant ?

  7. Hello, I would like to clean some rivers. And teach people how not to pollute. How do i do that?

  8. Ok. What I've learnd is to focus on your own interests, and to live like a local people with all existing methods,especially Google. Good point.

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