What’s your ideal vacation? Your answer might say a lot about your personality, and there is no shortage of options. But the common thread in any meaningful experience is the people that share those experiences. In this episode, we speak with directors of tourism from across the country to learn more about the experiences they promote and the people they represent. We’ll analyze the experience of a tourist from the discovery of destinations, to the memories they leave behind. What draws us in, and what follows us home? Join us on a journey across seven states to find out how exploration is improving photos and overcoming prejudice.
“We integrate travelers into our community, and our community into the world.” – Sherry Aitken
HIROMI: So Aaron is out ideating with a client this week, but he did send us a message from the air.
AARON: Hey guys, it’s me, Aaron. I don’t know if you can tell I am on a plane right now, and I’ve been thinking about how travel is just all decisions, and that reminded me of Choose Your Own Adventure books. You guys remember those? Well, because I’m so committed to this podcast.
I’ll let you decide option
- I get my rental car and go to my hotel and go to the Chili’s nearby and I go to bed early.
- I get a rental car and I go and explore San Francisco.
All right. I’m going to pause for your answer.
ALL: Well, you know, it’s got to be option 2
AARON: I’m gonna assume that you chose option 2 I’m not going to get my Awesome Blossom. I’m going on a little San Franciscan Adventure. So I’m going to check in periodically let you know how it’s going. I’ll try to join you all later. San Francisco here I come!
ROB: Is that a cappuccino machine or?…
HIROMI: Well friends summer is in full swing and if you haven’t guessed already, this episode is dedicated to the UX of Tourism.
- How do people discover their favorite destinations?
- What makes the best experience?
Today we’re going to speak with the men and women behind the curtain of State tourism to help build a journey map for the leisure traveler. And you might be surprised to know what goes into the making of the perfect vacation. But first things first, we have a new addition to the Ideate team. Would you like to introduce yourself, Nikita?
NIKITA: Hi there. My name is Nikita. I’m from New Jersey the best state in the world.
HIROMI: You’re making Jersey just sound like a fantastic place to visit.
NIKITA: It really is. We have great pies.
ROB: I love that pause. “It’s a great place. We have all kinds of great… pies.
HIROMI: So do you guys have any trips planned this summer?
HIROMI: Yeah, Paul such a hard worker. This podcast is vacation enough for him. But Rob you’re heading out.
ROB: Yeah. Yeah, uh, actually tomorrow I’m going to Italy with some family and, yeah, we’re doing a little Florence, Rome and Venice thing.
HIROMI: Nice. So you feel ready.
ROB: Yeah. I actually I actually just got in the mail today my Moment case for my phone. I got a case for the lenses I already have and you get like a photo that doesn’t look like it came from a camera phone. It looks more like a DSLR type photo, kind of.
HIROMI: Yeah, and this is not product placement, but Rob has been a fan of these lenses and since photos are a big part of the vacation experience. We reached out to moment.
MARC: Yeah, great to meet guys, my name is Mark Barros entrepreneur. I’m on my second company now and you know using our cameras on our phones more. So we were playing around with the idea of adding some features from our traditional camera back to your phone. A couple of us got together and started tinkering with it and put it up on Kickstarter and so we started a company, Moment, and really it’s all about mobile photography.
“The number one reason people buying our stuff is they’re gonna take a trip.”
HIROMI: Statistically. I’m just looking at this anecdotal graph here. It says 660 billion digital photos were taken in 2013, by 2017 that number doubled and of that it was estimated that 85% of those photos came from smartphones. A huge number of photos and Moment seized that opportunity and says, “Hey like let’s make these photos better. They made the lenses then they started making other gear and then it’s like how else can we make photos from a phone better.
MARC: The number one reason people buying our stuff is they’re gonna take a trip and in their mind, it was like, oh my gosh, I’m taking the trip of a lifetime. And I need the right gear for it. And so through that, we’ve learned that travel is really important to people.
HIROMI: So they started Moment Trips. They get the social influencers involved and people can take a trip with the social influencers that they identify with. They teach them how to take the photos where to go, good lighting spots and stuff like that and they walk away with some great photos and some great memories and experiences.
MARC: The tool we use a lot is called the Customer Journey. Literally, it’s a map on the wall. You list out like what are the core things people go through? That’s how we think about it. So in that customer Journey, that’s how we kind of discovered travel and how people are getting to where they were shooting and what inspired them.
HIROMI: So that’s what this journey map is all about. Have you ever done a journey map before?
HIROMI: Awesome. Well, maybe Aaron can clear this up for is I think he’s on the ground now, let’s give him a call.
AARON: This is Aaron can hear me?
HIROMI: Yeah, I can hear you. Okay, where are you at?
AARON: I am at the airport. I just landed in Sunny San Francisco.
HIROMI: That’s good. Glad you made it there in one piece. Hey, we were talking about Journey maps. Have you ever done a journey map before?
AARON: Yeah. Yeah. They’re a lot of fun.
HIROMI: Okay. Paul’s never done one before. Can you explain just at a high level? What are they?
AARON: Sure. We use it to help us to build a story. So we really think about what a person thinking how they feel as they’re trying to do something.
HIROMI: Thank you for that explanation.
HIROMI: Okay. So what do you up to right now?
AARON: Well, I’m going to get to my rental car and check out San Francisco. I’m going to see where the wind blows and where I’ll end up.
HIROMI: Well, perfect then we’ll uh, we’ll let you go get your rental car and we’ll check in with you in a little bit.\n
AARON: All right.
HIROMI: Well moment you a connection between travel and social influencers and their Journey map. So we thought we’d reach out to his social influencer to help us with ours.
CUMA: My name is Cuma Çevik, I am a photographer from Turkey.
HIROMI: If you haven’t seen his work before just pull him up on Instagram right now because he is a fantastic landscape photographer.
ROB: Yeah. Really beautiful stuff.
HIROMI: We asked him like how do you discover new locations to travel to?
CUMA: I get inspired by other landscape photographers I love on Instagram. I tap on the location, then I will make a plan, then I will make a booking, then I will travel. This is basically how I find these locations.
ROB: So he’s he’s doing a ton of research before he goes on these trips.
NIKITA: I love that Instagram is kind of his primary way of finding new places because I do the exact same thing when I’m planning on going on a vacation. I’ll try to look up hashtags that are related to the place that I’m going.
HIROMI: Exactly. We spoke with several State tourism boards for this episode and universally people mentioned Instagram as a key part of that Discovery process like Jessica from travel Iowa.
JESSICA: My name is Jessica O’Reily, I’m the communications manager for the Iowa tourism office.
HIROMI: You know, I really like talking to Jessica because there was no pretense with Jessica. She knows that Iowa is not the first place you think of
JESSICA: You know, what we find is that people don’t have a negative impression of Iowa. They just initially don’t have one at all. We in the Midwest are known as the flyover states because people just go from coast to coast and they’re missing so much.
HIROMI: So they use this hashtag. #ThisisIowa
JESSICA: Because it can be interpreted in multiple ways like This is Iowa? Really? or This is Iowa! so it’s Avenue for us to show off what the state has and surprise people along the way.
ROB: It’s interesting how Instagram plays into this discovery, since people are using it as a way to discover new places in an area; Iowa has a caucus there every four years and when people come through in droves for this event, they’re experiencing Iowa, maybe for the first time and if they start using that hashtag, then their friends can say “This is IOWA?”
SHERRY: It is interesting to me how immediately you can reach out to people in very very remote places to you.
HIROMI: This is Sherry Atkin the director of tourism in Sitka, Alaska.
SHERRY: So for instance, I’m friends with a lot of shore excursion people from these large cruise lines, I post a picture and somebody in New Zealand is commenting on instantaneously, someone in Africa is talking to me about how beautiful it is and how much they miss being here. It’s amazing to me. I am still amazed my stuff like that.
HIROMI: It’s not just a one-way push like you would on a website, where you don’t get feedback
SHERRY: So in a way those are much more interactive and that sort of static website. Regardless of age our observations of them is they’re using their smartphones to access information about the place they are, but also to communicate with the place that they left behind and that is very important part of their travel experience.
ROB: She had a certain unbridled enthusiasm about mobile devices that I found kind of infectious. She got me excited about my phone again.
NIKITA: I think thats awesome because especially when you think about traveling it’s like getting away and many people feel that our devices can be a distraction but I think that similar to what she said if you use it in the right way, it could be a way to you know, remember things that have happened.
SHERRY: I have this protectiveness like I have to kick back against that whole “It was so much better when kids didn’t have electronics” and I’m like “are you high? No, it wasn’t terrible.”
HIROMI: So the tools exist for people to find great destinations, but as user advocates, we still want to know if there’s room for improvement.
SUZY: We don’t have a product problem.
HIROMI: This is Susie Lawrence from New Mexico.
SUZY: New Mexico is everything and anything anyone could want but we did have a perception problem. Just kind of promoting those same things like the Rockies or White Sands or those heavy hitters with none of the deep cuts.
HIROMI: It was funny, each of these marketers had their own term for these unique experiences that you kind of have to dig for Suzy called them “Deep Cuts”.
SUZY: What is really New Mexico? Those very enchanting transformational experiences.
ROB: I like the term Deep Cuts because I think it’s traditionally used as a DJ term whenever you’re a real fan of a band, you know the tracks that aren’t popular. Oh, my favorite Beatle’s song is the Dear Prudence.
NIKITA: It’s a good song.
HIROMI: Yeah, right. We want people to come for Come Together but stay for Dear Prudence. Well, yeah, you know, sometimes your hits don’t really represent your Deep Cuts. So let me ask you this. What do you picture when you think of, Idaho?
HIROMI: Just; come on, like one of those like Chuck E Cheese ball pens full of potatoes.
NIKITA: No an open field with potatoes.
Okay. So you think of just like this big old flat Farmland. If you go to Idaho, the first thing you’ll notice is that the landscape is super diverse. They have huge mountains
MATT: The Skiing is some of the best in the world are people who are visiting here for the first time and the most common refrain is. “Oh my God I had no idea”.
HIROMI: This is Matt Borud from the Idaho Department of Commerce.
MATT: And you know, you just kind of hear that over and over but, we don’t have that anchor National Park. So how do we stand out? How do we leverage our resources in a way that we can get more of the right people interested in us?
NIKITA: I was thinking kind of about what Aaron was saying about decision making because I think he’s right especially with travel there are so many decisions that you have to make and so there isn’t the sort of theme it can make decision-making really difficult.
HIROMI: Another aspect of choices is that if there’s too many we do get them mixed up we get everything mixed up.
JESSICA: We get mixed up with Idaho a lot and Ohio and in fact, there’s a t-shirt company here in Des Moines that sells a IDOHOIAN t-shirt. I think you just got to have fun with it.
HIROMI: You know people need something to grab onto, like an anchor in their mind but these anchors they can easily turn into stereotypes.
SHERRY: Oh, maybe you think about California and you think oh beaches and surfing and movie stars and you think about the east coast, completely urban. So a lot of people think that Alaska is full of ice and snow all the time. The Southeast is a very temperate place. We don’t get freezing very often. So it’s a very very green place.
ROB: Totally changing my worldview, right? Like a rain forest in Alaska.
HIROMI: So Sherry mentioned California; Nikita I know I’ve been giving you a hard time about Jersey, but I’m curious what comes to mind when you think of California.
NIKITA: Oh the Hollywood sign, um… vegans.
HIROMI: VEGANS?! Vegans, okay, fine. I’ll think of Jersey Shore and you can think of vegans. That’s that’s totally fair. Visit, California is based right here in Sacramento, so I was able to go speak with Caroline Beteta in person.
CAROLINE: I’m Caroline and I’m the CEO of Visit California
HIROMI: Even California, which probably has the largest budget of all these states, wishes people would dig deeper.
CAROLINE: It’s almost embarrassment of riches and people know Los Angeles and San Francisco, thank you Hollywood and definitely a must-see but you know from Sacramento North is still a third of the state and there’s just so many incredible hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered in California.
ROB: Yeah. I mean seriously, I often go back to this but you know recently we drove down Highway One north of Sacramento. It was just incredible, that whole trip. Every time we turned a corner it changed my perception of what’s here
HIROMI: Yeah, so I mean how do you promote that experience in any state? To get people to expand their comfort zones and explore.
SUZY: More than anything I think it’s creating those partnerships and that reputation within your region within those gateway communities.
DIANE: This is where you are no longer competitive with your neighboring states your partners.
HIROMI: This is Diane Shober. Executive director of the Wyoming office of Tourism
DIANE: North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho are all part of the Great American West Consortium and we believe in the rising tide lifts all boats, that the more people get out and travel, the more we all benefit from that.
HIROMI: Yeah, you know, I didn’t realize how many major US cities don’t have a major airport.
MATT: A lot of folks fly into Salt Lake and then they drive north and so they spend a little bit of time in Southeastern Idaho on their way to Yellowstone. So how do we get them to venture off for a couple of days and check out Craters of the Moon National Monument or Hagerman Fossil Beds or Shoshone Falls or, maybe jump up to Sun Valley or to Boise or to you know, some of those other areas?
ROB: I think it’s interesting that a large percentage of the people that are visiting are those visiting family,
MATT: You know, visiting friends and relatives for most destinations, that’s the number one driver of that destination and the social influencing component of this is for us at an all-time high.
ROB: It seems like an obvious audience to appeal to; how do you get those people that are going to visit family or friends to try a new thing?
JESSICA: I think one of our areas of opportunity is our college students. They’re spending nine months out of the year here in Iowa and you know, their parents are coming to visit them every so often and how do we encourage them to explore areas, right outside their campus.
HIROMI: That could take is into the next part of his journey map. Once you’ve discovered something cool, how do you decide whether it’s right for you or not?
NIKITA: I would do extensive research.
HIROMI: Yes. Okay. So this might be a good time for us to check in with Aaron and see where his research has taken him here.
HIROMI: Hey Aaron you there?
AARON: Hey Hiromi.
HIROMI: Hey, man. So what’s up? Where you at?
AARON: I am stuck in California traffic.
HIROMI: Welcome to California.
AARON: The state bird of California is traffic.
HIROMI: So where you headed? What are you gonna do?
AARON: Well, I haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to do. So I’m just trying to get through this traffic. I shouldn’t be talking on the phone right now because I I just might die. So I’ll talk to you later.
HIROMI: Okay fair enough. You know a lot of destinations seemed to convey this idea that we’ve got something for everybody and you know, that’s nice, but the reality is that some destinations are really best suited for a pretty specific audience.
DIANE: Wyoming is not for sissies. This is a vacation where people plan to come. It’s not just oh we’re going to run there for the weekend because it isn’t the vacation for everyone. If you want to have a shopping vacation, you want an urban vacation, you want a beach vacation? Wyoming is not the place for you. But we do know that people who come here are seeking some level of Adventure.
ROB: She’s like “This place is not for sissies. If you’re gonna come here buckle up because it’s gonna be a serious ride, but it’s gonna be worth it.”
NIKITA: Yeah, I think the best tourism websites that we’ve seen are the ones that actually sell a specific experience. They tell a story?
HIROMI: Yeah, if you haven’t seen Wyoming’s brand you got to check out. That’s why. Isn’t that brilliant?
NIKITA: That’s awesome. I can’t go to Wyoming because I’m a sissy #ThatsWY
PAUL: I’m totally channeling Liz Lemon from 30 Rock right now. I want to go to there. You know, I I just I don’t know how so like, my wife is an amazing research oriented person. She’s my personal travel agent.
SHERRY: Research is to marketing. What location is to Real Estate
SUZY: Research is key research research research you then have to go in and say this is the experience that we have to offer. This is what we are best at now. Let’s take a look and see who would want to consume this product.
JESSICA: So, how do we tell that story? How do we inspire you to learn more about that?
HIROMI: Each state had their own way of trying to help people to do their research and we were kind of surprised by how many states still rely on print materials.
SUZY: They’ve been saying print is dead since I don’t know 1992 and we’re still here, creating printed collateral. So I think brochures and that kind of material is still very relevant.
ROB: Yes, like literally the tri-fold that you find in the rest stops.
NIKITA: Why is that?
MATT: You know you’re in pretty rural areas and so you may not have access to your phone or service so no question that’s that’s a component. I think some folks still like having something in their hand, you know, a beautiful magazine or a beautiful printed piece, is really powerful.
NIKITA: When I went to Yellowstone I downloaded the app. So even when I didn’t have connectivity I had that on me and all those things that you could do with the pamphlet you can do with the app.
ROB: Yeah, but I mean the take away from me here is that even though print is still a thing people are using their digital devices more and more and the more that anybody can do to get in front of that human beings eyes is the way that they’re all doing it.
CAROLINE: I mean now we’ve got this digital window to the world where we can share these incredible experiences. Videos are the most popular, compelling vehicle for tourists to be learning about vacation experiences. So we do a lot of that. We have a Global Network that we partnered with YouTube and Google, called dream 365 and then tourists obviously are on a variety of platforms. Whether it’s Facebook or Instagram or SnapChat and we also have a podcast. Yeah. I think the next frontier though that we’re experimenting with is virtual reality. I’m really excited about that phase.
ROB: So California obviously is more ambitious because of their huge scope and budget.\nI’m sure but you know, The increasingly digital approach that Arkansas is having I think is interesting.
KANE: My name is Kane Webb and I’m the executive director of the Arkansas Department of parks and tourism and I’m an old journalist. I came up in the business. I was a newspaper guy in a magazine guys a print guy. So I say this with a heavy heart but you know things have shifted so heavily to digital that’s become increasingly to way to get our message out. You can spend a little and get a lot of bang for your buck. You can do a 15-second video and send it everywhere, you know, you have to follow where the eyeballs are going. Right? And that was what we used to say in print and the eyeballs are increasingly on our computer screens and our phones and we’re kind of following that.
HIROMI: Yeah, and that’s really the key, right? It doesn’t really matter if it’s digital or physical or whatever as long as the right people can find it and connect with it and we say the right people because like Diane said earlier, you can’t appeal to everyone. So one thing we asked our panel was to describe the personality of their state. If their state was a person, what would this person be like?
PETER: You know this person named Alaska is it’s a blank slate for a lot of people, you know, it’s terra incognita. It’s, the Undiscovered Country the Last Frontier and so because of that people can overlay whatever they want on top of Alaska.
HIROMI: This is Peter Christian from the National Park Service,
PETER: and that’s what you find in Alaska. A lot of people are either running from something or running towards something. They’re chasing a dream or they’re running away from something that happened to them and they come to Alaska for a fresh start.
MATT: Idaho is really geared towards families in thinking about the amount of time you have with your kids while they’re kids
SUZY: New Mexico is that that kind of spiritual experience. They have all these amazing artisans. It’s the adventuresome traveler.
JESSICA: You know, Iowa is really known for its Hospitality. Everyone is very warm and welcoming. So I think that they would be an approachable person one that you would want to hang out with.
KANE: All right, we would be someone who would be on the cover of Outside Magazine kind of an outdoorsy adventure type someone who can canoe or whitewater raft or fish or swim, someone who gets out.
DIANE: Wyoming is rugged and romantic and free and adventurous.
CAROLINE: For California, this person would be an innovator, they’re an entrepreneur and they kind of don’t care about traditional protocols. I guess another way to say that is there a disrupter.
NIKITA: That sounds like California?
HIROMI: Okay. That’s fair. So. Why do you think it’s important for a destination to have a personality, to be personable?
CAROLINE: People are interested in people at the end of the day and we’re not trying to sell people on California. We’re just trying to share stories about the lives of Californians and how they experience California. People are more interested in the cultural aspects or the lifestyle aspects and all that is there for them to discover.
MARC: Moment Travel is known for travel and people trust us. The biggest thing we’ve learned is that people really care about the guide; “who is the guide?” more than oh “Southwest”. I want to know who’s taking me to the southwest is the number one question they’re asking, so if people trust the guide they follow the guide.
HIROMI: Yeah, I like that because it kind of levels the playing field. Right, you can go to the Southwest or Paris you pick and he’s finding that people are saying “I don’t really care as long as like the people I’m going with our awesome.”
ROB: Who is the guide?
HIROMI: Yeah before I make my decision… Who’s the guide?
ROB: Why is that? Why is that? I think it’s the Gateway? It’s like the place where you’re from the place where you’ve grown up the place where you’ve lived for a certain amount of time does affect your personality, it does affect the way you live your life and the way you do things. It’s an amazing thing that every person on the earth has a unique experience with the place that they live and, I think that’s what we’re interested in. We’re interested in having experiences with new people.
NIKITA: Yeah, and I also think that although all of these places have beautiful landscapes and things like that like memories that you create with other people while you are in these places are the things that we remember and the things that resonate with us. And so they understand that the memories that you create are going to relate back to the kind of person that you are and who’s with you.
HIROMI: Yeah researching a vacation it almost seems like similar to browsing a dating site, right like you might be drawn into a profile by something visual, but then you have to browse these profiles and see if the qualities of each are a match for you.
DIANE: Tourism and the vacation is really the first date. We’re almost the matchmakers between the consumer and the Wyoming product.
KANE: Try to do that when you’re trying to market an entire State, you know, we have to do a little bit of everything for everybody Arkansas is a state of three million people small state. It’s not like Texas. We’ve got all these places that are self-promoting. But it’s a competitive, competitive business. You know, Missouri Louisiana Mississippi were all trying to get that tourism dollar and the pie can only be divided so many ways.
HIROMI: So just like with creating a dating profile you’d have to make a decision about like what aspects of your personality you want to accentuate and which aspects you might want to downplay a little bit
KANE: And we spend about 15 million dollars a year marketing Arkansas. I wish we could track who is consuming your ad, and whether or not they are acting on it, how did that translate into whether people come to the state to visit?
HIROMI: And I’m sure that even if you created the perfect dating profile you might wish that people could just get to know the real you before they make a decision.
JESSICA: Can we teleport people here? Because that would be amazing because when I’m talking to travel writers and reporters and editors, it’s one thing for me to explain like here’s this really cool hotel in Mason City, it’s the last hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Right that remains in the world. It’s a completely different thing for them to come and experience it
HIROMI: and of course you might do all this research and find the perfect profile and go in that first date, only to find out that something is terribly wrong, right?
CUMA: Yes. Sometimes searching the location from Instagram is when you tap location, photographers use the wrong location. They do this because they don’t want show you this location. Yes, they say that it is the location because they don’t want a lot of people taking the same photograph or similar photographer around the location.
HIROMI: So because he can’t rely on just one service. He has to use all these other apps to help vet his destinations.
CUMA: Yeah. I work like this before when I am going to a country or location I am working on the Google Maps before I go. I find a location. I will check the tracking roads, and if I don’t find internet for the mobile, I download my Google Maps before.
NIKITA: I think Google in a lot of ways, I mean it might not visually look nice, but they do a good job about taking all this information and condensing it and showing you what might be important to you.
ROB: I think the weakness of that is it just requires so much work on the part of the user. It’s just a giant horse trough of information. You have to like go through on your own and sift out the stuff that isn’t relevant and get to the stuff that is.
HIROMI: And to do it, right like it requires all this tribal knowledge of all these disparate apps. It’s kind of a hacky workflow it is right like, I gotta use this app for this and that app for that and figure out how to piecemeal at all together and then the ironic part about this is that that seemed friction from the fragmentation that we experience as tourists the destination seem to feel that too. I mean they want to show us things that they think that we’d be interested in. They want to have a cohesive experience too.
SUZY: We identified that we had a gap and our programming we really didn’t have any tools or resources for our underrepresented communities to create a product. And so we did some research outside our state and through those experiences, we came up with, the rule pathway project.
HIROMI: Kind of like crowdsourcing their marketing assets and helping like the communities to build marketing products even on a small budget.
SUZY: So when I say product I mean an experience that is marketable and that has a tangible value on it.
HIROMI: There’s something cool about that because I feel like if the marketing material comes from the source, it might be a little bit more genuine. And maybe that’s something that’s kind of missing sometimes from the products that you get.
NIKITA: I think there’s a there can be a disconnect between maybe like the face of a state which is like this Tourism Center and then the people that actually live there, you know, so they know the experiences that other people would want because people connect to people so there needs to be some sort of discussion between those two parties and away for people who live there to produce content and share it.
ROB: That’s what’s so that’s what’s so great about this rural pathway project. I think again, then the realization is that people want to experience people and they’re going to these little small communities and making these like, really intimate experiences with cooking with local indigenous people and that, forget about social sharing think about like real face-to-face sharing, when you’re at dinner with a friend and you want to tell them about what you did, it’s those kinds of experiences that you tell people about.
NIKITA: You want an authentic experience.
JESSICA: Because we’re like people like to eat or the locals, but you don’t always know where those places are and when you’re traveling you don’t know what one restaurant is from the other and you might be a little unsure.
KANE: Hey, you’ve got this new generation of travelers, primarily the millennials, now 85 million strong who want to experience the local flavor and one an authentic experience that they can’t get elsewhere. They’ll spend 15% more of their disposable income on experiences, like travel instead of stuff. So, you know the commodity that we’re selling which is an experience is in demand right now.
ROB: You heard Nikita’s approval of that sentiment?
HIROMI: Yeah. She loves that authenticity.
CAROLINE: Frankly Millennials they don’t want highly produced content. Just make it real and make accessible.
ROB: I really do think that is absolutely what people want in experiences everywhere whether you’re traveling or not. Everyone is interested in the regionalized experience, the experience that you can only get locally. We’ve been in this, mass-produced age for so long where the Coke that you drink in the US. is the same Coke they drink in China and while that’s fascinating it doesn’t make for an enjoyable experience all the time because we’re sick of the same thing all the time.
HIROMI: Yeah. From a communication standpoint to right? The way that you communicate with a Chinese audience should be different.
CAROLINE: Yeah. I think China is a great example. We have six different offices there. So we’re serving up content and experiences that they’re interested in their native language. At the same time we work with our industry to do a series of seminars that we call China ready, word of mouth super important for the Chinese so when they come and they have a good experience, they’re going to share it to hither and yon with all their friends and uh, we’ll really sensitive to that.
NIKITA: I was thinking about how Airbnb is kind of following this like localized experience sort of thing. So not only can you rent like an apartment but you can also purchase an experience and a lot of them are, you know to drive around town with the local or have dinner with the local and so I think in order to have that kind of relationship you need to build a community of people that are willing to do that.
DIANE: Our own Wyoming stakeholders have to be prepared to share these with visitors. You know, we want to treat strangers like friends who want to be able to engage with them at every touch point.
SUZY: So going so far as creating frontline training programs for, the restaurants and cafes so that when people come through and say what is there to do here you don’t have some 16-year-old kids saying, “oh my God, this place sucks. You need to go do something else.”
ROB: You know to get out of here people want authentic experiences because it’s better for them and it changes them in one way or another and it turns out that it’s also better for the culture.
SUZY: It’s not always about money A lot of times it’s about preserving culture, you know, we talk about cultural preservation as opposed to a cultural exploitation.
PETER: We typically haven’t been in the business of advertising, you know, “come to the parks”, because we don’t necessarily want to bring the masses in, see how many people we can get through the door. Americans love their national parks, and we’re loving them to death.
NIKITA: Yeah, their primary concern is more conservation. Whereas the other individuals that we talked to there is like an aspect of business there.
PETER: There’s a saying leave only Footprints, take only photos. We don’t discourage anyone. We want people to come to the parts because the best advocates for parks are people who love them and visit them.
HIROMI: “Leave only Footprints, take only photos”, I like that. So let’s check back in with Aaron and see if he’s found anything worth taking yet. Hey, you there?
AARON: Hey, yes.
HIROMI: Okay good. So, where do you end up?
AARON: Well, uh, despite my best efforts I did get lost. I took a wrong turn. I found this spot called The Wave Organ on the bay. It’s very beautiful here, but there is not much organ going on. What can you do?
HIROMI: What are you gonna do now?
AARON: Well, I talked to a fisherman positioning off the pier here and I asked it what I should do. I can check out this spot called the Musee Mechanic on Fisherman’s Wharf I’m going to head out there and check out this Museum.
HIROMI: Well, could you send me some sound bites from there when you get there?
HIROMI: So Aarons being decisive with this time good for him. Uh, so far we’ve talked about the things that go into finding and researching a destination. But what makes someone pull the trigger? What do you guys think?
NIKITA: I think a lot of factors go into that like we all have limitations like time and money.
SHERRY: You know when you go into a store and you’re afraid to talk to their clerk because you think they might try to sell you something? People have that reaction and they come into your community. Everything feels very transactional. So the people that I love engaging with they get past that point. That engages people.
PAUL: In the UX world people put a lot of weight on the idea of personas and thinking and guessing that they know who is somebody is. Um, the problem with that is that you start making assumptions and fictionalizing a person that you think is going to be engaging with your experience that you miss the real person.
SHERRY: Most of the people that come to Sitka arrive via cruise ship, about 82% of the people that visit about 17% arrived via air. A large portion of our independent travelers come here to fish, that makes up about 91% of that air traffic that we get.
ROB: Yeah. I think it all comes down to each person’s experience when they travel is unique each individual’s experience becomes a singular product.
MARC: Travel is very different than the product. The product is much easier because it’s binary, you know, what’s the problem it solves and do I like it and it at the right price. Right? That set up you get that right works across lots of people. There is one iPhone X versus a trip, is like it’s just a lot more Factors. So we’re finding from a user research and customer point of view it’s it’s way harder; travel is way harder.
PAUL: That’s interesting you say to use the iPhone X is an example because they only have that, these destinations they have experiences available in their communities their history their cultures.
HIROMI: Yeah, totally. It’s certainly harder for the product maker or the destination to communicate what the product is, but then you know, it’s also just as hard for the product consumer or the tourist to know how to use the thing once they buy it, right? So Aaron sent us a sound bite of himself user testing this destination you heard about from a random fisherman, so let’s hear what he’s sent us.
AARON: I am at the Museé Mechanic with a bunch of old penny arcades I don’t know if you can even hear me. In order for me to play this, I actually have to get change. I only have a $10 bill I’m about to get $10 of quarters and that’s a lot of quarters. I’m about to play with the play The Inquest. It’s like a Native American who’s about to be trampled by a bunch of Buffalo? I don’t know. I got good news, he’s not being trampled by Buffalo. They’re just looking at him and they’re moving their heads, but he’s definitely dead. This one is a Penny Arcade someone being hung. I’ve learned a lot about old entertainment. I guess it’s not much different from new entertainment. Not only did I get ten dollars in quarters, but I’m also paying three dollars per 15 minutes of parking on Fisherman’s work. So I think I’m just going to close out on Stars and Stripes Forever.
HIROMI: Again, the whole point of this exercise first to empathize with the tourist. So once they reach a destination, what do you think it tourist needs food?
NIKITA: Food definitely food.
ROB: What’s the comedian that talks about that? Is it Gaffigan? A lot of people’s vacations just like we’re eating breakfast and then at breakfast you figuring out where you’re gonna eat lunch.
PAUL: Gotta have a tasty beverage.
HIROMI: And then gotta have a place to let the tasty beverage out.
SUZY: I want to know if you have public restrooms. I want to know if you have sidewalks. I want to know if we bring people into your community. Are they going to have a place where they can get water where they can change a diaper? Is there a visitor’s center? That kind of stuff?
HIROMI: I feel like the most tourist-heavy destinations are the worst for that kind of infrastructure. If you’re like in San Francisco or Chicago and you want to use the bathroom oh, you better be wearing depends right?
ROB: It’s almost like they’re trying to keep people out by making it unpleasant for ya.
HIROMI: I don’t want to digress too far but Aaron and I used to work at this agency, we had this client called Go Girl, which made a feminine urinary cup, uh, looks like, uh oil change funnel, you know, and um just made out of like a pleasant silicone and it’s pink.
NIKITA: Why is this solely a female product, like everybody has to pee?
HIROMI: Uh, but boys have a special way of peeing standing.
NIKITA: I live in Jersey. We have bathrooms everywhere at this not really certain for me.
HIROMI: But so like Aaron and I would frequently have to go into the creative directors office for approvals or whatever and the creative director had this Go Girl fem cup on his desk and he would play with it like a like a stress ball and then if we if we would ask him a question he would just sit there and be like beating it against his head like a stress ball like pondering, you know, the answer. Oh, oh my God, we couldn’t keep a straight face.
ROB: Oh man, go girl you go, girl.
HIROMI: But that’s the secret to lack of infrastructure and tourism right there. Um, so those are some of the tasks that you have to get food. You have to expel food, but we know that we kind of want people to explore more as a tourist, what are you interacting with?
ROB: The big events the big landmarks the things that you’ve seen they are the touch points literally.
DIANE: There are well-known destinations like Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Devil’s Tower National Monument. If you only came to Wyoming once that’s really what you should experience. But then on your way to and from those beautiful well-known places if folks would slow down and just say I’m gonna spend one extra day here 1\/2 a day right where I am and I’m going to ask a local and find out what I can do. They would experience something really spectacular
JESSICA: The Field of Dreams, The Bridges of Madison County, John Wayne’s birthplace. A lot of people come through one way or the other but we say the best way to see Iowa is to explore those small towns. That’s really where you see, the true authentic, Iowa,
PETER: You know, if they want to see wildlife, you know, Denali is the American Safari. If you want to see Bears big huge barriers, you know, very close range is a fantastic twist to do that. If you’re interested in World Earnest places and you know, essentially untouched really by anybody then you want to focus on those Parks above the Arctic Circle, Gates of the Arctic national park or the west or north parklands, which still have native communities that are completely intact. That’s what I’d recommend going up and spending some time in those Villages can have a real authentic experience. If you’re willing to put in the time, you know, it’s not as easy.
ROB: I mean just like right off the top, I think is kind of interesting that even though there was some amount of challenge involved in exploring a little bit more the payoff was well worth the effort.
HIROMI: Yeah. The easiest option is not always going to give you the best payoff. Right? That’s true of anything and it’s clear that with travel that’s true as well. But that certainly is true of some destinations more than others. I mean have you ever Googled Alaska’s scale in comparison to the lower 48 before? It is huge.
PETER: What we would love to see people just come up here and have authentic experiences. Getting there is hard and takes a lot of planning and money and expertise. It can be done it just; just to put it in perspective some of these parts that’s like it would be like getting in a plane and flying from New York City to Cleveland. You know, they’re that big.
SHERRY: Sitka is on an island called Baranof Island. It’s about 100 miles by 50 miles wide. So we have two ways to get here by plane or by boat. About seven miles of Road each direction from the center roundabout.
HIROMI: So as we think about these kinds of geographic considerations. What do you think is a potential pain point?
NIKITA: I tend to get lost. I know that’s a thing, and at that point you kind of just have to ask maybe like a local, you know your communication with that organization that helped you plan that trip as is done.
SHERRY: I’m just yesterday in my Visitor Center at lady talking to me about another town just south of us and she was really interested in hiking that town, and she wanted me to give her a printed guide and so I had a bunch of diagram account. I gave it to her. “No, that’s not really what I want. I want this detail.” I said, “You can access all that information through your phone.” So there’s also this thought of how do we train the people that are coming to us, but also the people that are in our community, to use the tool that they’re carrying in their hands.
HIROMI: So that’s why you know, Rob had a great question he was asking a lot of our interviewees about like, “Okay if every traveler gets this magical personal assistant, what were they like?”
DIANE: They would have to be dissipated Great Communicator. They would have to have a very innate love affair with Wyoming. I’d want them to be knowledgeable because I would want them to be truthful. But I also like to know the little side stories, you know, um, so I would want them to have definitely a sense of humor and just the ability to speak to people of all ages and backgrounds. I think you have to know your audience, whoever that is, and that docent then says I have all of these different arrows in my quiver and I will pull up this because that’s as going to resonate the most with you.
NIKITA: That’s cool.
HIROMI: We want people to have a great experience in part because of the impression that that experience will have on them when they return home and speaking of which it looks like Aaron he’s not home, but he is in his hotel and he’s got Wi-Fi. So…
NIKITA: Did you have an authentic experience?
AARON: I guess. So I got a little lost and then I did not end up at Fisherman’s Wharf I ended up at a thing called The Wave Organ and there was no organ.
PAUL: You where the organ.
AARON: I was the organ.
NIKITA: Maybe that’s the point.
ROB: It’s like an art house piece. The organ is observing you.
AARON: The Emperor’s Organ
HIROMI: You guys hear that? Oh, yeah, you can hear it too? Yeah, of course, I can.
AARON: And then I didn’t realize it was like right in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf but the Museé Mechanic; seeing those penny arcade’s from the 1800’s was like awesome to see the twisted nature of man.
ROB: These are crazy. One of these is called “The Flasher”, it says this used to be a commercial in a storefront window of an antique store his head turns from side to side his eyes and eyebrows and lips move, his arms lift his jacket from his stomach to reveal a rotating sign that mentioned the specials that were presented.
AARON: But I was like going around and having these having this adventure and the alternative was going to my hotel room, which is awful by the way. I’m staying at an extended stay and it’s like it’s…
PAUL: It’s evident that people have extended their stay there.
AARON: Yeah, exactly. I think I might die here, the ultimate extended stay. I think it was worth it was absolutely worth it.
HIROMI: Yeah, that’s sweet. I mean, I think we’ve all experienced that on some level that we don’t want to do something and we do it anyway and it ends up paying off, right? Especially when it comes to travel. It feels like the worst experiences are almost like the best ones in hindsight.
MATT: we only get one opportunity to sell the consumer something if they don’t have a great experience while they’re there, you know, it makes total sense if you are sold on a destination and you go visit there and you have a terrible experience, I mean that experience stays in your head, I don’t care how great our creative is or how in innovative our website is; we’re gonna have a really really tough time selling you on coming back to Idaho.
HIROMI: So that’s that’s an important part of the whole process is like. What are you left with when you go home?
NIKITA: Yeah pictures…
AARON: Food poisoning…
ROB: The stories that you had right? For me and my friends or my family that I travel with it’s usually something that we made fun of each other about, some crazy experience that happened where you know, one of us did something stupid where we made a fool of ourselves and it’s the thing that you remember.
NIKITA: My family, we have a growing shot glass collection and I think the souvenirs that you take back is just a way for you to look at them and remember those memories and if other people see your shirt or your baseball cap that says, “Idaho”, you can tell them how much fun you had there.
HIROMI: Oh, yeah, totally it’s a conversation starter, right? People love talking about their trip experiences, especially when they’re unique.
JESSICA: We’ve got one really big event called Ragbrai the world’s largest touring bicycle ride. Traditionally, they dip their back tire in the Missouri River on our West Edge and then if they ride for hundreds of miles across the state to the east coast and dip their front tire in the Mississippi River and along the way they’re biking through small towns, and then you are really immersed in Iowa and the small towns roll out the red carpet for the groups of writers as they come in, you’ll have churches doing spaghetti dinners and people let you pitch a tent on their lawn and stay overnight and it really is just a quintessential Iowa experience that I know people have come and they think you know what that town we rolled through that was kind of cool I want to go back and visit it another time and then they come back a different time and really explore a little bit more.
AARON: That’s amazing and this is the first time I’ve ever heard about.
ROB: It’s a great idea. I love the idea of a bike race that’s not a race.
AARON: What really stands out to me about that is the communities welcoming and reaching out to people and that’s usually my best memories from trips and it seems like a lot of communities don’t like people coming into the area and they’re not welcoming.
ROB: Yeah, it’s a mutually beneficial thing and that was one of the things that I realized from this. When people helped to create a good experience for travelers, they are benefited in multiple ways. Not only money into their local economies. But also it’s a preservation of their own culture because people show an showing interest in it.
AARON: Yeah, like how much would people do to get out of the thousand dollars in taxes? Like they would sell their brother? A thousand dollars of taxes but like a like a like a stranger comes into their town they’re like, who’s that guy, get out of here.
SHERRY: Definitely in destination marketing, we think about that a lot because there are tensions between the people here that are local and the people that are the travelers. But yet we’re all travelers and so how do we resolve and release that tension that gives up and what are the ways that we integrate both the travelers into our community, but also our community of into the world.
ROB: Beautiful, pretty poignant.
HIROMI: Yeah, so there it is. We’ve taken the tour, the Journey of a tourist from how they discover a location, how they research whether they want to go there, what makes them follow through on that decision, what it’s like when they get there, and what follows them back home. So from that conversation, you guys had a lot of good ideas and a lot of good insights what stood out to you?
PAUL: One thought that our discussion kind of jogged in me is you know, there are apps out there that are designed for somebody who’s never been to a place to orient themselves and understand, but what about the people who are already there? Having those locals share their stories. Share their experiences that only they know. Maybe there’s some kind of a platform we could come up with that would that would engage locals as much as it engages people who are visiting for the first time or returning.
ROB: Totally. maybe we could encourage people to get lost a little bit. When you go somewhere as you didn’t intend to and you experience something totally surprising, I think if there’s a way for us to encourage interaction with a place to get people outside of just where they want to go. I think that’s what we need.
NIKITA: I was thinking like the other day I went on a trail and I was like, oh this is this is cool. This is safe. I’m being curious look at me and of course, I get lost and then the anxiety kicks in and so I I like the idea of giving myself enough room to explore but also knowing you’re in good hands, you’re safe. I was actually thinking about how on that path the locals can provide you with things along that way that you might enjoy, you know, so you don’t really feel like you’re totally out of control.
ROB: Yeah. Absolutely. How about just hiding? What a location is? It’s like, hey go to this place. It’s cool. Go do it.
NIKITA: That’s cool.
AARON: Yeah, maybe you could catch a rare Pokémon there.
ROB: That’s a great example, Aaron, because I’m not a Pokémon person, but I know that that game encouraged people to explore the places where they live and the areas around where they live more.
PAUL: It takes a page from geocaching.
HIROMI: Rob and I for a long time have wanted to make a kind of a geocaching audio\/video like experience where user-generated content could be in context, you know, we’re thinking about like hiking for example. You’re going down the path and like someone says “oh this path to the left here follow it just half mile and you will see the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen your life”
ROB: Can’t you see that as like a real feature for the some of these “drive-through States”, right? Like as I’m driving and I’m told things about the places. I’m driving by wouldn’t that be a neat experience if the places you’re driving through was a part of some sort of storytelling?
NIKITA: This field does where it Field of Dreams was shot.
HIROMI: Yeah, that’s right, you know and to that point with these movie scenes like imagine some possibilities. We were at a workshop recently and we were working on this AR experience and the developer made a proof of concept, like a working app in like a couple hours. It’s is not that difficult. So, could we do something like that? Imagine going to the Field of Dreams and now like you hold up your phone and you can see where certain shots were taken.
NIKITA: You could see Kevin Costner running towards you.
HIROMI: Yeah, like consume scenes of the movie from that same vantage point. You know that the director and the cameraman was standing right here when they shot this important scene.
ROB: I love that very super cool. I think that there’s some real potential for an AR experience in this travel tourism world and it could be movie scenes. It could be back stories. It could be some exploration into the geological features of an area or experiences like this is…
NIKITA: This is where we light lanterns at this particular time of the year and this is what it would look like.
HIROMI: Oh, yeah Nikita. Yeah, that be great. Because that gets you to think about coming back another time like you’re like, Oh, this is what this looks like in Fall? I’m coming back.
ROB: Yes, that’s fantastic or on landmarks. Right? Like which president’s heads are those on Mount Rushmore?
AARON: My Kevin Costner cosplay group would really love that. You can check us out on Reddit.
HIROMI: So, I mean that’s cool because all these people are saying that personal connection transcends physical characteristics of a location. So how could we embellish these physical locations and make that connection? We could use the tools at our disposal some AR some AV it’s all there for the taking. And it wouldn’t be that costly to produce if it was user-generated content. It could be authentic and engaging right?
ROB: Yeah, and what’s great about all this is that the right vehicle for this is an application because it allows for offline content which helps to mitigate the problem of not having service in 70 miles of Highway. You don’t need an internet connection to connect to a GPS satellite and find out where someone is with an application that understands who you are where you’re at what some of your interests are.
HIROMI: Yeah. Oh, you’re interested in kayaking. Uh, you know, you’re like a mile away from like another great kayaking experience. Like and I mean selfishly what would these marketers be able to do with an application that then actually shows that these visitors are following through on those prompts, right? They know what resonates with people when they go there why they go there. Who they go there with like it’s all there for the taking.
NIKITA: Yeah. Did you do it take a picture?
ROB: Yeah, and just when you start seeing trends that people take right like the people that do this kayaking trip that we encourage them to do then they go on to enjoy some crazy artisanal regionalized ice cream next door, right?
HIROMI: Yeah, we may be able to draw correlations between ice cream and kayaking. Who knows right like you may start to be able to build those relationships by seeing where people go after they kayak.
ROB: Phils Ice Cream and Kayak Shop.
HIROMI: You know, there are these services that we currently use for travel and we use Google for maps. We use Instagram for photos. We have our websites. We have our blogs. We have our YouTube videos for Discovery. It’s all just scattered across all these different Services. Google already has a really cool aggregated app called Google Trips. The problem is we’ve been talking to all these people and they’re saying the most important part of travel is a personal connection and like the uniqueness of your experience. And that’s the one thing that this app doesn’t have, it’s completely generic, right? Like it doesn’t matter if you’re like in Milwaukee or Mexico. It’s the same exact experience.
ROB: Yeah, and that’s what’s so great about all these tourism boards that we talked about. They have the information the stories the customizable content to make stuff personal
HIROMI: Yeah, I mean imagine if you could create something similar and aggregated personalized experience, but then make it customizable branded like enriched by local communities so that you have these perishable events, like your farmers market or tours or having locations tied to services, if you’re in Alaska and you need a bush pilot, could my activity be tied to that like, oh you’re going to Katmai? your gonna need a bush pilot. Here’s a list of them call. Or translators or rental services, right?
PAUL: This is a tool that’s just as useful to people who are visiting as it is to the local.
ROB: That’s an interesting point. You can’t make someone have a personal connection, but you can help them get to the right place by personalizing the content in a way that is enriched by a local community.
HIROMI: And I wonder if there’s an opportunity to facilitate stewardship within a community? You know, you’re like an 80-year-old guy you were born and raised in the small town. Do you want to be asked questions?
AARON: If you saved a thousand dollars on your taxes you would yeah.
HIROMI: Like install this app on your phone and get a push notification when someone has a question about like where do I get a beer around here? You know?
AARON: Have you seen that? App for helping blind people.
ROB: Yes. Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. Where they point their camera out at the world and people tell them what’s in front of them. Is that the one?
AARON: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So you sign up and then you get a notification that someone needs help and then and then you just like describe the thing that they’re looking at for them. That just made me think about that like like to have people in a local town that are designated to like help out tourists at a given moment would be interesting.
HIROMI: Well, we’ve talked about a lot of stuff here I wouldn’t blame anyone for feeling a little lost. Um Nikita, what would you think about turning this ideation in something that people can visualize?
NIKITA: Okay. Yeah.
HIROMI: Okay great. If you would like to see what we’re talking about head on over to our blog at ideate.team we’re putting some extra effort into this episode because I think we see the experience of travel as being about more than just fun. There’s something deeper.
AARON: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this new word that I learned, is gonna make me sound pretentious, but have you heard the word terroir? I’m probably pronouncing it wrong. But obviously, it’s a French word and it’s it’s used to refer to what makes a glass or bottle of wine unique because you can taste the soil and the environment and the climate of the grapes that make your wine. And we’re really a lot like that. We’re a product of our environment and where we grew up where we live.
HIROMI: Yeah, remember at the end of our interview with Cuma. What did you ask him again?
AARON: Yeah. I asked him. How have you been affected by travel? How does it make you view the world differently?
CUMA: You need to see different things. You need to learn different things. So traveling is very good for me because it’s you need more, you know, traveling around the country can help you develop yourself. As different people became acquainted my Horizon expanded. I’m not prejudiced against people anymore. Now, I love different people more, because they are a different culture from me. Seeing different places now makes me think differently. Ever since I started to travel, I have improved my self a lot. I can now say more tolerance. That’s why I like traveling. Yeah, I love different people. I love meeting with the different people. I love my home, but I love traveling is because you making a new story you making a new experience.
ROB: That’s beautiful.
HIROMI: Well, remember that t-shirt company that makes the Idaho t-shirt in Des Moines? They’re called Raygun and they’re awesome and they want to give you one of these fantastic shirts. So all through August share your travel experience on the social platform of your choice mention us and use the hashtag #ideateTourism and you might get a t-shirt out of the deal. Either way. We really appreciate you joining us and we so appreciate our fantastic guests for this episode. So until next time. Thanks for ideating.
We’d like to thank our contributors for sharing their insights with us this week, and as always we’re very interested in your insights as well! Please leave us a review on iTunes, hit us up on Twitter @ideateTeam, or drop us an email. We look forward to hearing from you!