Tag Archives: gastronomy

Staging the tour-location for groups: Event-space and perception

Staging the tour-location for groups: Event-space and perception

Free course excerpt

When staging a tour-location, we use several techniques, deriving from different research- and practice-areas. When staging a tour-location- regardless of the research and theoretical backgrounds used, always remember that you are part of the group, room and space aswell. If it doesn’t feel right to you, you might very well be right. The trick then, is to find out what exactly is “wrong” and what to do about it.

This lesson excerpt is free to download below!

The group versus the interior

You can pre-stage the location, to work in your advantage. Before you arrive with the group, make sure you have set everything up and discussed this with the pub owner.

Instead of asking the owners permission on several small actions, ask them if it’s alright to “set the location”. It prevents having to explain every detail. The theoretical part of this is abstract and not everyones cup of tea, so take your time.

Using some basics of Grouping in Gestalt, Ï will show some examples of use in practice.

Join the locals

How do the participants know who are locals and who aren’t? Most of them will want to meet locals and be part of them, for the duration of the tour and foreseeable period of time afterwards.

There are many semiotic features that define who is part of which group, how they comunicate with eachother and other groups. Meaning, inclusion, exclusion- basically all communication that we perceive and can process, is transfered by “language” both parties can understand and can communicate about on meta level, using the modalities they know but also the modalities they know, the other “party” will understand and and communicate about.
There is much, much, much more going on than that! There are forms of communication going, that not yet have means of both sending and receiving from one set to an other. There simply is no language to describe the unknown. This produces an alternative form of sending and receiving that is formed by proximity and the amount of events wherein different groups meet eachother within a certain space. This is called emergent effects, as opposed to stereotypical effects.

Using “similarity” and “closure” as metaphors, when arriving at the pub the “opening-scene” of the tour-location, can be made to invite the participants to join a setting that has an opening, just for them. An oval table with a few locals sitting on just one side of it, looks inviting to join (using “closure” as visual metaphor) and the tour-participants can easily feel welcomed by either the locals themselves or the familiarity of the tourguide with the locality itself. Use your position to link the physical local to the tour participants.

bar stoelen tafel op tour graphics
Open shape, but closed-off and uninviting, because of use of different materialities (wood, vs cushions), shape and grouping

In the bar-picture below, the “localness” is emphasised by the broken circle of locals on bar-stools. The broken space can be very inviting to join them but can also be potentially threatening. In this case, the empty space is used as service-space (vitrine), which would be less inviting for this particular purpose.

bar met citytour green

A table is a much more inviting environment for the tour participants to join the locals. Hospitality is conveyed and experienced through the righ modalities: texture, materiality of space, light, heat, brightness, scent, atmoshpere, a turntaking of reciprical behaviours, food and drink!

Sitting on one side of the table (staged by you as tour director), the other side seems welcoming and intices to join. Whatever you do, do not place a “reserved” sign on the table.

In the picture below, you see 2 examples. One of them is configured as “closed”, the other one is “open.”

tourlocation open en gesloten opstelling

Mediating objects

In other content (posts, blogs, lectures and articles) I have written about mediation, mediating qualities of objects and spaces. Make sure the participants recognise typically local objects or habits and behaviour typical for local or national life, without trying to be too spefic. It is better to let the participants weave threads together and arrive to conclusions themselves. It enriches the experience and gives them a sense of insight.

In the stillframe below, we see a drinking vessel, typical for Valencian culture. The tour participants are asked to engage in drinking from the vessel (there’s a trick to it; I’ve tried it), but later on in the evening. In this case the tour is very clearly about tapas and the guided consumption of it. People are less engaged with local culture in a participatory manner, but very much consume the experience.

The cityguide in this example is Suzy Anon y Garcia– a tourguide from Valencia I know personally and can recommend her to everyone! She’s a foodie if ever I met one and knows everything there is to know about food and Valencian food in particular!

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Creative gastronomy in your hostel

Gastronomic events?

The consumers’ attention has to be captured by the development of experiences. When you’re planning something special on the gastronomic level, make sure your guests actively participate in the setting you have staged for them. They can be employed to create a sense of community among your guests. Very well suited for lobby-events!

Meals are in essence sequential: breakfast, lunch, dinner and in-between, which provides a natural setting for the framing of a gastronomic event.
Make surprise gastronomic experiences a key- service for your hostel but make it feel like a random and kind event.
Ask guests to provide local recipes for food and drink and invite them into the kitchen.
Why not take it a step furter? Invite guests to cook for other guests. Include a budget and give them a chance to invite other people to their dinner.
Invite local producers into your hotel.
Buy from them for the hostel kitchen and stock.
Have them come over for tastings with guests.

Transform your hostel to a social being-space!

In hostels, guests often use a communal kitchen. Eating with eachother is usually a random act- depending on who is near at that time. Guests are both producers and consumers of the experience. Backpackers are used to the creative and open atmosphere in hostels, aswell as the cheap fees. However, there is a distinct danger that they will primarily see your hostel as being a cool place to stay, but not to participate in! Participation in the creation of experience.

ClinkNOORD-Social-Area-360x180there is a distinct danger that they will primarily see your hostel as being a cool place to stay, but not to participate in

Do your guests cook for themselves in a communal kitchen?

Design a board with recipe cards, emphasising healthy locally produced food.

Reaching the guest with big and rich, full-on experiences, engaging all the senses, is getting somewhat out of fashion. That is to say: we still make them, but tourists increasingly want more “real” and local experiences, lived through the locality and negotiating spaces. Staging such allround and full-on experiences, still apply within settings such as winetasting or a guided visit to the local brewery. You could compare it to the loss of producer generated flow in television. The audience can no longer be captivated on their terms, for the duration of the program (due to commercial breaks), but the viewer can experience a fuller and broader event, within a wider spatial setting. Food is good for tourism experiences as it is often a short detour or entrance to local culture. It brings locals and tourists together.in a shared cultural experience.

Anyone interested in placemaking and the more anthropological side of tourism will know that food bonds  us with place, identity and culture. A very important role to play, considering the growth of the ‘network society’.

Misconception: Gastronomic events are not for small hostels and they are a bit elitist.

Definitely untrue. This perception of elitist and toffeenosed events. is largely due to the producers of consumer- and tourist-experiences- FOR the consumer -who aimed at the more discerning connaisseur. Nowadays, eating and drinking is very much a broadly accepted and enacted activity. Not in the last place because of new collaboration methods and modes of co-producing experiences. On the consumption side of things, the ‘foodies’ don’t really go for the haute cuisine anymore. Nevertheless, one has to remember that food and gastronomy is highly bound by culture, which automatically creates a sense of both inclusion and exclusion.
Democratising both food and travel has led to a huge amount of food travel websites. Still, they do look or more rare and foreign foods, prefably not easily accessable by the large public, therewith establishing and maintaining there foodie lifestyle plus being able to spread it among other groups.

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Our Community Kickstart program is an in-depth workshop-format that truly prepares your community for success in food and drink tourism.
Our Community Kickstart program is an in-depth workshop-format that truly prepares your community for success in food and drink tourism.

Some links!

Will travel for food

Eat your world: foodblog

Intrepid Travel: Tours for foodies

World Food Travel Association

Foodtourist