Tag Archives: tourism products

Keepers of souvenirs as meaningmakers

Carrying ‘m home

In grannies cupboard, lies an old pen with mountainview and a fluid, in which a little ship goes up and down if you hold the pen upside down. The pen never really worked properly and the fluid has leaked away. Nevertheless, it was a souvenir and we keep it. They have a special place in our house, minds and memories. They transfer meanings, but only through its owner.

You could say, the souvenir was already purchased when we were still at home. The souvenir relates to our bodies, our homes, the construction of our sense of self and place.

Souvenirs transfer meaning and culture, by means of their material qualities. A wooden carving, made from a regional kind of wood, gives meaning through the work involved making it, the details made by the craftsman, the time it took to make it, the place where you bought the thing, the context wherein you bought it, its size, its weight, its grainy structure. They are all coupled to its meaning, at the very moment it changed hands.

The relationship between an object and its owner, is almost a magical one, according to many anthropologists and scholars. The object is imbrued with meaning, it has the power to ‘communicate’ and it tangibly occupies a space, whilst symbolising another symbolically-  temporal and geographical.

Mass production

Even mass-produced plastic rubbish, implicitely carries these qualities, although there is a significant loss in containing and transferring meaning, due to lack of forementioned qualities.

The souvenir has meaningful qualities and traits, because of its connection to the owner. Without a narrative, the souvenir is worthless. In mass production there has been given no meaning to the product by means of material qualities. On the contrary, souvenirs bought in mass tourism, exemplifies the very thing people want to escape from: work. (Benson)

Even the simplest mass produced plastic souvenirs, can carry meaning. And they do, ofcourse. However, the constructed narrative of its owner survives this process of exchange, minus many many meaningful material qualities. The remaining narrative, makes the purchased souvenir a ‘ mediating object.’  Something that is amplified by its later place within the house and household, within objects that make you you, but as an outsider’s experience and perception of the experience of a site. (Benson)

Home and the souvenir

Whilst travelling, the souvenir you’re going to buy, already has a connection to you and your home. There’s a bond between your body, the ‘self’ and the construction of identity, primarily because your home is the main place where people create their reality and sense of self, in everyday life. Within this personal museum, you move in the presence of familiar objects ad images- constructing, annotating and forming your personality, your ways of meaning making and transference and ways of telling both yourself and the world, what you find important and what not. Souvenirs usually embody the same characteristics. To name a simple example in the context of materiality: a wooden carving has to fit the salon table.

We inscribe the perception of home on particular places and locations, without necessarily having to be there. Potentially we have the capacity to create our own notion of home. Within post-modern society the sense of place and perceptions of home is both highly standardised and commodified, aswell as constructed by means of tourism. Even the sense of authenticity, embodied by artefacts, souvenirs and totems, is often a constructed one. Some thrive on the sense of nostalgia, not all of them, as the sense of nostalgia is experienced by the tourist, not particularly the locale itself.

Example from forum on the relationship souvenir/ownership
My parents’ souvenir spoons; let me show you them. January 23, 2010 I have inherited a collection of souvenir spoons. Can you suggest funky or creative ways to display these? They came with the standard souvenir spoon display board, which I don’t care for. For what it is worth, I have not visited all of the places that these spoons were obtained, though I respect the fact that my parents chose to go to these places and obviously had nice memories of these trips. posted by Morrigan

Commercialised, mass produced souvenirs, can represent a manufactured notion of nostalgia, building on the desire of constructing a shared narrative. This does still not mean, the bought souvenirs are without meaning! Physical contact with objects collected during travels (like souvenirs), is more important for travellers telling stories, than visual representations (Bationo). Other research shows that people do prefer to recollect memories by using souvenirs rather than photo’s. However among elderly people using objects for reminiscing, 42% of the cases preferred the photograph for “stirring recollections” (Sherman).

“Souvenir photos of Versailles” project

In conclusion

In a way it could  be argued, the commercialised rhythm, velocity and repetitiveness with which the tourist locations are flooded, provide new opportunities to convey clear and present images on current countries, current culture and local life- as an answer to “master narratives” and somewhat colonial ways of looking at other countries and cultures.  Were it not that commercial travel highly manipulates our view and perception of places. Grasping- in essence -to that what communicates culture in a way nothing else can: through souvenirs and objects, carried and annotated by you!

Follow Renk van Oyen’s board objects and souvenirs on Pinterest.

See also:

Ruimtes en het alledaagse ding, deel 1 (Dutch)

Ruimtes en het alledaagse ding, deel 2 (Dutch)

Narratives of travel (English)

Leren kijken naar een ding, deel 1 (Dutch)

Leren kijken naar een ding, deel 2 (Dutch)

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

Servicedesign and guest citisenship

Recovering poor service on the workfloor

As could be read in earlier blogs, even if you are a small hostel, a familiy-run bed and breakfast, a low-budget accommodation: It is inexcusable not to think thoroughly about the services you provide. Simply NOT doing something, does not constitute a service! Nor does leaving things out, because it is your hostels policy not to provide too much guest-services for not being economical or simply too much work for the staff you have or don’t have.

Loyalty

Your guest really is perceptive enough to see the contours of the `deal’ that he is presented with. Chances are he was already familiar with it, before he even came to the hostel. That is- however -not the same as guest loyalty. He is simply providing behaviour that ties in with his side of the bargain! As written in earlier blogs, low prices are not the only thing the backpacker chooses your hostel for. The matter of ambiance is hugely improtant (see the post on creativity). Not only does a creative ambiance give the guest a good feeling on a personal level, it also creates a space for him, in which to interact with others, causing him to use the interaction with fellow-guests and space, as an interface for social interactions.

Service provided by guests

Many hostels employ volunteering travellers and backpackers as their staff. See also the post on volunteering abroad. It is important to give your volunteering traveller a good deal aswell, always making sure you remain on the giving side of the deal. It is perfectly acceptable to ask your volunteer to maintain certain standards and behaviours in handling guests. Instructing them, providing scripts, making sure they read a servicedesign manual you might have created. But make sure you discuss these things before they arrive. Furhermore, motivate them beforehand to apply if they have the personality traits ands skills you require of them, to communicate your servicelevel with. But again, make sure you remain on the giving side of the deal.

Contrary to popular belief, the loyalty of your guest can still be maintained and be put to good use, if they are happy with your service recovery effort. If something goes wrong, make sure you correct it and use the dimensions:

  • Competence
  • Excitement
  • Sincerity
  • Sophistication and
  • Ruggedness.

In short, make sure there is room for your guest to experience empathy for you and your efforts. When you have recovered their satisfaction, make sure the guest experiences this in a full recovery of the expected services, including all dimensions- tangible and intangible.

Loyal guests usually attribute errors to unstable factors, over which the supplier has little control. In the case of volunteering staff, guests are more likely to accept service-recovery, but it is important to understand that volunteers are often part of the group, with little to no distance to the guests, and therefore likely to choose the side of the peer-group rather than playing the role of experienced hostel manager. And who can blame them? Ashforth and Mael (1989) found that social identification lead persons to perform activities that are congruent with their identity and support institutions that embody that identity. So the volunteer-employee might be just the person to handle these things. If handles correctly, they will identify with the hotel organisation.

complaints

Guest behaviour after service-recovery, is much more likely to be a guest-citisen- also known as customer voluntary performance, varying in behaviour from using less towels as to have less costs for the hostel, to helping out during breakfast and giving advice to other guests.

So the production of your service is very much a joint effort with volunteers, paid staff and ofcourse your guests, which includes a good briefing of volunteers before they arrive.

Interested in putting everything into practise and see welldevised concepts turn into proper, unforgettable experiences? Contact me!

Renk van Oyen

Contact me

Takes on eventing for hostels

Thoughts on time and perception

Creativity in hostels is not just important for your guest-experience, it also enhances the quality of life in general. Literature has moved away from objective indicators of quality of life, into the understanding that subjectivity plays a larger role, connected to place, context and perception of time and time-related experiences. Quality of life is connected to leisure wellbeing, depending on factors such as :

  • Arousal;
  • Intrinsic satisfaction;
  • Involvement;
  • Mastery;
  • Perceived freedom and
  • Spontaneity

(Unger and Kernan, 1983)

In eventing for your guests in or from your hostel, make sure their time-perception is different from the commodified urban rhythms most guests are already acustomed to.

New Year in Krakow(1)

Rhythm and spaces

Nighttime should not be the mere opposite of daytime-rhythms. Remember to emphasise local big events, as they hold an important ritual meaning, important for the guest to construct their experiences with. Events as ritual, are bounded and seperated from everyday life.

Events can create ‘small spaces’ (Friedman, 1999), in which the time-experience is enclosed and can be marked and beautified by you as an event-maker. By length and nature and intensity of their qualities (Sorokin, Merton)

The events you organise and present, can create a sense of collective emotional entrainment (Collins), by introducing them to shared rhythms, marked by `zeitgebers’, like the gathering on a square at local big events, in which the guests’ participation within collectiveness is marked by larger markings, like a pre-party in your hostel, a fancy dress or themed gathering.

interaction ritual chain

As signals, they lead to interaction and shared behaviour. The experience and experience of time can be constructed by entrainment and a shared sense of ritual factors, but in this case it can be externally constructed through ‘micro-temporal coordination’, making sure the conditions for entrainment are present: physical density and barriers to outside involvement (Collins; 2004)

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