Dr. Ian Yeoman, Futurologist
Today's tourist is both interested in a two week eco tourism vacation where they will undertake an authentic and sustainable experience but at the same time they will take a short break in Las Vegas, whether it is retail therapy, gambling or something more erotic. Why? Tourists cannot be labelled according to their attitudes and beliefs – what they say and what they do, are two totally different things. They constantly evolve and seek something new, just like David Beckham and his hairstyles. This is why segmenting today's tourist is becoming a lot more difficult. The trends influencing this consumer voilatity and spectrum of experiences include:
– As affluence grows across all countries, people tend to become more individualistic in their purchasing choices. This means consumers increasingly wish to acquire those things they feel fit in with their own particular needs, style and way of life.
– As education levels rise, people's activities and consumption patterns tend to be driven by new parameters.
– Populations evolve in demographic terms. Late marriage, early retirement, longer lives, singleton, etc. All of them are all crucial factors within consumption culture.
– New technologies, more devices, new channels of communications... are here to make consumers' lives easier, though this is not always the case.
– Time is a scarce resource in life today. People want to do so much, and expect so much, that being constantly under time pressure is a common feeling in today's society.
Throughout history, changes in the society means consumers conduct themselves in different ways. Tourists do not make choices in a rational way. Psychologists such as Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences in 2002, regard human beings as a system that codes and interprets available information in a conscious manner, but where other less conscious factors also play a role.
The central characteristic of consumers is not that they reason poorly but that they often act intuitively. They live in a society that wants everything, both a safe environment and hedonistic experiences.
According to the Future Foundation, today's consumer changes their hairstyle every eighteen months, knows more people that they haven't met and visits new places as a matter of course. The challenge for the tourism industry is how they do innovate new experiences when much of the product can't change. This shift from mass to unique explains the surge in niche or even one–of–a–kind products and services or what Chris Anderson calls the long tail. Consumers are moving away from the familiar, trusted mass destinations to find themselves addicted to everything niche. As Anderson says:
We equate mass market with quality and demand, when in fact it often just represents familiarity, savvy advertising and broad if somewhat shallow appeal. What do we really want? We're only just discovering, but it clearly starts with more.
Besides the shift from mass to uniqueness, mature/prosperous consumers now predominantly live in experience economies. Experiences not only are inherently more unique, they also do a better job of providing instant gratification: they're often more affordable, and thus more numerous than old–world status symbols.
However, when it comes to experiences, status can only be derived from being seen by others – while experiencing the experience, which may be a relatively brief moment – or by telling others about the experiences afterwards (which can go on for years). Oh, and don't dismiss the shift towards an online, virtual world, which means yet another challenge for visible, physical, real world status manifestations. As societies are slowly starting to bestow recognition and respect on those straying off the beaten consuming–more–than–thee–path, 'new' status can be about acquired skills, about eco–credentials, about non–profit activities, or about the number of visitors to an online presence. So, what does this mean? Tourists are less likely to trust advertising and traditional marketing channels. Therefore it is about creating a story.
These stories are related to status, uniqueness, newness and innovation – it's all about searching for something new and fashionable. Examples of this include; Hubwear sells t–shirts that display a wearer's favourite travel routes in airport codes (GLAS; EDI; RIO, JFK). All shirts, as Hubwear likes to point out, tell a story: from amazing sabbaticals to crazy work trips to earth–saving internships. Domino's Pizza's new BFD builder (Big Fantastic Deal) lets consumers create the pizza of their dreams – specifying the type of crust, the amount of sauce and cheese, and unlimited toppings – for a flat rate of USD $ 10.99. Consumers can name and register the pizzas they design in Domino's BFD database, where they can be viewed and ordered by other consumers. Nearly 12,000 pizzas have been registered so far, including the "Happy Birthday Aaron" and "Rhonda Half Doug Half". The site even tracks how many people have ordered each registered pizza so far, and consumers can view the database with the most popular pizzas first, as well as by newest, oldest or alphabetically.
Hip stroller manufacturer Bugaboo has mapped out 20 Bugaboo–friendly daytrips for adventurous parents. From their site:
Discovering foreign countries, making new friends, tasting exotic dishes. After becoming a parent, this doesn't need to stop. (Re) discovering a city together with a child can be an inspiring experience. Strolling through New York or Berlin with a Bugaboo Daytrip you will discover new aspects of a city: a funny elevator, a little known park or a hidden gem of a shop.
Ian Schrager's Gramercy Park Hotel and Residences in New York offers guests an exclusive key to the city's only private park, which above all makes for a great story upon return. In Glasgow, 'Tunnocks' offers behind the scenes tours of the cult biscuit factory, where visitors can eat as many Snowballs or Caramel Wafers as they like and hear stories from the production workforce (who have worked on the line for 30 years plus). Such is the demand for the tours; there is a six month waiting list.
Basically, if you don't innovate and change your hairstyle every eighteen months – your business will die.
Ian Yeoman for VisitScotland, where he established the process of futures thinking within the organisation using a variety of techniques including economic modelling, trends analysis and scenario construction. In May 2008, Ian was appointed an Assoc. Professor of Tourism Management at Victoria University, He is a popular speaker at conferences and was described by the UK Sunday Times as the country's leading contemporary futurologist.
Ian has a PhD in Management Science from Napier University, Edinburgh and a BSc (Hons) in Catering Systems from Sheffield Hallam University. Previously, Ian was Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Hospitality Management at Napier University and University College, Birmingham. He has extensive experience within the hospitality industry, for which he was a hotel manager with Trusthouse Forte.
Stirling University and the Mike Simpson Award from the Operational Research Society.
More details about Ian and futurology in the travel industry can be at www.tomorrowstourist.com.
Watch talk about the core drivers of change and Europe's future here.
Ian presents his views on technology futures to the OECD – 21st June here.
Ian profiled in Qatar Airways Oryx Magazine about the 'life of a futurist' here.
The future history of Revenue Management here.
The future of ping pong here.
Ian publishes research paper on scenario planning and policy in the Journal of Tourism Futures here.
The Future of Food Tourism reviewed in Annals of Leisure Research here.
Ian speaks to the EU on the future tourist here.
Fifteen years of Revenue Management here.
Ian appointed series editor by Channelview about the future of tourism Read More.
The Future Tourist: Ian speaking at the European Travel Commission on the 8th September in Vienna More.
Dr Ian Yeoman to keynote at CHME 4-6th May at Ulster University on the future of food More.
Ian to speak on the future of tourism at the New Zealand Airports Association on the 11th September: More.
Ian to speak at Sri Lanka World Tourism Day conference: More.
The Future of Science: Ian guest edits the Royal Society's journal here.
New publication: New Zealand's Sustainable Future and Maori Identity.
The Future of Food Tourism at Wellington on a Plate – 25th August 2015 More.
Previous News items can be found here.