New Perspectives on the diversity of Hospitality, Tourism and Events
Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a breakfast workshop themed “Audiencing” at CAUTHE 2020. It was great to discuss perspectives on audiences from my practical experience in the cultural sector with academic researchers in hospitality and tourism from around the world, an area I don’t usually interact with. Many thanks to Dr Sandra Goh and Dr Tomas Pernecky, Faculty of Culture and Society at AUT.
I took the opportunity to attend a few sessions on “Eventful Placemaking”, where current academic research projects were discussed. There was an interesting cross-over with the arts and the role of art festivals, arts precincts and major events in placemaking. These research projects take a practical approach useful for cities and cultural organisations (and rightly challenged my own bias that academic research is – well, academic). I’m sure I’ll have some more conversations with Sandra about some of these projects.
A highlight was the key note by Alison Phipps, UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts at the University of Glasgow.
She opened the conference with a mind-opening keynote both for content and presentation. With “Inhospitable hospitality” Alison Phipps challenged the hospitality community to look at the extreme end of hospitality. Rather than glamorous events, she considered hospitality as experienced by seekers of refuge. She asked “Who decides and where are those decisions made on what constitutes hospitality and what it means to be hospitable?” and challenged us with examples of hospitality, or rather inhospitality, offered to refugees in various parts of the world, which are often prison-like experiences. She suggested that the “refugee crisis” in Europe is actually rather a “hospitality crisis” given the wealth of the continent and the fact that only 15% of global refugees are in the global North (incl. N-America). She asked what this tells about the human condition and the work of the hospitality industry. With the hospitality at airports, hospital and universities also often prison-like, she challenged the industry to find ways to inject a sense of life and empathy into its language, its occupation with efficiency, numbers, project management and logistical systems. Part of hospitality is “overcoming fear”. She offered the arts as a way to re-imagine hospitality, and left the audience to think about what “beautiful, captivating story of hospitality” it could design.
And beautiful and captivating was her keynote, interjected with images, quotes, poetry, music (including herself singing) and personal stories from refugees and her own family – not quite the typical conference slide presentation and an unexpected and thought provoking angle on hospitality, or what in my area of work is called the visitor experience.
When buying a ticket to an event no one is a fan of the fees ticketing platforms charge on top of the actual ticket prices. But what if this charge was used for charitable causes?
Humanitix is an events ticketing platform that does exactly that. They direct the profits made from ticket booking fees towards global education projects.
So far they say they have given more than $300,000 to their charity partners. Started in Australia, New Zealand is the first country they have expanded to. And they are not afraid to take on the big players in the ticketing market. Fittingly, they say that they learnt in their journey that the customer experience is right at the crux of being a successful company.
A great example of how initiatives for special needs benefit many more people:
One of New Zealand’s supermarket chains has introduced a low-sensory “quiet hour” nationwide. It is “easy on the eyes and ears by reducing noise, lighting and other distractions in-store” and has been developed with support of Autism New Zealand.
“The lovely thing about quiet hour is that we have had very positive feedback from so many customers. Our older customers seem to really enjoy quiet hours too, as well as many other Kiwis who actually just find shopping a bit stressful and can now visit at a more peaceful time.”
Reapplying Maslov’s pyramid of needs to the museum visit
The cartoon is a fun expression of the hierarchy of visitors’ needs.
Working on a visitor experience plan for a client, I was thinking about the hierarchy of needs of visitors to cultural organisations. In an audience research project at Tate a few years ago (with the brilliant Dr Bob Cook from firefish), we found that visitors’ needs fall into a hierarchy similar to Maslov’s pyramid of needs. This proved helpful when thinking through the visitor journey and how to improve the visitor experience.
We found that accessibility and comfort needs had to be met before visitors could move to a more transformational level of enjoying the visit with others, learning and inspiration. This made us think about what expectations we set, how we help visitor to navigate the space, how the environment feels and what information we provide – these are all elements of a good foundation that can be a catalyst for a higher experience in the museum.