Ideas from outsiders are the bridge to tourism growth: 2019 TiCSA Conference

The Da Vinci bridge - a symbol of how to achieve tourism growth threw radical innovation. From the TiCSA 2019 conference. Image: Lourakis CC BY-SA 3.0

How does Leonardo da Vinci's radical bridge design from 1502 relate to tourism growth in 2019?

Businessman and co-founder of Virgin Australia Airlines, Brett Godfrey, drew the "tenuous link" at yesterday's TiCSA Tourism Industry Council South Australia conference at the Adelaide Oval.

He relayed the story of the great artist responding to a call from Constantinople's Sultan Bayezid II, for a bridge design that could span across "The Golden Horn" aka Haliç, which is a major urban waterway and the primary inlet of the Bosphorus river in Istanbul, Turkey.

Da Vinci's ideas were ridiculed because his ideas did not conform with conventional bridge building customs of the day.

These plans were then lost until 1952 and ultimately made real in Norway where a pedestrian bridge was completed in 2001.

Insular thinking won't help us achieve tourism growth

Brett Godfrey with TiCSA board member, Michelle Hocking

Brett Godfrey's point to tourism operators and planners was that it takes "outsider" thinking to shake things up and develop new ways of addressing problems.

"Radical innovation happens at the intersection of disciplines," he said.

He outlined how he used that approach while building Virgin Blue from the ground up, hiring different types of people to bring a fresh approach to air travel conventions.

"We recruited for attitude and trained for experience," he noted.

As someone who has a background in theatre, improvised theatre, comedy, and journalism, I have found my "weird" background has helped me look at marketing problems in a different way and Brett Godfrey is suggesting that the same is true in tourism.

He also highlighted the comfort zones that can evolve around us while things are okay, possibly holding us back from achieving tourism growth.

According to Brett, when we build habits around the quarterly release of visitor stats and we make them a key focus of our attention, we risk getting trapped in insular thinking and missing changes and opportunities happening outside our blinkered fields of vision.

The question we must ponder is, are we willing to risk exposing what we do to an outsider and are we prepared to take their "silly" questions seriously?

It would seem that operators and tourism development boffins who answer in the affirmative at the ones with a greater likelihood of rosier futures.

It's the little things that keep you "talked about" in tourism marketing

Rick Edmonds from The Frames Paringa at the TiCSA 2019 tourism conference

Brett's presentation was followed by Rick Edmonds from The Riverland who has created The Frames and the Emaroo Cottages "empire" with his wife, Cathy.

The Edmonds are a great example of "outsider" vision being able to shake things up and achieve tourism growth.

Rick related how they came across a property in Broken Hill for sale that had been prepared to be a Bed & Breakfast, but had been put on the market due to issues affecting the developers. They took the plunge and diversified from being fruit growers.

From the outset, Cathy was keen to make sure this first cottage, and all the others since developed, have over delivered with items that make a holiday stay enjoyable and comfortable, and this care and attention to detail is what the market had not been fully committed to.

This "fresh" approach has served them well, leading to great visitor feedback and multiple tourism awards.

And in a master stroke, the Edmonds have always provided dehydrated oranges (from their property) dipped in chocolate as little gifts for visitors and promotion items for travel agents and other influencers.

And guess what?

This simple, unique item gets talked about, and we all know there is one things worse than being talked about and that's NOT being talked about!

In their latest venture, The Frames and Paringa, they have excelled again, by taking a fresh look at what 5-star accommodation means and the future has a lot more "being talked about" in store, I am sure.

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