Co-creation in the participatory era
What do Airbnb, TripAdvisor and hashtags have in common? They are all symbols of a new collaborative, participatory, interactive economic paradigm that is redefining the value of a tourist experience.
At the dawn of this renaissance, the competitive environment of tourism is being redefined by new models of consumption and production. Collective intelligence is now considered an abundant precious resource that must be exploited if one is to remain competitive. Organizations that use co-creation (similar to crowdsourcing) are ahead of the curve because they are identifying consumer expectations and getting innovative ideas from their community.
The dynamic duo behind meaningful experiences
Today’s connected tourists are ideally positioned to actively influence service providers, at every stage of their visit. In this new context, businesses must listen closely to their customers if they want to satisfy them, a task made easier by the emergence of social media. Impressing travellers requires adopting an approach that artfully combines the following two elements:
- Technology to enhance the organization’s processes and products while facilitating interactions among the various stakeholders
- Co-creation to empower consumers to design their own tourist experiences by contributing ideas about a product or service, discussing with others, personalizing the products they are offered, etc.
Examples from the hotel industry
Crowdsourcing is gradually entering the hospitality sector and radically changing design and marketing practices. Given the phenomenal rise of Airbnb and fierce competition from online intermediaries, hotels are now building on this trend to enhance their brand reputations, attract Millennials and discover user-generated content that can help them better communicate with their clientele.
For its future Val Thorens ski resort in France, Club Med adopted a crowdsourcing approach and encouraged public feedback on the concept. Using a participatory application designed for Facebook, Club Med fans voted each week on the elements they wanted to see in the resort, such as the name, logo, design and even the activities offered.
Democratizing real estate investment, architecture and urban design is the mission of the Prodigy Network. 17John, its New York City extended-stay hotel project aimed at business travellers, will incorporate innovative ideas generated by a crowdsourced campaign involving architects, designers and other creative professionals (see video). The organization used the competition to help it redefine the building’s spaces so as to create more collaborative, communal and connected ways of working and meeting.
Marriott Hotels’ Travel Brilliantly initiative is in its second year. This dedicated Website invites guests to share innovative hotel ideas in the following six categories: technology, culinary, work and play, wellness, design and style, and other. Though the concept was initially aimed only at US consumers, this year’s edition also includes those in the UK. According to a Marriott executive: “There is no creation anymore except co-creation. To build any idea in a vacuum is more of a risk than building it with the insight of your guests and your associates.”
Initiatives targeting local populations
Residents can be a source of many innovative ideas and play a key role in developing and implementing new strategies and campaigns. Co-creation makes it possible to develop tourist experiences that are more beneficial to host communities while also satisfying visitors’ desire for authenticity.
Museums and co-creation
Given that the average museum-goer now wants to “do” rather than simply “view,” many museums have adopted a more participatory approach. These establishments are rethinking their role as the sole authority for determining which stories should be told and are instead working with the community to co-create stories.
For example, in October 2013, the Chicago History Museum asked the public to determine the theme of a future exhibit. The city’s residents were then invited to vote for their favourite on Facebook.
Tourism becomes a force for change
Travel2change , a non-profit organization, wants to foster social innovation by inviting local populations to propose unique activities that visitors could find rewarding. The best suggestions are then passed on to travellers interested in responsible travel. The digital platform provides a meeting space for tourists and locals who want to get together to support a cause.
“Open source” festivals
The interdisciplinary SPARKcon festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, is billed as a “creative potluck” that showcases the local artistic community. In addition to enjoying an opportunity to present their artistic efforts, participants can help plan, program and organize the event.
Along similar lines, the Helsinki Festival in Finland invites the public to be part of the event’s creative process, thus highlighting local talent.
Artists redraw national parks
To mark its centenary, the National Parks Conservation Association, in cooperation with the Creative Action Network, launched the See America crowdsourcing campaign. Artists and designers were invited to create a collection of posters celebrating these heritage sites. The initiative uses collective creativity to showcase this precious resource and encourage the public to visit the parks.
Increased competition due to the burgeoning number of alternative products is forcing businesses to rethink how they do things and reinvent how they relate to consumers. Having understood the new rules of the game, tourism-based organizations that do more to encourage the participation and commitment of their customers and stakeholders will increase their chances of success. What can you co-create?
Article written as part of a partnership with Tourisme Montréal on cultural tourism
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