“The search for meaning corresponds to an intimate impulse that translates into a predilection for more authentic and genuine experiences, a more relaxed sociability, a preference for creative activities and a search for contexts that promote the manifestation of spirituality.”
It is with these words that in the reflection “Small scale tourism for more meaningful experiences”, Francisco Dias, professor and Researcher in Tourism at the Polytechnic of Leiria and Director of ART & TUR, concludes an analysis made regarding the transformation of the tourism sector at the moment Covid-19 powders the world. As a co-researcher of CREATOUR (Creative Tourism Network of Portugal), a research project by Nancy Duxbury’s PhD, developed in parallel with 4 Universities throughout Portugal, I am pleased to say that Francisco Dias’s words are a common desire. I hope for a miraculous social transformation, which, like Fenix, appears with a new spiritual impetus that changes the way people see, interpret and consume destinations, experiences and tourist products in a future after Covid-19.
The social disconnection that we have been experiencing for almost a year, causes a regression in the individuals’ capacity for expression and sensory perception, due to the continued isolation and the absence of new stimuli. The sporadic reunion with long-confined individuals is an experience somewhat different from the usual, conveying a need to adapt to the environment and the way we relate, in the eyes, in the speech, and in the absence of the kiss, the embrace and the touch.
Creative tourism, being the result of eminently sensory experiences that appeal to the five senses plus intuition, is the contrast that may bring some balance to this global social hangover. The opportunity to position the experience and the experience of nano-tourism products and social and human relations one-on-one allows the possibility of a positioning and sustainable management of micro-businesses, young people, families and small entrepreneurs who in their local context develop their professional activities.
From gastronomy, ceramics, illustration, painting, drawing, sensory walks or even birdwatching, these activities in which the relationship between individuals presupposes learning, can be the answer to this post-covid-19 paradigm hangover which will allow greater environmental, social and economic sustainability for each community.
In the example of the city of Caldas da Rainha, UNESCO’s creative city in Crafts and Folk Arts, the social dynamics of the experience is manifested in the daily life of the community through the regular workshops in ceramics, illustration, theatre, puppets, painting, drawing, among others, that in the geographical scope of a 30 thousand inhabitants provincial city, sustainably supports the sporadic existence of these initiatives that are organized by the local creative community. It is a city of arts and culture, long associated with the existence of the oldest Thermal Hospital in the world. However creative tourism, a product of the experience sector as a means of cultural communication, presupposes a significant time investment from the tourist, as well as a distinct sensitivity to the valorisation of artistic experiences conveyed by the learning of know-how.
Successful cases in this analysis are the strategy of VisaBeira, a company that manages the oldest and largest Portuguese ceramics companies such as Vista Alegre, SPAL and Bordallo Pinheiro, which have recently been recovered to leverage its manufacturing tradition and transforming it into a tourist product, namely 5-star hotels in places, not traditionally sought after by tourists. The case of Montebelo Vista Alegre, near Aveiro in Portugal, is one of those success stories.
It is important to reflect on how worldwide micro and small businesses, some family-owned, will be able to, in this context of social recovery and paradigm shift, have the ability to communicate with a new tourist who may want new services and experiences that until now were aimed at small niches.
It remains to be seen whether ‘Google Babylon’ will allow for the sustainability of the families of artisans and micro-businesses that make creativity their livelihoods.
Will tourism allow the leveraging of new tourist experiences business? Will cities prioritize consumption time over time consumption? Will these moments of silence bring us new answers if we ask new questions?
This article was originally published in Moondo.