Opinion | Wednesday, 09 September 2009

Planning Our Semiotics Well in Tourism

Julian Zarb discusses the theme for a forthcoming workshop organised by the Malta Tourism Society which focuses on attractions and their sustainability and authenticity.

The process of branding any destination or country depends on what, today, we would term the “wow” factor; this means that there has to be that authentic and unique Piece de Resistance which one could proudly term the truly national symbol of the nation – that something or some place or someone which no other nation can possess. The question of attractions goes back to the days of the opulent traveller, the Grand Tourist and the Victorian visitor. Today this study is termed the semiotics of tourism and it is interesting to understand just why we consider certain attractions but ignore others.
What is it that attracts the visitor to any destination? What is an integral and important element of any tourism product? How do marketeers create a brand for any destination? The answer to these three questions must point to the issue of how much these destinations prove to be worthwile experiences to the visitor, that is, how much the perception of the destination actually matches the experience. Visitors are drawn to any destination through its history, culture, geographical aspects or even its traditional or folkoristic activities – altogether these features form the basis for a varied and interesting list of attractions, a reason why tourists will want to come to a destination, possibly once or more times.
Attractions have always been the principal motivator for inducing travellers to a destination. During the 16th and 17th Centuries the Grand Tourist was drawn by a strong desire to experience the mystic beauty of the orient or the elegant charm of the moorish architecture. By the beginning of the twentieth century, developments in new methods of travel meant that the same attractions could be experienced by a wider, albeit, exclusive visitor. It was not until the post war years of the 1950s and 1960s that travel became a popular and mass activity – but by now the main attraction was the sun, sea and sand of the Meditteranenean islands or the Southern European Coastal Towns. Today, with the introduction of cheaper ways of travel, internet bookings and more free time, the visitor can choose from a global list of destinations. This means that the more mature destinations of Europe and the Mediteranean need to regenerate their attractiveness, they need to create new reasons why the visitor should want to return to the traditional “Playground of Europe”. Malta and Gozo have been presenting the same itinerary and product base to visitors for, at least, forty years and by studying the best practices experienced through case studies at this year’s EUTO Study Visit in Nottingham and London the Malta Tourism Society hopes to produce an action plan for adapting practical ways of implementing these regeneration policies for attractions and creating a sense of “living history” that should prove more interesting than the rather “flat” static attractions we are more accustomed to on these islands.
This discussion will take shape on 24 September from 7.30 pm, after the Annual General Meeting of the Malta Tourism Society at the Preluna Hotel in Sliema. The theme was influenced by the report prepared by the Society’s four delegates to the European Union of Tourism Officers (EUTO) Study visit in 2008 in Nottingham and London and the event will include four workshops, each led by an experienced facilitator. The final statement will include recommendations and proposals that will be delivered to Government and the Authorities. Those who wish to participate in the discussion on the Regeneration of Attractions for a more Sustainable Tourism Activity, should contact the Malta Tourism Society on 99440034 or send an email to Places are limited, so reservations will be made on a first come first served basis. A networking reception will follow the workshop.


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09 September 2009


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