Tourism Scenario Planning is a vital and engaging strategy for DMMOs and their stakeholders that allows for the exploration of a wide variety of destination development options, while working towards designing the best future possible. Here’s how Resonance can help your destination.

By Richard Cutting-Miller

It’s said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

When it comes to cities, regions and countries, that’s exactly what more and more DMMOs (Destination Marketing and Management Organizations) are doing: creating forecasts for the future of tourism a decade or more out.

It’s a timeframe close enough to analyze, but far enough away to invite imagination.

In short, organizations are creating the future—and understanding the dynamics of how their futures will emerge—through Tourism Scenario Planning. And Resonance is helping them.    

Typical planning for the future is often based on a simple extrapolation of the current state and/or an agreed-upon single vision of the future based on current emerging trends, but this doesn’t take into account other ways systems can evolve.

By way of contrast, the outcome of Resonance Consultancy’s Tourism Scenario Planning is a set of plausible potential futures that maps a range of alternatives. The goal is to help DMMOs and their stakeholders identify the most desirable scenario and its associated opportunities, while identifying potential risks that can be mitigated through long-term strategies and action items in tourism master plans, destination development plans and strategic planning processes. A key assumption of this scenario mapping approach is that it explores the future of the industry as a system, with the system being loosely defined “as the way things work in the industry.” This all leads to exploring how that system might change over the next decade or two.

HOW TOURISM VANCOUVER SAW ITS FUTURE

In Resonance Consultancy’s work for Tourism Vancouver, our Tourism Scenario Planning uncovered a previously unnoticed acceleration of downtown office space construction, which presages new tech businesses moving to the city—and a corresponding uptick in the forecast for business travel, a wealthy cohort that can influence future city experiences like dining, shopping and more. Tourism Scenario Planning is helping Tourism Vancouver respond and be ready.

FOUR ARCHETYPES, FOUR FUTURES

To frame the Tourism Scenario Planning exercise, Resonance uses the Scenario Archetype, which is based on the observation that over time, the future tends to unfold into one of four major patterns of change (or a combination thereof).

  • CONTINUATION | The system moves forward along its current trajectory. The present trends continue without any major surprises. This is often referred to as the “official future” and is usually considered most likely among people in the industry. Futurists (including on our team) often joke that “the surprise-free future isn’t.”

  • COLLAPSE | The system falls apart under the weight of “negative” driving forces. This is not necessarily a complete breakdown or chaos, but rather that the system is unable to effectively meet challenges, and there is stagnation or decline.

  • NEW EQUILIBRIUM | The system reaches a balance among competing forces that is significantly different from the current balance. There is a significant challenge to the existing system and it responds by trying to “save itself.” Some compromises and interventions are made to preserve the structure of the existing system.

  • TRANSFORMATION | The system is discarded in favor of a new one with a new set of rules. This is relatively rare, as most people, organizations, and systems would prefer to keep things the way they are, unless it is absolutely necessary to change. This would represent the most different future, as the rules of the game are changed.

Resonance Consultancy's Tourism Scenario Planning encourages hands-on participation by destination stakeholders. PHOTO: Brandon Thomas

Resonance Consultancy’s Tourism Scenario Planning encourages hands-on participation by destination stakeholders. PHOTO: Brandon Thomas

FROM STAKEHOLDERS TO SCENARIOS

The Tourism Scenario Planning process starts with in-depth tourism stakeholder interviews to identify key demand and supply drivers. Demand drivers are economic and consumer factors that are (or will be) shaping the global, national, regional and local tourism industry. Supply drivers are infrastructure, tourism assets and experiential capacity factors that are (or will be) shaping the industry.

In Vancouver, our interviewees ranged from hoteliers to city planning officials.

We then partnered with Tourism Economics to conduct an economic analysis of the destination’s tourism performance to date, and then forecast the potential effects of several of the key demand- and supply-side drivers identified in the stakeholder interviews. Our collaboration surfaced many conclusions, key among them that limited downtown hotel development was the one factor that would have a significant downside impact on the growth in the numbers and types of visitors that would come to the city.

We then combined the demand- and supply-side drivers with the economic analysis and forecasting in a stakeholder workshop exercise in order to create a series of scenario planning “vignettes” that describe how these factors might be combined to change the destination’s…

• visitor of the future
• tourism experience
• brand / positioning / marketing
• DMMO marketing and management

Post-workshop, Resonance drafted four future scenarios—narratives that are a combination of the research and the workshop vignettes—that paint four alternative pictures of the destination. From there, the scenarios are used to identify key risks, opportunities, recommendations, strategies and action items that the DMMO can use to develop their Tourism Master Plan, Destination Development Plan or Strategic Plan for the organization. By seeing the future as many and not just one, Tourism Vancouver will be better prepared to face a range of potential futures and proactively address some of the key issues identified in the process rather than just react to them after the fact.

A FIRM STEP INTO THE FUTURE

For DMMOs and their stakeholders in destinations beginning to explore their future, Tourism Scenario Planning is a vital and engaging exercise. It allows you to explore a wide variety of destination development options that may arise naturally, organically or by design as the future unfolds. Most importantly, they serve to get the ball rolling and open the discussion about what the destination could be or should be in the future, which can then lead to the creation of a Tourism Master Plan or Destination Management Strategy to help realize the future that stakeholders would most like to see.

To learn more about how Resonance Consultancy can help you understand and plan for the future, please contact me at at rrcm@resonanceco.com