“Only once you have a vision for yourself and your business can you truly start to think about how best to serve your visitor.”
Businesses are meant to create community, support society, and build economy. For entrepreneurs, they’re also meant to let you live your dreams. Tourism is advancing at pace and visitor needs and wants are more clearly understood and articulated than ever. There is great emphasis on creating strong experiences for visitors, on connecting emotionally with visitors, on making memories for them. There is also increasingly greater emphasis on the care of our natural and cultural assets. As Overtourism becomes a real thing, there’s also a lot of discussion on the care of host communities and neighbourhoods.
At the very core of this industry though is the tourism business and it’s equally important to consider the business of tourism and the experience of being in the tourism business. It can be a challenging domain, not least because of the expectation of the tourism business to be not just a good enterprise, but also a good servant to the visitor, a good citizen to the community and a good guardian of the natural and cultural assets.
Tourism is indeed a challenging industry to be in. I hear this all the time from the owners of small and large tourism enterprises that I meet in my day-to-day work. Do any of these sound familiar? You’re so busy looking after your visitors that you’ve lost sight of the life and business you wanted? That art, craft, skill or activity that you were once so passionate about has lost its appeal as you peddle it for visitor pleasure? The hectic pressures of the high season and the deflating inactivity of the low season make it hard to keep a steady motivation – there’s either too many tourists or too few…?
Here’s a thought. Your tourism business should first serve you, then your visitor. Yes, you first and only then your visitor. And this is where I believe that building a vision for your tourism business can be very beneficial.
Over the past couple of years, I myself have embarked on a journey of self-discovery and personal development. I discovered the power of visioning along the way and with the help of professional coaching, I worked on creating a long-term vision for my own life and work based on the West Coast of Ireland. I’m now a major advocate of the visioning process and strive to create a vision for every project I’m involved in, large or small.
So what is it? Put simply, Visioning is the process of getting clear on the future you dream of for yourself and your tourism business. It’s about tuning in to yourself and arriving at a point of clarity about your future. The Visioning Process should result in a written Vision Statement. This concept is often used interchangeably with concepts such as Mission Statement or Strategic Plan. However, they are three very distinct things, and the best description I’ve found of the difference between them comes from Ari Weinzweig in his highly readable essay “The Power of Visioning”:
Mission Statement: akin to the North Star, a never-ending piece of work that we commit to going after for life
Strategic Plan: the map of where we want to go
Vision Statement: the actual destination – a vivid description of what “Success” looks and feels like for us
A Vision Statement is a detailed description of what it’s like when you get to the future you dream of. It’s your point of arrival at a specific time in the future, described in rich sensory detail and written as if you are already there. It’s not in any way ‘fluffy’ – it’s solid, tangible, detailed and in writing.
In the midst of all else you have to do, what’s the value of spending time on this? Well, when you have clarity, true clarity, on where exactly you want to get to, you can figure out an effective roadmap to get you there. Getting yourself clear on a positive future and purpose for your tourism business allows you to make better decisions and to focus on the things that really matter to you. It allows you to avoid getting distracted by things that don’t - you will be surprised at how easily you can eliminate things that don’t serve you and move towards those things that do. A clear vision puts you back in the driving seat.
Here’s some ideas to get started. Firstly, find the answers to some questions about yourself:
Secondly, once you’ve a good sense of yourself in this business, cast yourself forwards to that point of success in the future. Articulate the answers to the following questions about the business you dream of building:
The process may take a few days or even a few weeks. You may have team members who can get involved. Take the time to write down your answers, draft and re-draft them, review, share and finalise. If your answers are rich in detail, you will be able to actually see and feel a positive future. When you refer back to your Vision Statement, you will be inspired and excited, motivated and energised. Since you wrote it, you know you have it in you to achieve it! While your day-to-day work may sometimes be mundane, your vision will never be!
Tuning into your vision allows you to practice tourism from the heart. Once you have clarity of vision, you can create life and business choices around that vision – you can make it happen!