Musings on cultural organisations and tourism

I was recently at the Intercom Museum, Tourism Visitor Experience conference in Rotorua, New Zealand where a great program of events challenged some notions regarding the links between the cultural sector and tourism industries. I was particularly taken by Dame Cheryll Sotheran’s keynote ‘The designation museum’ and national brand. Dame Cheryll is the Director of the creative and tourism sectors for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. She led the development of a creative industries strategy in NZ and is responsible for the successful Better by Design program which promotes design integration for New Zealand businesses.

Dame Cheryll’s speech was underpinned by the convergence between cultural and economic industries and a holistic understanding of economic, social and cultural value. Here are some of the key points she made:

Economic development can be an incentive towards innovation and value-driven solutions
In a globalised world, economic development has new challenges and characteristics
– Decline in dominance of western economies
– Rise of new Asian economies
– New kinds of value and pluralism around cultural and social as well as economies
– Shift from production to consumption / market driven or value driven economies
– Value oriented consumption

This contributes to economic trends driven by consumer concepts and values, authenticity, climate change, sustainability. Additionally, there is a demand for immersive experiences, a breakdown of silos, and the new challenges of hyper-reality.

In this complex environment, Cultural organisations need to develop more nuanced response to experience economies. There is a big shift in the way experience is delivered – Innovation driven production is now occurring within increasingly converging markets such as sustainability , lifestyle etc. This is driven by innovation and niche-market design. It is culturally driven and is a point of difference

Cultural Organisations can led in this environment by – protecting, promoting, maintaining cultural difference. At the same time, there is a potential new role for design in this experience environment:
– Increasing design-driven innovation through
– Content ownership/ experience based industries
– Consolidating and looking at innovation in that market
– Value-based and driven solutions
– New practices based on collaboration

The next part of the speech centred on cultural organisations and tourism suggesting
– Experience and stories create value-driven demand
– Value-added memorable experiences can be combined with service industry
– Meta-narratives should be delivered with technical innovation and service excellence
– Integrity and authenticity, memorable approach

In terms of convergent experiences, she suggested that the following were areas of growth
Urban regeneration
National branding
Cultural value and distinctiveness
Destination branding
Non-collection institutions

Some of the tensions in this field include:
Local vs global
Collections vs content
Authenticity and authority vs market-driven experiences
Object vs hyper-reality

Cultural organisations can not dismiss these tensions but rather intelligently analyse experience and narrative to engage with a technically demanding audience.

Next steps?
Explore new approaches
Increased understanding of how playing an active role is an incentive
Understand value-based solutions
Leadership opportunities – new partnerships
Recognising the distinctive offering, value, heritage and narrative driven

Towards the end of the presentation Dame Cheryll discussed new forms of collaboration based on – scarce resources, scale, strong brands or consumer services. She suggested that cultural organisations had the potential to create powerful resource sharing to identify meta-narratives which link new partners together to offer value-driven solutions and experiences.

I’m going to spend a bit of time thinking about this important last point. My next posts will be speculations of what these partnerships might look like!

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This blog examines social media, cultural institutions and digital participation. It's based on the research projects Engaging with Social Media in Museums and New Literacy, New Audiences. Regular contributors are Angelina Russo, Lynda Kelly and Seb Chan

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