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How Cultural Concepts & Movements Drive Tourism

I sat down in the waiting room of my salon last week and saw a worn linen book sitting on the table. It was called ‘Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life’. And as a recovering perfectionist with a low-key obsession with the Japanese culture, I couldn’t help but laugh. Lately I’ve been saving post after post on Instagram highlighting experiences & activities in Japan for my eventual trip there.

Beautiful places like Japan are often at the top of traveler’s bucket lists, but high-value travelers choose destinations and experiences not just for the beauty, but also the way of life and the values that culture embodies. ​Japan’s Wabi Sabi,​ ​Denmark’s Hygge​, ​Costa Rica’s Pura Vida​ before you even visit these destinations, you can get a feel for the promise that each place holds within it.

When we deeply connect with another culture’s freeing philosophies, we often do what we can to adopt some of the key practices in our daily life. We begin to change the way our inner and outer environments feel in accordance with what we love about these cultures. It begins to shape our home, our rituals, the way we connect, what we consume, and so much more.

But a book is a poor substitute for experiencing the real thing, as the majority of us have come to learn. And while recreating some Hygge rituals at home can bring us comfort, there’s nothing quite like experiencing it firsthand in Denmark. And with #Hygge having over 9 million tags on Instagram, we have no doubt that it is a serious driver of tourism.

As travelers, when we dream of visiting a place, we begin to create our own story of that destination based on what we’ve seen or read about it. The more emotionally connected we feel to the culture, the more enriching the experience becomes when we finally arrive. The culture is no longer just a stranger, but a good friend.

Whether or not you (as operator or host) are in a destination that has a special cultural concept or something similar, it doesn’t matter. You have the power to create a sentiment for your experience that has the same impact. You get to teach your guests all the wonderful ‘ways of being’ that you wish to share. And you don’t even have to give it a name or a label if you don’t want to - actions speak louder than words. (But a name could be fun...)

A cultural movement can begin anywhere, anytime, with just one person on a mission to share it with the world. When it resonates with people, it can spread like wildfire. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just built on values and virtues that people are drawn to. But most importantly, it should be actionable. Because people are traveling to experience something special about your culture’s unique way of life that is likely different from their own.

A cozy moment at Storfjord Hotel

When life is feeling complicated and overwhelming, we might gravitate towards the beaches of Costa Rica for a little pure living. When we’re feeling alone and drab, we might feel called to visit Denmark for a little warmth and cozy connection. Or in the case of Japan’s notion of Wabi Sabi, as the author of this book puts it, wabi sabi gives you permission to be yourself. And who wouldn’t love to visit a place that embodies those sentiments?

It's time to start focusing on the feeling and way of being that your experiences and properties promise to guests. Here are some questions to explore with your team:

  • What is it about your culture that you absolutely love and feel like travelers need to embrace?

  • What does your experience give people permission for?

  • How do you empower them to embrace this 'way of being' with you in your experience?

  • What would a movement around this idea look, sound, and feel like?

If you're unsure, you can use our Reverie tool, where we help you navigate powerful themes that are worth exploring as a jumping-off point. Look to your own culture, look to your own values & beliefs, look to what your guests need most, and then let this idea be the driving force behind everything you do. Package it up in a compelling concept that people enjoy during their travels but also have the ability to take home with them!

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