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Updated: May 27, 2019 FOCUS: Tourism

CT tourist attractions must focus on ‘personalized experiences’

Q&A talks to Jan L. Jones, a lecturer on hospitality and tourism management at the University of New Haven, about trends reshaping the state’s tourism industry.

Jan L. Jones Lecturer on hospitality and tourism management, University of New Haven

Q. You recently were on a panel discussion at the Connecticut Conference on Tourism in Hartford talking about new trends impacting the state’s tourism industry. What did you focus on?

A. I focused on the need for leisure and tourism stakeholders to collaborate more with each other in the creation of more personalized experiences for guests. In general, travelers are paying more attention to sustainable business practices, expect high-tech experiences, and want more personalization.

Instead of calling a travel agent, younger generations are using social media and the internet to develop their trip itineraries. Therefore, it is extremely important that your content is current, relevant and easy to navigate.

Q. A lot of your focus has been on experienced-based tourism and developing tour packages that include a hands-on experience for tourists. Can you tell us about this and what you recommend?

A. The example I gave during my presentation related to food tourism. While some tourists are still looking for locally sourced, well-crafted meals, others also want to learn about the chef or how to prepare the meal so that they can enjoy it again when they return home.

I gave the example of ‘The Petra Kitchen’ in Jordan where visitors are provided night classes to both learn how to create and to enjoy an authentic local dish. The key is leaving guests with an experience they can recreate when they get home, and a way to stay connected to your business after they leave.

A simple effort like creating a hashtag for visitors to post their recreation at home is a simple way to keep them interacting with your business. In the state of Connecticut, we have several amazing hospitality and culinary programs. Why not partner with a local college to offer some type of experience for your guest to learn how to make one of your favorite local dishes.

Collaborative entertainment and leisure experiences for hotel and restaurant guests are also extremely important to promote. Connecticut has so much to offer in these areas. In my opinion, we should be cross-training staff more to increase awareness of the local arts, culture, entertainment and recreational opportunities available to guests. Consider partnering with your local spas, boat clubs, yoga or karate studios to create a wellness package for your guests. These are just some ways you can create personalized experiences.

Q. How has the tourism industry in Connecticut changed over the last decade?

A. The first year I began teaching recreation, tourism and hospitality in Connecticut, state tourism funding was reduced to $1. It was shocking, and since I was working on the development of a new tourism and hospitality concentration not the best news.

Attending the CT Tourism Conference that year was like attending a funeral. People were in shock. What I did see shortly after that was the incredible resilience of tourism and hospitality stakeholders.

With later administrations, the funding improved for a bit, but research shows in other states that there is still lack of sufficient state funding and support for the industries to truly thrive. Now that we have new leadership I am hopeful that state funding will continue to grow especially knowing that our neighboring states continue to increase their funding.

Q. There is a lot of talk about Connecticut needing to rebrand. What are your thoughts about the state’s “Still Revolutionary” slogan?

A. I think that the CT Office of Tourism does an incredible job with marketing Connecticut with the resources it has. I do not believe we should spend our already limited resources on a completely new rebrand.

I do, however, think that we need to continue to collect data and conduct research about current trends and potential new markets. I would encourage tourism stakeholders to contact their local education programs to conduct their own focus groups.

I am also fairly indifferent about the slogan ‘Still Revolutionary. I have traveled to over 14 different countries and I can’t remember one single slogan from those places. I do, however, remember how easy it was to find unique experiences, how welcoming the people and tourism stakeholders were, the places I stayed and the memorable activities that I participated in.

We need to move beyond the discussion of the slogan and focus on feeding tourists the experiences they want via our marketing efforts.

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