It’s a Cool Place, but Don’t Tell Anyone!

by Renard Teipelke

Traveling to new destinations is one of human mankind’s greatest experiences. You have two options with respect to a destination’s standing: you can either decide for the well-known, established one or you can try out the relatively unknown insider’s tip.* Taking two cities as examples: you can pick London or Bristol. If we think about a possible travel destination, we can agree that you probably can only decide to go there if you have heard about it in the first place – a fact much more unlikely for an insider’s tip. However, it can exactly be this little recognition that makes these places so interesting to actually find out more about them by visiting.

In the last couple of years, marketing for ‘alternative’ travel destinations has become more salient in the media. One might think that people became bored by London, Tokyo, and New York or the Alps, the Mediterranean Sea, and Hawaii. Thus, we could witness the growing importance of places like Buenos Aires, Reykjavik, or Tel Aviv. Some of these new stars have even become more interesting with the global inflow of visitors and their ideas and styles. Other places have lost their reputation that highly depended on their local character because of McDonald’s franchises, five-star hotels, and crowds of international tourists. I am sure every reader can think about such an example from their immediate vicinity.

I would identify two important factors for these ‘alternative’ places that do depend on their special character and atmosphere. The first factor is the web salience** of a place. In our times of omnipresent World Wide Web resources, it is the information you can find on the internet that will make the difference. And at this point, I would suggest that it is a probable death knell to a place’s unknown uniqueness when it is explicitly presented on the first page of the Lonely Planet Website or in the corresponding country book.*** While having been a rather alternative source of information, Lonely Planet is increasingly at the very fore of travel guides. If you are living not too far away from a somehow relevant travel destination (city, beach, mountain etc.), you can check out your personal insider’s tip for this place (bar, park, club, vista point etc.) – if it pops up high on the Lonely Planet list, you might have to share your favorite place with more guests in the near future. And if many people from all over the world have started “liking” it on Facebook, locals might have already lost this place.

The other important factor here is the transportation infrastructure of a place. Once people have found out about a destination, it is more likely that they go there if it is relatively easy to get there. On the one hand, most regions depend on a good interconnection with other places. But a ‘dangerous’ development could start with a cheap airline hub. While it can initially help to bring in like-minded creative people to these ‘alternative’ places, it might gradually be the doorway for thousands of so-called ‘Easyjet Setters’ that are going to hurt the local atmosphere by just being there. Strategically, a connection to the next national or international hub by a regional train line is still a very good compromise for a place that is both shielded from mass tourism and accessible by public transit.

If we take the example of Europe, we can understand how some places have already become major travel destinations and lost their reputation to other places as being cool, alternative, or hip. What has happened to Barcelona, Amsterdam, Nice, Berlin, Ibiza, Rimini, and Antalya? Without any doubt, their individual development over the past years had an economic impact that needs to be further analyzed. But hardly anyone would recommend these destinations as an insider’s tip any longer. If I look at the destinations my acquaintances traveled to this summer, I have a different list of (still) ‘alternative’ places: Iceland, the Baltic States, Slovenia, Kosovo, and Moldova. But Lonely Planet (i.e. its users) and airlines are working on it. (cf. ***)

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* One example for an insider’s tip in Southern California: Black’s Beach

Though the northern part of Black’s Beach is one of the few nude beaches in the US and thus well known in the respective community, this 7 kilometer-long natural beach is (beyond Southern California) an insider’s tip for which no information can be found on the websites listed below.*** Compare two Southern Californian beaches: the world-famous Santa Monica Beach (Los Angeles area) and Black’s Beach (San Diego area).

 

** the term salience is mostly used in (political) communication studies and describes the presence, recognition,  distinctiveness, or prominence of something. More information can be found here.

*** for websites with similar categories, check out:

The New York Times Travel – The 41 Places to Go in 2011

Travel and Leisure – Hottest Travel Destinations of 2011

CNN Travel – World’s top destinations for 2011

National Geographic – 20 Best Trips of 2011

Lonely Planet – Lonely Planet’s top 10 countries for 2011

Lonely Planet – Lonely Planet’s top 10 cities for 2011

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6 Responses to It’s a Cool Place, but Don’t Tell Anyone!

  1. Bela says:

    i’m not usually that snarky, but you put a lot of stress on “man” by saying “human mankind” – what’s with that?^^
    also, you should definitely add Albania to the list of alternative places aquaintances have travelled to!

    I think of the effects you describe as the globalisation of tourism. same benefits, same problems… same cancerlike inevitability. it’ll just keep spreading, nothing we can do about that. So I just try to get into niche places first. 🙂

    • Ares says:

      There is no inevitability in social phenomena. They are the product of practices, institutions etc. and they can be influenced. Whether there is a will (or a need) to do so is a totally different issue.

      • I think this is especially interesting with regard to the advertising for a ‘new’ style of traveling to less famous destinations – if accompanied with a sensitive presentation/experience of the region, more and more travelers might develop a sense for (their) special places that need to be treated differently. I would even say that the experience of Germans with Mallorca has partly changed their lust for Ballermann into an interest for e.g. Southern France, different Mediterranean islands, etc. This is not to say that they have stopped to invade Mallorca every year – but the times where it was the seemingly 17th state of Germany are probably over. Now that more (German) families can afford vacation in many different parts of Europe (and the world), they do not depend any longer on the few cheap options they had in the 1990s with (some parts of) Mallorca & Co.

      • But as usual: it is a long way to go…

      • Bela says:

        ares, i see your point. but … isn’t there inevitability in cancer? in the flow of a river? in a nation’s rise and decline?
        i did not mean the inevitability of gravity. i meant the inevitability of the apple falling.
        if you say this is hair-splitting, i totally agree with you. nevertheless.

  2. Ok, I’ll go with humankind instead 🙂

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