Tuesday, August 14, 2007

ReVista -- Tourism in the Americas

From the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (Harvard University)

Published in 2002, this free (donations requested) online publication contains some 30 short articles written by well known names among tourism academics. It is sort of a mini-online book. Worth checking out, especially if you are interested in Latin America.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hmmmm ... Lonely Transit Through Guangzhou, China

"Lonely" not in the sense of being sad, but rather being the only one.

This was probably the strangest airport transit/transfer that I have ever done. It worked, but was really different.

It was a strange ticket from the start: PHX (Phoenix) to LAX (Los Angeles) to CAN (Guangzhou, China) to KUL (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), and returning by the same routing. AirTreks.com got me a really good price on China Southern Airlines -- an airline that did not even show up on the major air search engines (though it does carry more passengers than any other airline in China). However, AirTreks was not able to reserve seats for me. They gave me a phone number for China Southern, but that only took me to a pay-per-call directory assistance service. China Southern's website is not very helpful either.

A Chinese colleague at work got me the China Southern phone number in China, which I called using Skype.com. Through their English-speaking operator I was able to reserve seats on all of my flights, except the leg from KUL to CAN.

The inbound flights went well, without any problems. Flying from KUL to CAN on the return, however, was strange. First, they could not check my bags all the way through to LAX. However, since baggage claim is always after immigration, I told them that I did not have a visa for China so I would not be able to pick up my bags there to check them in again. They told me to just go to the Transfer Desk to take care of this, and that the checkin agent's supervisor would call Guangzhou to let them know about my bags.

I was carrying books from China to distribute to contributing authors from our last conference, and that put me 10kg over my checkin limit (which was 20kg). However, I then paid 800 Ringgit (US$235) to upgrade to business, which also increased my checkin weight.

(When I left Guangzhou, I had put the books in my carry-on. However, when you go to the gates, they weigh anything that looks heavy and I had to go back to China Southern and check the books. I first went to a wrapping station when they put packing straps around the books for 10 RMB. Because of that, they did not catch that I had too much weight on that flight.)

So I get to Guangzhou and look for the Transfer Desk. I see a transfer are, but a guard stops me and tells me to go through customs. After customs I see a place to purchase a Chinese visa, so I go there to see if I need to get a visa. The lady asks how long it is between my flights (8 hours) and says that I do not need as visa. So I go up to the immigration counter and tell him that I am in transit. He calls a supervisor over who takes me to the side and has me fill out an Entry Card and a Departure Card.

After some time, a China Southern employee shows up and takes my ticket, passport and baggage claim tags. I tell him that I would like to know the cost of upgrading to business class. He comes back and tells me that business is full (I am not sure if I would have paid the upgrade cost or not). He then goes away and after awhile another China Southern employee shows up and gives me my passport, new boarding pass, and new baggage claim tickets.

I was by myself most of the time, though a group of four Asian girls were also brought over to the side after awhile, though I think for different reasons. Could it really be that Guangzhou's Baiyun International Airport has so few international transit passengers (going from one international flight to another international flight) that they deal with them one-one, like me? It sure seems so.

The China Southern employee takes me through the immigration gate and around the side and back to the gate area. Then she takes me to a room that says "First Class Lounge" -- though I think this is really business class or for transit passengers only. There are a high speed internet computers, food and drinks, soft cushion chairs, and a few power outlets where I can recharge my computer's battery. This is good. I am not in business class, but I am getting to use a business class-like lounge. (You can pay to use a lounge like this in some airports -- but not here in Guangzhou, at least as far as I can tell.)

China remains an enigma. As modern as it is becoming (and both Guangzhou's airport and its urban ladscape are very modern!), some things remain arcane. My trip to Guangzhou this time was to attend a conference that I have been helping to organize for the past eight years -- because the Chinese university is unable to accept credit card registrations from international participants, and my university can. I would have thought that by now that situation would have changed, but it has not. It is just another of the the many thing about China that makes you go hmmmm....

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Why Don't We Blog? University Faculty Blogging about Travel & Tourism

Last Updated: 30 June 2007

I have been somewhat involved, but very interested, in a recent discussion on the podcast, Six Pixels of Separation, on the topic of university faculty blogs.
One of the "complaints" about academia is that it is very conservative and a late adopter of new technology, and in fact discourages faculty members from using new technology, such as social software or social media. A big part of that discussion is trying to figure out how social media would fit into the very traditional approaches to academic review and assessments of productivity. There are several sources that discuss these issues; here are a few:
Despite these discussion, there are a lot of university faculty who are blogging about their disciplinary specialties, research activities, and teaching. These two links provide examples of university faculty blogs
Looking at the web search results, you would think that almost all Law professors are blogging. Public policy faculty would be a distant second. However, the 150 blogs listed on the Professors Who Blog site shows predominance in the Humanities, though many other disciplines are represented, as well.

I have been blogging for almost two years now, prompted by my daughter, and starting with a trip diary. Since then I have started a couple other trip diary blogs, a couple of research and teaching related blogs, and I have had my students blogging in my classes. My podcasts evolved directly from my blogs.


While there are quite a few interesting blogs about tourism and the travel industry, I had not seen any blogs by other tourism academics in the two years that I have bee doing this. In fact, blogging (which is celebrating its 10th year as a word 1997) is almost considered "old technology" is the realm of social software. So one would think that more tourism academics would be doing it.

So prompted by the discussions on Six Pixels of Separation, and with the Spring semester having ended, I sent an email out on 20 May 2007 to several discussion lists that are frequented by tourism professors and graduate students. These lists included Trinet, IGU Tourism Commission, AAG RTS Specialty Group, Tourism Anthropology, and Asia Tourism Research. Accounting for some duplication (people on more than one list), I guestimate that some 1000 people received my query: "Do You Blog?" Here is a summary of the responses that I got.


  • One person told me that she has not blogged, but would like to if she only had the time. (I can certainly identify with that!)
  • Glenn Croy (Monash) told me that Monash University is encouraging their faculty to blog "so as another way to promote our programme, especially to potential students. Encouraged is in the literal meaning, that it is not being forced upon us, though if we are interested this is something
    we can do and our marketing people will support us in this."


  • Fabian Frenzel (Leeds Metropolitan) - Recently started a collaborative blog on the New Economics of Tourism that is based in the Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change at Leeds Metropolitan University.
  • Dimitrios Buhalis (Surrey) - Comments on tourism and his personal academic experiences. Although started in 2005, it has only been in the past month of so that he has been posting more regularly. Not a lot there yet, but show much promise.
  • Two of my (Alan A. Lew, Northern Arizona) own blogs fall under this category
    • Web 2.0 Travel Tools - where I review interesting websites that are transforming the travel experience and tourism industry
    • Tourism Place - where I am posting this blog, and occasionally post tourism things that don't quite fit anywhere else. I originally created this with the intent of making it a collaborative blog. If anyone want to be a contributor to it, let me know.


  • Wes Roehl (Temple) has been experimenting with using a collaborative blog to encourage interaction among the graduate students in his tourism program. All of the grad students in the program were members of the blog and could post to it, though not all of them did. He is currently rethinking how to make it more effective.
  • Bruce Wicks (Illinois, C-U) is currently in Poland with five students study abroad students from the University of Illinois, and looking at tourism. They set up a blog for friends and family to follow their adventure. He said "Frankly I can't imagine anything better than a blog to record a trip. This time we have only some text and pictures but we are also taking video for a YouTube entry when we get back, and in the future will explore audio uploads."
  • I (Alan A. Lew, Northern Arizona) have had students blogging, and recently podcasting, in a couple of the tourism classes that I teach. In one class, each student creates their own personal blog site. In the other class, they work in collaborative blogs.
    For this past semester, these collaborative can be found here:


  • Mike Pesses (California State U, Northridge) presented a paper at the 2007 AAG in San Francisco on authenticity in the bicycle tourism experience, which was based on a content analysis of posting on a bicycle touring blog site. You can hear a recording of his presentation here.
  • Peter Bolan (Ulster), has created a blog to generate discussions around research questions related to movie-based tourism for his Ph.D. research. He has been successful in creating a community and generating a fair amount of reader comments:
  • George F. Roberson (Massachusetts, Amherst) has created a blog site to facilitate his forthcoming Fulbright research in Tangier, Morocco, which will focus on current issues of modernization and cultural transformation of the city. His blog is currently mostly used as a repository for articles and resources.
  • Emma Stewart (Calgary), and her supervisor, Diane Draper, is using a blog to post preliminary research research and solicit feedback on her work with three Arctic Canadian communities. This blog was just launched last week:
    • Churchill - This older site has generated some comments from area residents
    • Cambridge Bay - This new site has not yet generated comments
  • Carmen Cox (Southern Cross) is not a blogger, but is involved in a research/consulting project in NSW, Australia that will look at the impact of user-content generated travel sites (blogs included) on people's travel planning and trip behavior.
  • Chin Ee Ong and Hilary du Cros (Institute for Tourism Studies, Macao) are presenting a paper titled "Almond Biscuit Tasting at St Paul’s Ruins and Camping on Hac-Sa Beach: A Blogspace Study of Mainland Chinese Budget Heritage Tourists in Macao" at the Heritage and Tourism Conference (8-11 July 2007, Guangzhou, China) in which they look at blogs and forums in English and Chinese regarding tourist's and potential tourist's views of Macau.
  • I have heard of FIVE tourism research papers that at based on the analysis of personal travel blogs. Because these blogs are public, they are readily available as primary research data. (Both of the papers that I have heard of are under review for publication, so they cannot be cited here. I will add them if/when they are accepted for publication.)


  • Michael Luck (Auckland UT) recently finished his first travel blog about a trip he tool to Thailand.
  • Daniela Schilcher (University of Otago) keeps a travel blog for family and friends.
  • Pham Hong Long (Vietnam National U, Hanoi) occasionally blogs about his graduate education and personal interests.
  • I (Alan A. Lew, Northern Arizona) also have three travel blogs based on trips that I have made. I tend to continue blogging on those sites, though not regularly, about tourism, my research, and other issues in those destination areas.
    • Golden Triangle Conference and Travels - my first blog in summer 2005. I now update it occasionally with news items from that region.
    • Asia Travels, Tourism and More - originally based trips to Singapore and Thailand, I re-titled this blog to also include my subsequent trips to Malaysia, Nepal and other areas of Asia. The Nepal entries focus on a field research project undertaken their in 2007.
    • Australia Travel Blog - I experimented with two different websites that host travel blogs for this 2006 family trip:


  • Martin Fluker (Victoria, Melbourne) has a blog that supports his travel podcast on the ThePodcasterNetwork (TPN). His podcast is closely related to his teaching activities, and includes interviews with students about their travels and travel-related podcasts created by his students. He has also has some CAUTHE presentations on his show.
    • The Travel Show
    • Martin also had the following comments to make: "The Travel Show site contains blogs and podcasts to do with tourism. I produce the majority of the podcasts, however, my students are invited to submit the podcasts they produce, in subjects I coordinate, to The Travel Show. The latest podcast (#039) if from my students doing BHO3437 Destination Planning and Development. This subject is being run in Australia and Germany and both groups of students are producing podcasts. I use some of the podcasts on The Travel Show, such as the recording of Prof. Sam Ham, as part of the course material in BHO3437. I also use some podcasts, such as #038 as a way to encourage students to become exchange students. One of the benefits I have gained from podcasting is the winning of an Apple scholarship to attend the 2007 World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco."

  • I (Alan A. Lew, Northern Arizona) have a similar blog for my Geography for Travelers podcast. Topics covered include research that I am involved in, lecture material related to my classes, recordings of conference presentations by both me and others, and podcasts by my students.


A few non-academics also responded to my "Do You Blog?" query.

  • Richard Linington told me about the Planning Solutions Blog by the Planning Solutions Consulting Limited (PSCL) -- "specialist research and development company working in the fields of tourism, recreation and leisure." The blog has news about tourism, mostly in the UK, but occasionally beyond, as well.
  • Joe Kelly of the Icarus Foundation in Canada told me of their blog on tourism and climate change - Up In The Air. They discuss news items, as well as approaches to mitigation and adaptation.
  • Rinzing Lama works in the tourism industry in New Delhi, India, and maintains a blog about his homeland of Sikkim - Blog and Travel Journal.


Email Lists are clearly the more common approach to social information sharing and discussion among academics than blogs. They are very different, though, and I am hesitant to put them in the same category as blogs. However, it is possible to use discussion lists postings as a form of collaborative (multiple contributors) blog.

  • An example of this is David Dillard's (Temple) NetGold discussion list on YahooGroups.com. The purpose of NetGold is to share "important, informative and useful Internet and sometimes other resources for learning and improvement of skills." Tourism and hospitality are only a small part of the many topics covered:
  • Related to this is the Dark Tourism Forum, (hosted at Central Lancashire) which is both a website and an email discussion list. The website is used to develop a resources of material that is discussed on the email list. Again, this is sort of like a collaborative blog, but one with a strong moderator/editor role (the person who decides what moved from the open email discussion to the website).

Both of these email lists are more than just email lists (like the ones I posted my "Do You Blog?" query to. But, I do not consider them blogs because they do not fully represent the voice of particular individuals. Even with collaborative blogs, each contributing blogger usually has a distinct and identifiable identity, and each blog entry is treated as an indelible (and searchable) contribution to our world of knowledge and opinion. Email posting are searchable, though depending on the list it can be very difficult to do.


The diversity of blogging among this small group of tourism academics is quite amazing. There are blogs about tourism, blogs by and for students, research related blogs, and personal travel blogs. There may be even more personal blogs that are not related to tourism, but I think those fall beyond the reaches of this survey. While not a formally constructed survey, the small number of responses confirms the my previous anectodal impressions that tourism academics are not blogging.

Why do I blog? Because it is fun. Blogging enables me to communicating with a whole new audience -- a more real world audience beyond the ivory towers of academia. I meet interesting people through the blogs, and I love looking at the little map on some of my blog pages showing where in the world my readers are reading from. It does cut into my research writing, and does not yet contribute to my annual evaluations. That would be a challenge for most younger faculty, unfortunately. One of my blogs did get me an invitation to speak at a travel industry workshop in Seattle, though the timing did not work. In social media terms, blogging (and podcasting) is helping me to develop my "brand." In fact, when I first started blogging, I used a pseudonym. Today, however, I put my name everywhere I can.

Should more tourism academics blog? I think yes. Tourism is an incredibly important sector of the world economy. Yet the study of tourism is shunned as insignificant by most traditional and established disciplines. Perhaps that is why the relatively small number of tourism academics tend to be inward looking and prefer talking to each other rather than the larger world of academia and beyond. I have done, and still do that myself, and there are benefits from it. However, just as teaching helps balance the different intensity of writing and research, blogging helps bring a balance to the cloistered life of academics.

NEW (July 2007): Analysis of blogs for strategy development in tourism

"On Thursday, July 12th 2007, the first worldwide conference for "Blogs in Tourism" took place, for which international experts and numerous participants came to Kitzbühel, Germany. The conference was organised by Krems Research Forschungsgesellschaft mbH, Kitzbühel Tourismus and the Charles Darwin University, Australia and dealt with the analysis of the content of tourism blogs and forums, the understanding of the process of information exchange and the development of industry strategies for handling these virtual communities."

NEW (17Dec 07): Colleges Are Reluctant to Adopt New Publication Venues

...But, report from the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative argues "that in four to five years, academe will accept as scholarship this kind of interactive online material and will develop methods for evaluating it."

NEW (23Jan 08): Tired of 'Science by Press Release'? Try Science by Blog

ResearchBlogging.org, launched yesterday, is essentially a blog aggregator. Blogging academics (or, apparently, laymen interested in peer-reviewed research) register their blogs with the site. Bloggers can flag certain posts they write about peer-reviewed research by inserting a snippet of code. These posts then appear on the main page of the site, replete with proper academic citation.

...This, evidently, is part of the growing effort to ease communication in the research community, à la Big Think.

NEW (28Jan 08): A couple of related journal articles that may be of interest:
  • Hookway, N. (2008) 'Entering the blogosphere': some strategies for using blogs in social research. Qualitative Research, 8(1): 91-113.
  • Lin, Y.S. & Huang, J.Y. (2006). Internet Blogs as a Tourism Marketing Medium: A case study. Journal of Business Research, pp. 1201-1205.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Grand Canyon Skywalk Disappoints Early Visitors

Grand Canyon Skywalk Disappoints Early Visitors

Grand Canyon Skywalk :: Hicks-Wright.net Blog

"I was there in 2nd and 6th this month (April 2007). It's funny how they develop new strategies and rules each day, on Monday it was possible to go to the rim behind, so I guess west of the skywalk, on Friday a security guy was staying there and some self written signs telling no trespass allowed..."

This interesting blog, along with a slew of comments, accounts the disappointing experience that visitors are having at the new Grand Canyon Skywalk.

I have lived in northern Arizona for 20 years now and have been to the Hualapai Reservation a couple of times in that period. They have been trying to develop the Skywalk site for as long as I can remember. Most ventures, which included a casino at one time, have generally failed -- although I was surprised to learn recently that even without the Skywalk they received some 150,000 tourists a year. I believe that much of this is charter bus and air tours from Las Vegas, as they probably have the closest "Grand Canyon experience" to Las Vegas, short of going all the way to the National Park.

The blog post linked above is eye-opening and, unfortunately. not too surprising. The experiences listed by visitors to the Skywalk is fairly similar to my experiences on Indian lands in Arizona over the years, which is that agreements with off-reservations developers are not well thought through, and the attractions are often not ready for prime time.

Hopefully this will change over time, but will they be able to overcome the bad publicity and feelings that these initial experiences are creating? First impressions can have lasting consequences.