Discovering Authenticity

Getting to the heart of places that matter.

Supporting Fuzzy Dates, Approximations, and Uncertainties in Arches

When working with heritage inventories, historic archives, and archaeological site records, dates are some of the most important pieces of information that we manage. However, we often deal with instances in which our temporal data are “fuzzy”—sometimes we only have precision down to a month, a year, maybe even a century—sometimes we only have approximations or are uncertain about the information we do have on hand.

Some dates are difficult to decipher. Photo: National Museum of American History, "American Enterprise" Exhibition (2015)

Some dates are difficult to decipher. Photo: National Museum of American History, “American Enterprise” Exhibition (2015)

Computer systems such as databases typically don’t like fuzzy dates—they assume a level of certainty and precision that historic data are hard-pressed to match. But given a blank form field, humans aren’t very good at entering fuzzy date information in a consistent manner. The US Library of Congress has recognized these challenges and has drafted an extension to the ISO 8601 date standard they call the Extended Date/Time Format (EDTF).

Arches, an open source heritage inventory system, developed by the Getty Conservation Institute and the World Monuments Fund, is the first of its kind (and its class) at providing a standards-based inventory system specifically designed from the ground up for built heritage resources.

While learning how Arches works and testing it out in house, we found that adding EDTF support to Arches date fields would possibly benefit users who need to manage a wider range of dates in their inventory system: dates such as “about 1800” or date ranges such as “1934 – present”.

And because Arches is an open source system, we were able to seize the opportunity to develop the feature and contribute it to the growing Arches community!

You can access our more detailed documentation and download the code at our Github. And we welcome further contributions and issue reports there!


Why Heritage Inventories Get No Respect

I have to admit that not too long ago I thought heritage inventories were about the most boring subject in the world. Long lists of of geographical coordinates…artifact drawings and state of conservation reports…highly technical terminology…close-up photos of stratigraphic layers, cracked foundations and water stains…

Rodney and Inventories

Rodney Dangerfield could have spoken on behalf of traditional heritage inventories. But things could change…

Coming from the field of public heritage interpretation, I’ve always preferred the sizzle to the steak. I’m not saying that the particular cut of steak—and its physical condition—are less important than the presentation. I’ve also always known that SOMEBODY had to do the listing and documentation. But the very concept of archaeological and architectural inventories summoned up visions of some patient and sometimes put-upon staff member tediously glueing field photos to printed inventory forms or squinting for hours at the rows of an excel spreadsheet or typing inventory data—item by item—into the fields of a conventional database.

That all changed a couple of years ago when my firm Coherit started to work on a regional cultural initiative for the Organization of American States. There was considerable uncertainty about the extent and even existence of heritage inventories among public sector respondents in many of the fourteen participating member states.

Now just imagine if a town, city, or region had no Registry of Deeds, no assessor’s database, no Registry of Vital Statistics. Taxes would go unpaid. People would disappear or never be acknowledged. Property would be claimed (and lost!) without legal means of recourse. No one would know—except by word of mouth—who, what, and where important things were kept. The rich and powerful could shape the landscape to their whims and the community as a whole would have no lasting collective memory.

When it comes to heritage inventories, that’s exactly the situation in some of the places we’ve worked in. I’ve grown to appreciate that inventories should not be the Rodney Dangerfield of heritage work. Yes, the storytellers may get the attention, and the preservation architects and restorers may keep individual sites and buildings from collapsing, but should a natural catastrophe or other disaster strike suddenly, inventories are the key to reconstruction. They may be the only thing standing between a community and the irreparable loss of its heritage.

Inventories are essential

Santa Ana Catholic church in Port-au-Prince, badly damaged by the January 2010 earthquake. Only a handful of Haitian sites were recorded in detail. The rest remain in ruins or have been bulldozed away. Photo: Radio Vaticana

Take My Inventory…Please

What are the problems? Why aren’t heritage inventories everywhere complete and kept current? The work is painstaking, time-consuming, and highly detailed. Most heritage organizations have to spend most of their time putting out fires and dealing with imminent threats. They have too little time to devote to long-range documentation. And besides that—with most of the traditional methods of record keeping—many of the individual entries are out-of-date and out of mind by the time a single round of inventorying is done.

attics or inventories

Does your heritage inventory look anything like this?

Add to that the problem of finding a certain range or type of entries: paper inventories kept in folders and file cabinets are often hard to search and impossible to visualize in their entirety. Often an inventory is kept in a combination of media—handwritten notes, printed forms, spreadsheets, scanned images, and GIS shape files—so research about sites over a large area and a particular timespan is a bit like rummaging through an attic filled with trunks and suitcases and cardboard boxes. Clouds of dust and frustration are likely results.

No wonder the keeping of detailed heritage inventories are seen as a chore that definitely needs to be worked on—next week, next month, next year…

From Closed Inventories to Open Invitations

In earlier posts, I have described the enormous potential of Arches, the web based, open-source inventory management system developed by the Getty Conservation Institute and the World Monuments Fund. Arches solves many of the most common headaches that heritage inventories cause: once installed and configured, Arches combines the mapping power of GIS with the nimble data relationships of of a graph database. Entries are easily made and edited with drop-down menus, and can be accessed simultaneously by multiple authorized users on any online device, from a widescreen desktop to an iPad or smartphone in the office, at home, or in the field.

This obviously makes the inventory accessible, flexible, and easily updatable. But there is more. At Coherit we have been working hard to develop new interpretive features to the front end of Arches, such as customized templates, user-friendly interpretive search glossaries, and integration with social media to involve the general public in contributing information and interacting with the inventory in new ways.

With these features a heritage inventory can do double duty: both as a secure, standards-based inventory for professional conservation monitoring and as a powerful interpretive tool that will offer heritage enthusiasts and the public at large a way to connect with the historical assets they share.

We’ll keep you updated on our work and the services we offer. And maybe someday soon, 21st century heritage inventories will finally get some respect.


What Heritage Managers Will Need to Know

The revolution in the development of digital tools for heritage practice is only a single aspect in a far wider transformation of the field. It’s essential for heritage managers to understand the nature of that transformation to recognize which tools are merely “gee whiz” gimmicks, which are quick fixes for longstanding dysfunctions, and which are the avatars of a new, 21st century approach to heritage management

PR for heritage managers

The British government has energetically marketed heritage as a part of the national “brand.” What role could or should heritage managers play in this new marketing strategy?

For just as in the realm of museum management, where the traditional skills of curatorship and collections management have been superseded by specialist skills in marketing, branding, public outreach, and fundraising, the heritage community is itself entering an era in which deep historical knowledge and skill in physical conservation, although essential, are simply no longer enough.

What are the challenges that heritage managers will have to address? The short answer is that they will have to tackle issues of economic, environmental, social, and cultural sustainability in a rapidly changing world. Gone are the days when heritage managers oversaw unchanging and neatly fenced islands of purified pastness. They must now conduct their work in the midst of a fast-moving, thoroughly commercialized, multicultural society.

Heritage as Part of the Global Present

Heritage managers will need new tools to successfully and sensitively integrate historic architecture and archaeological sites into the market economy. Reliance on generous funding and private philanthropy is a precarious but necessary survival in light of severely diminished public funding for culture and the rising expenses of conservation activities.

What is a heritage manager to do?

Earthquakes, tsunamis, and human destruction have brought about unprecedented destruction of heritage all over the world. How well are managers prepared for catastrophe? 2015 Nepal earthquake, NY Daily News

They will need new tools to enable ever greater risk preparedness and disaster recovery with the rising sea levels and ever greater weather volatility of global climate change and other catastrophic natural and man-made events.

New tools are needed to monitor the effects of intensifying urbanization, deindustrialization, and shifting real estate values. Urban planners and heritage professionals alike must cooperate in monitoring the social impact on heritage resources of historic districts and gentrification in the cities– and of depopulation and industrial agriculture in rural areas.

New tools will be needed to encourage intercultural communication at heritage sites, in light of the unprecedented scale of migration and diasporic populations. One interpretive size certainly cannot fit all.

Above all, heritage managers will need to understand the underlying conditions and character of heritage in the 21st century, in which cultural relevance and economic sustainability will be no less important than expert opinions about historical significance and physical authenticity.

Heritage “Process” not Heritage Site

Long ago archaeologists learned the importance of understanding “site formation processes,” a concept introduced by Michael Brian Schiffer to refer to the natural forces and human activities that continuously shaped the physical character of an archaeological site.

Formation processes have an analogue in heritage sites– not only or even primarily with regard to their physical conservation. The processes of discovery, commemoration, visitation, commercial exploitation, and local community engagement are all factors in the life of a site. Managers must learn to use social science methods to anticipate and plan for change.

Canute as manager

Legend has it that King Canute, ruler of Denmark, England, Norway and parts of Sweden, attempted to hold back the tide. Needless to say, he failed. From the blog “John R Childress . . . Rethinking”

The idea of “managing change” has come under criticism from some traditional heritage experts. Their contention is that historic preservationists must remain true to the ideal of preserving the inherent physical authenticity of sites no matter what counter-pressures there may be.

Yet 21st century heritage managers can never succeed in holding back the enormous forces of change, adaptation, and reinterpretation that characterize our globalized world. Heritage is part of the changing present and can be a creative force for widened cultural inclusion. Conservation is not a zero-sum game.

Managers: Neither Soldiers nor Showmen…

guidance for managers“The increasing involvement of society as a whole with heritage means that it is no longer, if indeed it ever was, the preserve of academics and antiquarians,” notes the 2013 UNESCO manual on Managing World Cultural Heritage.

“Nowadays, communities are increasingly involved in their heritage. Cultural properties have important social and economic functions and some continue to maintain strong links with communities with added tangible and intangible expressions of value” (p. 22).

The manual goes on to argue that there is currently a wide difference of opinion between those who believe that conservation of monuments is a self-evident and self-contained goal– and those who believe that heritage must be primarily seen as an effective engine of local economic development.

At present there are digital tools that serve both ends of the spectrum. Conservation can now rely on a range of monitoring, mapping, and remote imaging applications. Development (certainly in the realm of cultural tourism) is widely promoted by a range of interactive multimedia installations, immersive and 3D visualizations that promise every visitor an edu-taining experience.

Who will dominate the future? The emerging practices of heritage management will have to balance physical conservation with ever-greater public engagement. The Future generations of heritage managers will have to know (and apply!) an ever-widening range of economic, ecological, and sociological methodologies. They will have to be sensitive to the changeable nature of heritage– not only as a fragile collection of fossilized remnants of bygone ages or lucrative tourist attractions, but as the focus of evolving collective memory.

How they will do it and how will heritage itself be affected? A great deal will depend on the new digital tools that are emerging today.

Next Up:

Putting Your Finger on the Pulse of Constant Change

Inventory Software is Getting Even Better

An up-to-date, detailed inventory of heritage assets is every preservation organization’s most important tool. For monitoring, risk management, and raising public awareness, a state-of-the-art inventory system is essential, especially now at a time of budget tightening and increasing threats to built heritage.  Put bluntly, you can’t effectively protect and promote what you don’t know you have.

News came last week from Alison Dalgity, project manager of Arches at the Getty Conservation Institute about the upgrades and improvements planned for their powerful open source heritage inventory software later this year.

Arches Inventory + Interpretation

Arches is an open source heritage inventory platform developed under the auspices of the Getty Conservation Institute and the World Monuments Fund. It has enormous potential for interpretation too.

According to Alison, version 4 “will take Arches to a whole new level,” especially in its capacity to store data collected offline on mobile devices—and to upload it to the inventory when connectivity is reestablished.

Arches has already been a game-changer. It’s a powerful web-based tool that can be used simultaneously by multiple staff members to add, edit, and update entries directly from the field. Because of its responsive design, it’s accessible on any mobile device without special software—and allows multiple authorized users to upload and edit data, thereby maximizing results without adding or overtaxing staff time.

See what an Arches Inventory Can Do

There’s so much more to add about how Arches is the cutting-edge inventory tool that eliminates duplication of records in different media and ensures the security of your data (and images) in the cloud. We’ll be happy to offer a free online demo and show you how it can also be used as a powerful web-based interpretive tool.

Check out Arches on Demand for more details about its features and potential. And leave the technical tasks of installation, configuration, and hosting to us…



Developers & Preservers: Best of Frenemies

What is the single biggest challenge facing the world of Cultural Heritage in the 21st century? It’s not looting or illicit traffic. It’s not terrorist dynamite.  The threat is far more pervasive. It’s the same challenge that every generation has faced since antiquity: the inevitability of change and the wide range of peoples’ attitudes about it.  Some want to become developers — to design, plan, build, and reshape an entirely new landscape. And others prefer preservation, finding comfort and security in navigating through life, surrounded by familiar monuments and landmarks.

Federico Zuccaro shows developers at work

Renaissance property developer as heritage maker: Federico Zuccaro (Italian, about 1541 – 1609)
Taddeo Decorating the Façade of the Palazzo Mattei. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The debate between the two competing visions has always been central in the history of heritage. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that developers and preservationists have had a love-hate relationship for centuries. No matter whether it was Renaissance architects reshaping their cities from the ruins of Roman colonnades and temples– or today’s heritage professionals promoting economic development through revitalized historic districts. The differences between those who seek to transform the landscape and those who seek to preserve it have always been a lot hazier than their heated rhetoric suggests.

Ken Barwick rails against the developers

Developers as enemy: Kent Barwick at the June 29, 1988 restaging of the picketing of Pennsylvania Station to protest Mayor Koch’s proposed changes to the landmarks law. Photo by Steven Tucker.

Of course there have been some terrible heritage losses due to the clear-cutting urban renewers of the 20th century and the drip-drip-drip landscape devastation of suburban sprawl and industrial decay. At the same time, it’s been argued that historic preservation regulations both damage property values and gentrify while deepening residential inequality. Yet as public culture budgets continue to shrink and historic preservation costs continue to soar, the preservers are becoming more involved in development projects and the developers are coming to recognize the economic value of “local character.”

The developer resident gentrification of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, 2004

Gentrification by resident-developers. Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, 2004

In fact, in the 21st century, the boundaries may almost completely disappear as the prudent yet economically sustainable management of the historic environment will become as central a concern to civic well being as natural environmentalism has become. And just as the collection of rare botanical specimens gradually gave way to an awareness of the complexity of ecosystems, the careful management of heritage landscapes will have to assume an ecological consciousness.

Developers’ Ethics: no longer an oxymoron?

Many politicians and community leaders now understand they must balance corporate promises of employment with the likely impact of increased pollution. Likewise, the demolition of traditional structures for strip malls, business parks, and McMansions is making everywhere look pretty much the same. Balance, not conflict, will be the foundations of smart policy and resilient communities as heritage– in its most inclusive meaning– becomes social glue rather than patriotic monuments or touristic curiosities. The global recognition that “Culture” is and must be one of the main pillars of sustainable development, offers an opportunity for developers and preservers to realize that they are both shaping the future that all of us will share.

developers of Armageddon?There’s no question that conflicts will continue to arise over what should be changed and what should be preserved. But the black-and-white differentiation between those who look to the future and those who protect cherished vistas will have to be abandoned. The post-World War II dream of constructing a thoroughly modern, secular society has now fragmented into what the sociologist Benjamin Barber has colorfully dubbed Jihad vs. McWorld.  In the 21st century, will Jihad succeed in eradicating modernity? Will McWorld divert us from ever thinking about the past? Neither is likely; a different path to the future will have to be found.

As defined in Oxford English Dictionary, a frenemy is a “person with whom one is friendly, despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry; a person who combines the characteristics of a friend and an enemy.” And so it will be in the coming decades with those who spend their careers planning, building, and managing the places that communities of the future will inhabit and those who devote their energies to insuring that community memories will not fade away.

But how will the future practice of heritage fundamentally alter this seeming binary opposition? This series is meant to explore the existing challenges, emerging opportunities, and new tools for heritage management even the best of frenemies can share.

Next up: What Site Managers Will Need to Know

Interpretation and Heritage Inventories

Interpretation is a key to highlighting the importance of heritage inventories, and Arches is the most powerful, dynamic heritage inventory system on earth. It’s the perfect 21st-century tool for the management and technical monitoring of the conservation of historic sites.

Arches + Interpretation

Arches is an open source platform developed under the auspices of the Getty Conservation Institute and the World Monuments Fund. It has enormous potential for interpretation too.

It’s been effectively used to document looting and the destruction of ancient sites in the Middle East. In fact that’s where it began. But what about its interpretation potential to explain as well as document everyday heritage?

The Interpretation Behind the Inventory

What about community activities on Main Street? What about active public outreach? What about sites linked to unique intangible heritage? Arches can also be the world’s most powerful interpretive as well as inventory tool. It can be a dynamic platform for communicating with your donors and supporters about the important work you do.

Arches makes it possible to access the inventory from any device. It can hold images, sound files, and videos. But in this time of shrinking budgets and bitter competition for grants, successful applications to public funding sources, and the generosity of private donors may hinge on the quality and vividness of your interpretation. It has to have impact. It must be more than a sorted list of site reports and pins on the map.

In 21st century heritage, compelling interpretation is the key to sustainable conservation.

In 21st century heritage practice, compelling interpretation is the key to sustainable conservation.

The Medium is not the Message

The CIDOC-CRM that comes with Arches isn’t really suited for creative interpretation. It’s standards-based, it’s highly structured, and it relates more to the details of the architectural or archaeological history of a site. There is no question about its importance as a global information standard for cultural heritage professionals. But it is a technical tool that records conservation data– and its official designations– rather than its human and community meaning.

Vivid, compelling interpretation is absolutely crucial to 21st century heritage. We can show you some secrets. We can help you unlock the public power of Arches as a promotional and educational tool linked to your organization’s social media and other online platforms.

Let Arches be your storyteller as well as your inventory manager!

Contact us at Arches on Demand


Welcome to the Future of Heritage

The future as imagined circa 1951

We Must Prepare for the Future of Heritage! Captain Rocket Issue #1 Nov 1951 by P.L. Publishing Co.

It’s not a sci-fi dream of laser beams and self-monitoring monuments. It’s not yet-to-be-invented gee-whiz, ground penetrating imaging that makes excavation unnecessary—or fully multi-sensory time-travel through virtually reconstructed open worlds. The future of heritage will not be based exclusively on mechanical ingenuity, aesthetic authority, or the ability to halt physical decay. It will be based much more on building relationships between people, within groups, and between the individual and society.

Four years ago, Gustavo Araoz, Angela Labrador, and I established a partnership called Coherit Associates to coordinate a 14-nation Caribbean cultural heritage initiative for the Organization of American States. Both the name of the firm and the goal of the project were meant to signify that inheritance should be shared by many people and that heritage management might benefit in tangible ways by a public engagement paradigm. And in the course of a regional needs assessment survey in which hundreds of people from public, private, NGO, and academic sectors were contacted—and in the still ongoing implementation phase of the project, dealing with five priority areas that the survey identified (networking, legislation, inventories, tourism, and education)—we have experienced how certain elements of traditional heritage practice are not easily reconciled with the realities of a globalized and economically stratified world.

Regional meeting of Heritage stakeholders discussing the future of Caribbean Heritage Management, Bridgetown, Barbados, 2013

Heritage stakeholders discuss the future of Caribbean heritage management at a regional meeting in Bridgetown, Barbados, 2013

To be sure, the foundations of heritage practice will—and should—never be abandoned, but they do not address the serious socio-economic challenges of the 21st century that John Ruskin, Viollet le-Duc, or even the drafters of the 1964 Charter of Venice and the 1972 World Heritage Convention never had to face.  For ours is now a world where heritage sites have become targets for destruction; where less, not more, public funds are devoted to culture; where profit or at least economic sustainability is considered paramount values; where local communities, ethnic groups, and diasporic peoples are demanding rights to designate and control their own heritage places; and where heritage-themed urban revitalization projects often have far reaching impacts on local property values and residents’ quality of life.

The terrific mass tourism impact on the historic city of Venice, February 2009, illustrates the present and future strain on heritage resources as sites become anchors for tourism and urban revitalization. Photo: Alessandro Giumelli/World Monuments Fund

A sign of the future? The mass tourism impact on the historic city of Venice, February 2009. Photo: Alessandro Giumelli/World Monuments Fund

Though conservation science is steadily evolving to deal with the physical challenges of historic preservation, new tools are clearly needed to deal with the socio-economic concerns of 21st century society. Those tools are likely to be digital and they are already emerging—not as already-familiar 3-D reconstructions or multimedia attractions, but as powerful tools for planning, management, and public engagement.

The future of heritage isn't just gee-whiz tech...Visitors to the El Born Cultural Center. Barcelona, December 2015

The future of heritage isn’t just gee-whiz tech…Visitors to the El Born Cultural Center. Barcelona, December 2015

Introducing a new series about the future of heritage management

The series of blog posts that we’ll post in the coming weeks, “The Practical Guide to Next Generation Tools for Heritage Management,” is intended to describe and demystify the range of tools now available or just now emerging that may well revolutionize the scope and objectives of cultural heritage practice in the coming decades. New participants, new relationships, and new attitudes toward both past and future will supplement and likely transform long-debated issues of physical conservation, significance, and authenticity.

We’ll begin with the changing landscape of heritage activities and the need to see our challenge as managing, not stopping change. From there, we’ll explore the increasingly important issue of digitized heritage data—both that which has accumulated through decades of research and meticulous documentation and that we need to start to intensively collect. We’ll describe the tools and their benefits and offer insights into their weaknesses and strengths. We hope that our predictions and evaluations about “new generation” tools for cultural heritage management will be both eye-opening and useful to all who are concerned with cultural heritage as a medium of cultural identity.

So stay tuned!

7 Lessons from Brazil about Sustainable Heritage Tourism

posterFrom 29 September to October 10, Coherit Associates conducted a workshop in values-based, participatory heritage at the Center for Environmental Studies and Public Archaeology Lab at the University of Campinas in Brazil. The aim was to offer the rising generation of Brazilian heritage professionals with a set of tools to empower local and associated communities to promote and protect their tangible and intangible heritage.

Seven important insights emerged that may be valuable to destination managers and heritage professionals working elsewhere to develop sustainable heritage tourism:

1. Pay more attention to domestic tourism

Though many (most?) heritage initiatives are focused on attracting international tourists, the development of dynamic programming that can attract return visits from weekenders and day trippers from nearby cities or regions may offer a more sustainable visitor base.

2. Recognize that capacity-building must benefit every level of the workforce

If empowering local communities to protect and promote their heritage is the objective, career enhancement and job training for local employees is a necessary complement for specialized capacity-building for heritage professionals.

3. Accept that heritage may already be managed effectively without you

Some communities, religious orders, and traditional practitioners are sustainably and creatively managing their heritage as lived culture rather than tourist venues. In such cases, the inclination of heritage professionals to promote and manage a site as a “cultural destination” may ironically drive cultural tourists away.

4. Don’t try to combine cultural tourism with eco-tourism prematurely

Yes, there is an artificial partition between “nature” and “culture” in heritage management.  Yes, the value and significance of the two are inextricable.  But the marketing and management of each are often in competition for funding and visitors. Don’try to break down the wall between cultural and natural tourism until both sides can recognize a mutual benefit.

5. Don’t promise too much or too vaguely; failure can be fatal to heritage 

It may be common practice for consultants or other experts to promise how heritage protection and promotion will be good for everyone and will stimulate the local community.  Usually the promise-makers are long gone by the time the actual results come in.  Local communities must demand accountability. Clear, measurable indicators of project performance–agreed upon at the outset–foster realistic promises and build mutual trust.

6. Recognize that nostalgia differs between generations and from place to place

Heritage tourism has traditionally relied on a universal longing for the Good Old Days– however ancient or recent they may be. Yet every generation, every community sees the past through the lens of its own memories and lived experience, and it’s important for heritage planners and interpreters to understand and connect with that specificity.

7. Know the limits of development; sustainability rests on a knife’s edge

Heritage consultants and community leaders are well aware of the dangers of economic underperformance of heritage investments, but they often fail to recognize that unchecked economic growth in heritage tourism can have destructive effects as well.  Tourist booms are often fleeting and can transform a place of once-vibrant culture into a dehumanized theme park.  What will be left for generations yet to come?  In Brazil, as elsewhere, the contribution of heritage to sustainable development lies along the narrow path between economic failure and unlimited growth.

What Personality Does Your Destination Have?

Whether you’re a destination marketer working hard to come up with a distinctive brand to attract visitors– or a museum curator or heritage site manager developing a new promotion plan to boost audiences and supporters– or even an individual tourist trying to decide on a personal itinerary– the public perception of your destination is all-important.  And it may not be perceived exactly the way you intended…

In the last few years, tourism researchers have focused on this problem and have developed several methods of evaluating destination images. Yuksel Ekinci and Sameer Hosan, of the School of Management, University of Surrey, UK, for example, published a study highlighting three main destination qualities that tourists perceive:

MexicoSINCERITY:  How closely do the  promotional images of a destination match the reality of the place?

EXCITEMENT:  Is the destination unique, cutting edge, and innovative or is it just another generic vacation venue?

CONVIVIALITY:  Is the destination friendly, family oriented, and charming or is it cold and impersonal?

In other studies, additional attributes of destination personality, such as ACCESSIBILITY, RELIABILITY, and SOPHISTICATION, have been added to the list.

Every destination marketer believes that their locale or site deserves high marks on all of these qualities, but that is not always how visitors feel.  What makes this especially crucial for destination marketers is that the way their messages are received and validated by visitors’ experience is an important factor in determining whether potential visitors will choose it — and no less important– whether they will make return visits and recommend it to friends.

How does your destination’s brand mesh with its perceived personality and what characteristics can you more effectively communicate?  It always helps to see things through a fresh perspective.  That’s why we’ve prepared a short quiz that matches destination characteristics with the personalities of famous fantasy locations.

Click here to to take the destination personality quiz and discover your destination’s fantasy counterpart.



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