Special events are a unique from of tourism attraction, ranging in scale from mega-events such as the Olympics and World Fairs, through comunity festivals, to programmes of events at park and facilities. Their special appeal stems from the innate uniqueness of each event, which differentiates them from fixed attractions, and their ‘ambience’, which elevates them above ordinary life.
Increasingly, event are being viewed as an integral part of tourism development and marketing plans. Although the majority of events have probably arisen for non-touristic reasons, such as religious holidays, competition, community leisure, or cultural celebrations, there is clearly a trend to exploit them for tourism and to create new events deliberately as tourist attractions.
Defining the special event product, however, is subject to interpretation based on one’s viewpoint. Indeed, five distinct but interdependent perspectives can be identified. Figure 12.1 presents a conceptual model of the five perspectives and the management functions which link them info a coherent structure.
The tangible product
Superficially, events are easily classified by reference to their tangible components. A number of surveys heva assessed the most common themes and activities associated with festivals and special event. From these surveys a more generic categorization of tangible event products can be made.
The tangible products are really ‘facade’ presented to the public. They are the mechanisms by which visitor experiences are partially created, alltough there must be a synergistic process involving these products and many intangibles to create the atmosphere or ‘ambience’ that makes events special. Furthermore, special events are usually produced as a means towards attaining broader goals. Even in cases where festivals or other celebrations are traditional and have no planned touristic orientation, tourism will often become a factor when tourism agencies begin to advertise, promote or package the event.
From the visitor’s perspective, special events present the opportunity to participate in a collective which is distinct from everyday life. And because they occur infrequently, or are different each time, novelty is assured. It is suggested that an appropriate way to examine this perspective is to focus on benefits expected by visitors.
Generic benefits are those which distinguish special events from permanent attractions. Each generic benefit is of the kind likely to be expected by the visitor regardless of the tangible event programme, although the reletive importance of each will vary from event to event. A brief description of each benefit follows.
1. Spectacle. While there is no doubt that spectacle, especially media-orientated events, have universal appeal, it is also true that raw spectacle can overpower the more fundamental meanings of festivity, ritual and games that events should embody. Spectacle can be an important element in any special event by focusing on visual, larger-than-life displays and performances. Events orientated towards telebut run the risk of having to make sacrifices to accommodate the demands of television.
2. Belonging/ sharing. The sharing of experiences with others in the context of a public celebration or display is a major leisure motivator. There is usually a kind of infectious merrymaking which accompanies special events and encourages participation. This emotional ‘ high’ might actually be the main reason why many people participate in events, either as volunteers or visitors.
3. Authenticity. Authenticity has been much debated in the literature with no clear conclusions as to its significance as a motivator or as a criterion for evaluating the product. Literature on this subject has been expanding, including examination of the authenticity of folk festivals, how tourist-orientated events transform culture and history, the value of ‘cultual productions’ in avoiding a negative impact on tourism, and a questioning of whether or not historic recreationscan be authentic. Whether or not the creation of tourist-orientated events, or the promotion of cultural events for tourism creates inauthenticity, is an issue for continued research and clarification. From a tourism perspective, the real issue is ensuring visitor satisfaction and community support. Nevertheless, tourism developers should be ssensitive to the goal of protecting events which are primarily cultural and local in nature, especially in traditional societies. Not all events should be seen as resources for tourism exploitation.
4. Ritual. Ritual is at the heart of most traditional festivals, but is found to some extent in most special events either in secular or religious form. Themes and symbols which invoke community or national pride and loyalty, often found in parades, are closely linked to ritualistic activities. Even at the most basic level, opening and closing ceremonies can be enhanced through ritual.
5. Games. People expect to have fun at most special events. Their expectation can be met through formal opportunities to participate in, or witness, games of chance, recreational activities, competitions, and humor. The most serious of ritualistic events is often counter-balanced by formal or peripheral episodes of unadulterated merrymaking.
Targeted benefits are those which differentiate events and yield competitive advantages. Visitors expect basic services to be provided and are looking for certain general benefits from all events, but their attraction to particular events in a competitive environment will require something more.
The event theme is important in conveying messages to potential visitors about the benefits they might derive from attendance. The name alone is not sufficient, nor is the tangible ‘facade’ in the form of activities. Rather, the theme must be presented in such a way that the unique benefits offered by the event are clear. Each element of the tangible product can provide this competitive advantage , as in these examples –center-tainment, e.g. bluegrass festivals, merchandising , e.g. ethnic foods, and activities, e.g. street dances or tours.
Once established, organization can take on a life of their own. Over time, producing the event might become secondary to survival of the group, or original goals might be displaced by totally different ones. When assessed from this viewpoint, the ‘product’ takes on a completely new meaning, a model developed by this author and W. Frisby outlined three key processes requiring analysis.
1. The organization and its environment. The environment for events is both a physical and a community setting. The physical impact tends to be less for events than for other attractions, unless major construction occurs. However, most event have a community impact because they are dependent on community volunteer participation and attendance. The event organizer must view the community and the physical environment as a resource, and must therefore worry about negative impact. More importantly, the organizer can deliberately employ the event as a tool in community development.
2. Internal management proceses. Events differ from most attractions in that their typical reliance on volunteers makes management more difficult, notably because of a lack of professional expertise, difficulty in recruiting and keeping volunteers, and diffuse goal setting and decision making. Also, to the volunteer the event might be secondary to considerations such as prestige, community involvement, or socializing. The ‘product’, in this light,is inward-orientated and migh tend toward self-perpetuation of the organization itself, rather than production of a quality event.
3. Transforming processes. Most of the organization’s energies should be directed at converting resources (including the energy of volunteers) into the event and its desired outcomes. To the extent that community development or some other goal motivates the organization, the product is not the event itself but what the event can do toward achieving those broader goals. This point leads to the consideration of a whole range of possible outcomes which define the event product in terms of its effects on the host community.
Community development perspective
The term ‘community development’ is used here to describe the enchancement of the host population’s way of life, economy,and environment. To the extent that organization of the event spring from a community it can be expected to reflect the needs of that community, but this cannot be taken for granted. Problems are particularly likely if the event is superimposed on the host population, is purely commercial in nature, or is controlled by narrow interest groups.
Little attention has been paid to the potentially positive effect of tourism on organization, localities, and social planning programmes. However, recent interest in ‘alternative tourism’ has certainly awakened interest in the subject. Also, the work of sociologists and anthropologists has contributed to a better understanding of the meaning and significance of events in community, and between the community and the world.
Some research concerning the social and cultural impacts of events has been completed, illustrating both positive and negative forces. Clearly there is a need to weigh the costs ang benefits carefully, with emphasis on the host community’s perspective.
Although, much work is required on the links between special events and the impact on the community, some tentative conclusions can be drawn. Special events can contribute to community development in several ways, to the extent that the following objectives are satisfied:
· The community has control over the event
· The event is first and foremost directed at meeting community needs
· Local leadership and interorganizational networks are fostered, and
· Event planning is comprehensive, taking into account the social, cultural, economic, and environmental dimensions.
Special events are becoming established as an integral and major part of tourism development and marketing strategies. The term ‘ events tourism’ has been employed to describe this component, and a simple definition would be the systematic development and marketing of special events as tourist attractions. Typical goals will be:
· To expand the traditional tourist season
· To spread tourist demand more widely throughout the area
· To attract foreign visitors, and
· To create a favourable image for a destination
There appears to be a strong temptation for tourism organization to think mainly in terms of mega-events, with small events being dismissed as having only local or regional significance. As well, the focus has been on economic objectives, rather than the link between events and social, cultural or ecological policies. These biases are understandable in the light or the documented benefits of hosting special events, but overemphasis on mega-events is too narrow and can be self-defeating.
The benefits of mega-events are often exaggerated. And it has been found that their attractiveness to foreign tourists can be much less than expected. Emphasizing mega-events also ignores the link between the events and the fostering of community development, the arts and culture, and more effective use of parks and facilities.
Small events also have a vital role to play in tourism development. While they might not in themselves motivate foreign travel, they can satisfy the foreign visitor’s desire to experience authentic cultural ambience and to meet locals. Indeed, events could become the most common way for visitors to satisfy a variety of desires, including the sampling of local foods, witnessing costumes and traditions, participating in games or other activities, competing, or simply being entertained. The key advantage of small events is that they can make visitors believe (rightly or wrongly) that they are a part of something authentically indigenous. Local and regional events also have value in keeping the domestic market active. Finally, there is no way to predict which small events might become large attractions. Their success will depend on a host of factors, not least of which is the decision of he event to expand or remain small. A sound tourism strategy will therefore seek a balance between large, tourism-orientated events and local and regional events.
Another way to examine events tourism is by reference to the linkages between the five perspectives, as illustrated in figure 12.1. Each of these linkages defines a planning or management task, or is subject to some control through planning.
Effective target marketing depends on a thorough understanding of travel motives and benefits. Each special event will have a general appeal, but specific attributes can be themed and promoted in order to attract target audiences. Marketing research must be carried out by event organizers to ensure the success of their own event, and tourist organizations at a higher level should be considering the entire range of event products and all related markets. A key planning issue will be that of developing packages of events that cater to various target groups.
Consumption of the tangible product
The actual consumption of tangible products, or participation in entertainment and other events, is a mechanism by which experiences are created. The visitor desires certain experiences which can be identified as benefits. At the same time, the visitor is engaged in activities which contribute to economic growth and community development. The activities of visitors are multi-dimensional in both meaning and impact.
To the extent that outsiders are involved, events are formalized settings for interaction between locals and visitors. It has been found that host communities tend to enjoy this relationship, as long the perceived benefits outweigh the costs. Special events are potentially excellent means for creating host-guest contacts in non-exploitative ways, where both groups can be at leisure. Accordingly, events should be seen as important contributors to overcoming the many disadvantages of mass tourism.
Support and participation of the host community
The host population is required to organize the event, support it through volunteer labour, and attend it as a community celebration. This is the foundation upon which successful events rest, and it cannot be artificially induced from outside if community has doubts about the costs and benefits.
Event organizers have a responsibility to seek community support and maintain it through good community relations. This task can be facilitated in several ways; information to the community; involvement by representative elements of the local population; involvement by community leaders; and open planning and evaluation of the event and its impacts. It is a two-way process because community development depends in part on the fostering of leadership and entrepreneurial expertise through community events, and because of the profits generated for community projects.
Production of the event
The organizers produce an event which has tangible components. Rewards to the organizers (and hence to the community) are generated by attendance and consumption. But the tangible production is not the only provider of resources for the organizers, as they will probably be in part reliant on grants or sponsorships. Furthermore, the production of the tangible event is often in itself insufficient to ensure survival or success.
Assistance to organizers
Tourism agencies must determine their appropriate role with respect to special events, including types and levels of assistance. Such help can be in the form of money, expertise, promotion, or research. In return, tourism agencies will want to see events become more orientated to, and effective in attracting, tourists.