What do Mona Lisa, Mussolini, Che Guevara, Amitabh Bachchan and an undead monk have in common?

Quirky destinations need to find a way to get the headlines because they certainly are difficult to market in today’s homogenous travel industry.


Looking for Mona in Montefeltro – Romagna

Here I am in Romagna (the delightful bit of Italy between the Apennines and the Adriatic). I’ve just started to write about two fascinating projects. The first one claims to have found the exact location that Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, and where many other famous Italian works of art were created in Momtefeltro. The second is a project based in Forli (Mussolini’s birthplace – also in Romagna) which uses totalitarian architecture to both generate tourism and disseminate information, whilst along the way having some good gigs!

Over the last year or so I’ve visited and reported on a bunch of sensationallly fascinating fabulously funky quirky destinations that have their work cut out to promote themselves in a tourism world that seems to want the same old same old.

In Ireland, delightful Kilkee’s claim to fame was the fact that Che Guevara stayed there on his way to Moscow. In stunning Siberia, they have an undead monk who has been in that state since he ‘died’ in the 1930’s. In  foodie Gujarat, on India’s West coast they use the famous Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan to promote the destination.

Actually, when you get to see these places, you realize that they have so much more to offer than the sound-bite image.

But given today’s travel and tourism industry marketing – how do they get to tell their stories without shouting a sensational fact?

And, even then, without heavy marketing and distribution – they are unlikely to get any take up by the global tour operators and media who dominate the marketplace.

The trouble is that we have got used to a diet of the same old destinations with a new sauce each year.

The reason is that travel and tourism has become a commodity, where the key differential is price.

That means efficiency, which in turn means high load factors, which in turn means high intensity flying to a limited number of destinations.

And, of course the other issue is time. Most tourists want to see the high value destinations first before they stray off the beaten track – would YOU go to France once without seeing Paris? Or Paris without visiting the Louvre? When tourists go on safari they want to see the ‘Big 5’ before going off piste.

But it isn’t very sustainable, is it? Ultimately destinations get a horrible disease called cultural commodification, which means that great treasures of culture get replicated and mass produced.

A pity really because the kind of welcome you’ll get in Romagna, or Gujarat, or Siberia or  Kilkee is usually a million times better than the welcome you’ll get in any jaded old mass-tourism destination.

The truth is that your business is very helpful and very special in small quirky destinations, and they show it – why not try one and you’ll see what I mean.

See more quirky destinations in the news section at www.totemtourism.com

We are currently creating a new magazine about Romagna which will report on the latest (and oldest) news about tourism, food and wine, fascinating stories and interesting lifestyles. To get a copy as soon as it’s ready email valere@totemtourism.com



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