You can do it with your eyes closed

Will you close your eyes for a minute?  And try describing your destination using all the senses, not just sight?  Now you’re getting to the essence of the place.

You know what they say about radio: that the pictures are better?  Eyes closed, you’re using your mind’s eye and direct-dialling your imagination.

And for the visitor, sounds, smells, tastes and textures are often the stuff that memories are made of: they’re a trigger for the emotions, and a shortcut to the soul.

To feel this in action, you can dip into the audio files on the National Trust’s new “Sounds of our Shores” project.  Or share with your colleagues a personal holiday “sense-snap” that order ambien online … for me it would be the sound of rushing water irrigating a high mountain valley, and the smell of wood-smoke under cast-iron cooking pots in a village square.

It’s often these kinds of sensations that remain in the memory and the heart long after other things about a trip have faded.

VisitEngland’s staycation research found that people need inspiration as well as information to move them around the Visitor Journey circle – from dreaming and looking to planning and booking.  (And then, once the trip is over, it’s vivid memories that will encourage people to repeat and recommend.)

Of course it stands to reason that if we’re going to inspire, we need to be making emotional connections in our communications – not just promoting rational benefits.  But this isn’t solely about destination marketing.  It’s about developing and managing places too.

We sometimes use a workshop technique that gets stakeholders to use all five senses when thinking about how visitors will experience their place.  It’s a first step towards developing vivid stories that will spark all the senses and bring a place to life in the imagination of the potential visitor – or reawaken memories in past visitors.  These stories help to capture a destination’s unique sense of place – and they help the people in the place to agree ways to improve the visitor experience too.

In destination development and marketing, we spend a lot of time thinking about how a place looks.  What would happen, I wonder,  if we spent the same time, effort, creativity – and budget – on describing and satisfying those other senses too?