26th economia Student Contest
1st Prize | Group Essay
Georgia Chartofylaka, Νatasha Νana Yaa Amponsa, Madelaine Jamieson & Giulia Caruso, University of Ljubljana
Many European urban areas continue to face the effects of overtourism. In response to overtourism, the importance of visitor management has also grown. Visitor management techniques often involve modifying visitors’ behaviour (Mason, 2005). Coercive techniques such as taxes, fees, and bans are a common policy tool used to manage and control tourists (Koens et al., 2019; Mason, 2005), however, in contrast to traditional methods, nudging has become a key supplementary tool. An approach rooted in behavioural science, nudging is the act of steering people in the desired direction, while still allowing them the freedom to go their own way (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008). This method can be less restrictive and exclusionary than top-down regulation. This paper presents an innovative product conceptualized by the authors that makes use of the nudging technique. Our idea is an app that exploits various trends in the market including gamification and instagramization in order to reduce overcrowding in Athens and it can be used also in major European cities.
Overcrowding is a notable phenomenon associated with negative experiences arising from too many tourists at a certain place and time (Peeters et al., 2018). Crowding in city centres has created increased congestion, dismantling of socio-cultural connectivity, and a decline in purchasing power parity of local residents versus visitors (Seraphin et al., 2018; Van der Borg et al., 1996). The increase in tourist numbers has surged exponentially over the past few years predominantly because of accessibility (low cost of travel) and destination’s popularity. 2017 saw the highest international tourist arrivals in seven years according to UNWTO (2019), with Europe recording 5% more international arrivals than the previous year. City authorities are under a lot of pressure to address the overcrowding crisis in their cities. According to a 2019 report released by Wonderful Copenhagen, there is a strong perception that the inner-city is rich in attractions, and outer neighborhoods are rich in everyday life. Visitors who do venture beyond the inner-city have a limited idea of where to go or what to do. Copenhagen’s response strategy of ‘spreading tourism’ is an obvious one, however, they acknowledge that it requires more than just marketing, but rather a holistic approach involving strategic planning, accessibility, visibility and a readiness to receive visitors. Their goal is not fewer visitors, but to make broader use of the destination (Wonderful Copenhagen, 2018). For the authors of this paper, the overcrowding issue can be seen as non-sustainable form tourism development, where the harmonization of the fundamental pillars of sustainability has not been met. The well-being of the host community has been of great importance when it comes to sustainable tourism development. To the best of our knowledge, Athens has not yet been described by the tourism practitioners as a destination that is characterized by overcrowding. However, the negative reactions to overcrowding have been evident even in Athens, as antitourism demonstrations have been witnessed across the city, where protestors demonstrate against rental inflation as a result of excessive tourism development.
The term “gamification” first appeared in 2008 and it was named a trend in tourism by Euromonitor International at the World Travel Market in 2011 (World Travel Market, 2011). The concept is defined as “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts” (Deterding et al., 2011, p.9). It is necessary to highlight the relation between game mechanics and game dynamics, as they play an important role in evoking the motivation of the player. The term ‘mechanics’ entails all the base components of a gamified system for an engaging experience, such as points, badges and rewards, leaderboards, progress, quizzes, and notifications. The game ‘dynamics’ are the way that players engage with the game experience, such as competition, community, collection, achievement, surprise, and exploration (Robson et al., 2015; Paharia, 2010). Over the last few years, the concept of gamification has been introduced into many layers of life, especially in business or education and only recently in the tourism industry (Xu et al., 2017). Being a service industry, the main target of tourism is the engagement of tourists and service providers (Vargo & Lusch, 2008). In this context, gamification plays an essential role, as it provides opportunities to raise awareness for a particular tourism brand or destination, to enhance customer loyalty and to provide guests with a meaningful experience.
A dynamic relationship exists between user-generated content and new forms of social practice (MacDowall & de Souza, 2018). Instagram and other photo-sharing social media platforms have altered how we produce and consume tourism experiences. A prominent example is in the food and beverage sector, which has capitalized on the photo-friendly trend by turning both food and physical spaces into ‘Instagram bait’. Restaurants look to create a buzz by designing with Instagram in mind; where aesthetic has become just as important as taste. Staff may even be trained to encourage photo-taking and photosharing (Company, 2018). Beyond the food and beverage sector, the findings from a 2017 study by Schofields revealed that 40% of millennials choose their next holiday destination based on how ‘instagrammable’ it is. Travel media is increasingly creating lists with titles like “The Most Instagrammable Street Art in LA” and “The Most Instagrammable Places in London” (Matchar, 2017). These lists often include places that are off the beaten path, for example, street art has been used to revitalize the neglected parts of cities and foster urban tourism (Insch & Walters, 2017; Skinner & Jolliffe, 2017). McKercher and Du Cros (2002) emphasise the importance of proximity to the city centre in influencing the number of visitors, however, they acknowledge that strong attractiveness has the power to motivate travellers to explore more peripheral areas.
Solution to tackle the problem
With a particular focus on engaging experiences, researchers provide several examples of gamified services in the tourism industry. One such example in Regensburg, Germany, visitors were encouraged to explore different parts of the town by solving quizzes and puzzles on a mobile device in order to appreciate the history of this UNESCO Heritage Site in an amusing and playful way (Xu et al., 2017; Ballagas et al., 2008). Another case is the integration of game elements in an ordinary mobile tour guide, such as Stray Boots app in New York (Rosenbloom, 2013). The majority of the examples that were found focus on experiences within the city centres, excluding more periphery areas. However, the Pentati Pirate Trail in Corfu, Greece, created through Geocaching, succeeded in attracting tourists to the small fishing village of Pentati, far from the main town. By attracting players to non-urban areas, small local businesses can benefit from the distribution of the tourists (Skinner et al., 2018).
For all the reasons explained above, the present paper recommends the design of an app, which provides a gamified experience to the destination visitors and it can influence their behavioural patterns. The aim of the app is to locate a single piece of movable street art hidden within the area of a major city, for example, Athens. The art, as we have conceptualized it, is similar to a mural, however, it is made out of a thermoplastic sticker so that it can be removed and added to a new location in the city every now and then. This keeps tourists engaged, prevents the build-up of tourists in one area, and motivates them to explore lesser-known neighbourhoods. The art in each city will be unique and reflect the culture of the particular city, however, each piece of art will also have a common brand tag in order to connect it with the larger game, which can take place in different cities as well.
In the following section, the customer’s journey has been outlined in order to investigate how a potential customer engages with our app and highlights their emotional touchpoints.
Franceska, a 22-year-old from Germany, is taking a flight to Athens for the weekend. It is her second time being there and she doesn’t wish to see the same things again, but she does want to find a good spot to take an Instagram-worthy photo so that all her friends will know that she is there. She remembers her brother telling her about an app where he had to solve a puzzle in order to find a trendy piece of temporary street art somewhere in the city. She downloads the same app as she leaves the bus. The app recognizes her location and sends her a clue to finding street art. In order to solve the first clue, Franceska has to do some quick research about Greek contemporary art – which was actually pretty interesting. The first clue leads her in the direction of Goulandris Museum and shows her all of the various modes of transportation she can use. She opts to use the electric scooter, which she can do right through the app. Once she gets closer, her phone buzzes with a new clue that will help her find the exact location of the art. Before she solves it though she decides to explore the area a little. When she is ready, she opens the app and begins solving the next clue. By the time she finds the street art, Franceska feels triumphant – not just because the artwork is beautiful, but because her hard work in completing the challenge has paid off. After she gets her perfect picture, she notices that she has a notification from the app saying she has earned a badge for solving her first game. If she solves the game in two more cities in Europe, she will earn another badge and a keychain will be sent in the mail. There is a whole list of other badges she can unlock. It will also let her know when Athens has changed the location of the street art, should she ever return. Finally, the app shows her a list of places nearby where she can explore. Franceska taps on the ice cream shop from the list and sees that she gets a discount for being an app member.
Our idea utilizes each of these game mechanics put forth by the pioneering gamification company Bunchball (Figure 1).
The app uses the ‘Quiz’ mechanic by incorporating a riddle into the challenge, which the player must solve in order to locate the street art. This mechanic stimulates behavioural elements such as competition, community, achievement and emotional progress. ‘Badges’ are given for accomplishing certain criteria. For example, a badge is awarded for completing the first challenge, for completing 3 challenges in one month, or for completing a challenge twice in one city. Badges are also connected with ‘levels’ of mastery, for example, acquiring more badges will advance the player from beginner, to intermediate, to expert level. This system fosters a feeling of achievement and progress, while also encouraging players to keep playing in order to get to the next level. Location-aware notifications are used to prompt players to do the challenge each time they arrive in a new city. Finally, ‘leaderboards’ can be used in the app to drive competition and cultivate a sense of community.
The app that was presented is not the only product that can be used by a destination to engage its customers and enhance its brand. However, our aim was to highlight how a gamified system can prompt a shift in thinking away from coercive visitor management approaches. By capitalizing on existing trends in gamified technology and photo-sharing social practices, tourists can be nudged towards less congested areas in a way that benefits the tourist, the local, and the local business. This approach is also in greater alignment with ‘spreading’ strategies such as the one outlined by Wonderful Copenhagen. The success and quality of this app is dependent on its adoption by multiple major and minor cities in Europe. It will require strong collaboration, however, it will also foster more stakeholder involvement and better linkages between cities that are all working to mitigate the rising issue of overcrowding.
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