• Chris

The Tourism Swivel - More flexible than the pivot

Tourism perspectives and inspiration learned from the past and right now, featuring Mark VanderKlipp, Connect_CX and Chris Hughes, BC Hughes.

Swivel - (n.) a coupling between two parts enabling one to revolve without turning the other. (v.) turn around a point or axis or on a swivel.

What History Has taught Us

911 - Traverse City, MI got creative in the new normal, and swivelled to create opportunity from anti-terrorism measures.

As terror attacks at concerts forced all venues to heighten security, the National Cherry Festival had to stop concert attendees from bringing in purses and outside food and beverages.  The festival turned this into a profit centre by marketing and selling transparent backpacks that could come into the venue and added food & beverage options in the concert area that led to more sales.

Similarly, when terrorists started using cars as weapons, Homeland Security required more barricades at events. Large, heavy barricades like water barricades are hard to come by, expensive and difficult to transport. Cherry Festival worked with auto dealerships to park logoed cars in vulnerable locations in place of the barricades. This created an even more substantial and more portable barrier, saved money, time, and created a new sponsorship opportunity.

2008 Market Crash - Domestic navel gazing in times of crisis.

In 2010, Mark was flying back to Traverse City on a business trip and struck up a conversation with a family from Florida. Pure Michigan had branched out beyond regional promotion (what we call Big Ten states) to other major tourism markets. This family told him they’d heard so much about Mackinac Island that they just had to come and see for themselves. They’d had a 7-day itinerary planned for them that took them up the coast from TC through lots of small towns, ending on the Island and flying back out of a small airport south of the Mackinac Bridge. I thanked them for coming. 

Similarly, Traverse City tourism invested in media placements in regional markets to attract more rubber tire visitors, since driving was less expensive than flying to another type of destination with similar amenities. 

For the design firm Mark was part of, they branched out beyond their current perceived business boundaries: “we looked for potential partnerships, expanded geographically to enhance business prospects. We had been working to build our consultative offering to new services, but instead we doubled down and swiveled on the base of our core business value: we partnered with a Chicago-based competitor and created an LLC to pursue business overseas together. That experience ultimately led to the company we started together in 2017.”

Covid 19 - Another newer normal

In the new normal, travel will never be the ‘same’.  Large group cheap travel out...small intimate, family, couple special  interest groups in.  A more in depth higher price point with options for customizing experiences e.g. local knowledge informing of best places to [eat, hike, dance, drink, etc.]. 

Bringing local products/services to a premium lodging experience “for $XX per person we’ll include an experience with Chef Hoser bringing an authentic Owen Sound barbecue with meat from [local butcher] and veggies from [local farm], beers from [local brewery] and our special maple-tini made with [local distillery] local vodka and Great Grandpa Hoser’s killer maple syrup. The reason it’s called “killer” is that Great-Grandpa was harvesting during a spring storm back in 1955 and a limb fell on him. RIP.” The value is created by the story and will be more important than ever before.  This swivel will be driven by the creativity of a very creative industry.

The Present - How are people doing the swivel?

In Summer 2020, Traverse City, MI DDA will shut down primary retail blocks to traffic to allow for pedestrian distancing, expanded outdoor seating for restaurants, and access to retail services. Also, increased parking for bikes, strollers, etc. will encourage more active access from downtown for residents, and hotel guests. The city is also considering closing selected residential streets to encourage safe pedestrian and cycling movement within the entire city.

Long-term, Traverse City is engaging in conversations around maximizing parking/living opportunities surrounding retail districts. planning to build parking decks along edges, repurposing existing surface lots, and providing incentives for developers to build workforce housing.

A local event company (Running Fit Events) has created several virtual running races where you record distances over a given period of time, virtually running the estimated distances from local lighthouses or from shore to shore. Some of these have registration fees, while others are pay-what-you-can. 

Local campgrounds have been housing healthcare workers with long commutes, keeping them fed via donations from local restaurants/citizens. They would otherwise be quarantined from their families at home, solving several problems for workers and bringing some revenue to the campgrounds, which have been told they still can’t open.

Other more general examples of swiveling are:


  • Shifting to online sales, shipping and delivery 

  • Creating in-store experiences for when customers can enter

  • Partnering with other retailers

  • Shift to the philosophy that cars don’t spend money, people do (more pedestrian focus)

Cruise industry 

  • Better contingency planning

  • More guest space (less passengers per cruise)

  • Heightened sanitation and air quality measures

  • Sales to get people motivated again


  • Taking temperatures

  • Mandatory masks

  • More seating space

  • More frequent and deeper sanitation

  • Minimizing risks by not serving hot spots

Car Rental 

  • Contactless pick up and drop off

  • Better online booking

  • Promotion of cleaning practices

  • Promotion as a better option than public transit 


  • Partnership with Lysol (Hilton Hotel)

  • Contactless booking, arrival, checkout

  • Promotion of cleaning standards

  • Social distancing in common areas


  • Flexible work hours, 

  • Work from home

  • Use of technology

  • Reduction in business travel expenses

  • Reduction on office real estate

Experience swivel examples created during the crisis

Dining for one

Pool noodle patio hats 

Social Distancing Blow Up Dolls

Visit Houston Home Zoom Contest

Lobster by phone

Spa and Wellness Swivel 

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