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Alan Machin: Tourism As Education
Home page: blogs, introductions, links to main pages
Berlin: Editing a Townscape
... and reading a city that has had many rebuilders
Making Sense of The Travel Learning Experience- 1
1 Information Streams
Making Sense of the Travel Learning Experience - 2
Some basic theories
Back to Basics: Presentation given at the Cuba EduTourism Conference
The CETA Conference in Havana, Cuba, 8/9 November 2010
About the author
Comments - CV - photos
At the heart of the tourist experience
Learning through Landscapes
Exploring Oxfordshire (and a bit of Gloucestershire!)
The Environment As Data: Building New Theories For Tourism
How tourists relate to places
Sail Gives Way to Steam
A return visit discovers just how much has been achieved in this iconic restoration
Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth Reenactment
Visits to Leicester and the battlefield event, 2013
Along The Way
Recollections and Reflections of 60+ Years' Learning about the World and its Ways
On the Edge of the New World
Shaping New England
Exploring Holderness in East Yorkshire; October 2012
Past Historic
Graf Zepplin, Spain 1968, OS History, Much Wenlock Olympics, Chatham Dockyard, Hawes Tourism, Colonial Williamsburg,
A Summer of Travelling / Matthew Starr
Three months' backpacking in Africa, Asia and Australia
East Anglia
The Broads, Pensthorpe natural history, Radar Museum, Caister Lifeboat Service and more!
A Richer Earth
Discoveries in the landscape and attractions of Shropshire
Blog Index Page
Blog pages from 2009 listed
From Strip Map to Sat Nav
'Finding the way' aids to exploration
Showcasing the World
How the Tourist Microcosm took centre stage
Doing A Dissertation
Notes to help students preparing their proposals
The Japanese Tsunami Destruction at First Hand
Sarah and Tom Wadsworth saw for themselves
Showcases: Examples
The range and variety of tourism's focal points examined
Jigsaw: Frameworks of Knowledge
The tourist jigsaw puzzle of - knowledge
Books and other works useful in studying tourism as education
Tourism's Educational Origins: Part 2
The development of tourism as education, 1845 -
Tourism's Educational Origins: Part 1
Tourism's educational origins and management
Impressions of Tourism in Cuba
Thoughts on having seen some of the country myself
Captain James Cook: North Yorkshire Days
Tracing the early life of Britain's greatest maritime explorer
Hunting the Hound of the Baskervilles
Tracking down places that inspired the famous detective story and moulded Dartmoor's image
Exploring the Idea of Dark Tourism
What is it? Is it a useful idea?
Talking to Tourists
Visitor interpretation - guide books, visitor centres and other media
Shades of Light and Dark in the Garden of England
An exploration in East Sussex and Kent, June/July 2010
Hunting the Gladiator and the Gecko
A thirteen-year search for a wartime adventure
Steam Up For A Famous Film's Birthday Party
The Railway Children weekend on the Worth Valley line raises questions about heritage presentations
Anne-Marie Rhodes: Making a Difference in South East Asia
Leeds Met graduate of '07 describes her activities
Discoveries in Northumberland, April 2010
Alnwick Gardens; Winter's Gibbet; Holy Island, Cragside, Wallington Hall
Discoveries in the Midlands, March 2010
Bletchley Park National Codes and Cipher Centre; and the Rollright Stones
Alan Machin's Blog - April 2010
The development of tourism as education continued
Jigsaw Puzzle!
The Adventure of the Timely Tourist
Leaders Into The Field
People who inspired everyone to explore
Alan Machin's blogs - February and March 2010
Postings on the history tourism as education - redirection
Alan Machin's Blog - January 2010
Tourist photography and souvenirs
Earlier front-page blog postings - January 2010 onwards
Archived after being on the Home Page
News from higher education and - beyond
The Development of Educational Tourism
Key dates in the development of educational tourism
Alan Machin's Blog - December 2009
Christmas Quiz and other postings
Analysing Heritage Tourism
Ideas and perspectives on a hugely important sector
Alan Machin's Blog - November 2009
Visitors' Views of Stonehenge, West Sussex - and other Postings
Are Universities Losing Their Way?
Reflections having retired
Teaching Tourism At Leeds Met
Remembering the Best
Alan Machin's Blog - October 2009
Thoughts about university life and discovery by travel
Alan Machin's Blog - September 2009
Further postings about a trip last month to the USA, and about higher education
Alan Machin's Blog - August 2009
Postings about a trip this month to the USA
Alan Machin's Blog - July 2009
The Story So Far reaches the summer
Alan Machin's Blog - June 2009
The Story So Far looks back on seventeen years at Leeds Met
Alan Machin's Blog - May 2009
Another month of The Story So Far
Alan Machin's blog - April 2009
Yet more of the Story So Far
Alan Machin's blog - March 2009
More of The Story So Far
Alan Machin's Blog - February 2009
The Story So Far - pioneers, people and places
Alan Machin's Blog: January 2009
The Story So Far .... first postings of '09
Alan Machin's Blog: December 2008
The Story So Far .... latest postings
Alan Machin's Blog - November '08
The Story So Far.... continued
Alan Machin's Blog: October 2008
The Story So Far....
No Place Like Rome
The eternal city with the eternal tourists
Charleston, South Carolina
A photo essay about a fine historic city
Idealog - December 2007
Ideas, notes and comments
Idealog - November 2007
Ideas, notes and comments
The Educational Origins of Tourism
Discussion paper
Idealog - October 2007
Coton Military Cemetery; Education and Tourism; Chatham Maritime; Dickens World; Quiz Answers; Tourist Guides; Mediation In Tourism
Idealog - September 2007
Plane Paradox;Tour Guiding; Where in the World?; Do Tourism Students Know Where They Are?; Leeds Met's Wow!; Sea Harrier; Scarborough and Tourism As Education; Doing A Dissertation; Types of Tourist; A Media Lens; Cost of Travelling Alone; Risk of Bias?
Idealog - August 2007
A People Industry; Heritage Interpretation; Lud's Church; Tourists Go Home!; Stone Gappe YHA; Insight Guides; Eyewitness Guides; Bramhope Tunnel; Elizabethan Progress; Information Quality Matrix
Idealog - July 2007
Hidden Heroes, Health Tourism, Holme Fen Posts; Harrogate (again); Whitby Abbey; Dramatic Interpretation; Harrogate Interpretation, Attractions and Royal Hall
Idealog - June 2007
Christian Pilgrimage; Cincinnati Museums Centre; The Coming of the Guide Book; Talking to Tourists - Media, Stages of the Visit, The Service Journey; Tourism's Missing Link; The Final Call; SATuration level; Halifax's Edwardian Window on the World
Idealog - May 2007
Martin and Osa Johnson, Wensleydale Creamery, Malham Tarn, Thomas Cook, Northern Ireland's Tourism Rebuild, Jamestown Festival Park, Cite des Sciences
Idealog - April 2007
The Promenade Plantee, The Jardin des Plantes, Environmental Data, Victorian Beauty Spot Rediscovered, Jamestown, The Anglers' Country Park, Children's Museums, Fairburn Ings
Idealog - March 2007
A Sense of the Past- The 'Amsterdam', The Outdoor Classroom, Film-Induced Tourism, Making Tracks for the Coast and Country, Pictures, Context and Meaning, Classics-on-Sea, Hi Hi Everyone!, Dark Side of the Dream, Holodyne - The Action Cycle
Idealog - February 2007
Don't Go There!, Space Tourism, The Crystal Cathedral, New Books on Tourism, Dark Tourism - Undercliffe Cemetery, Showcase - The Louvre, A Class Act, First Impressions Count, Postal Pleasures, Canaletto in Venice, Serpent Mound, Capsule Culture etc
Idealog - January 2007
Capsule Culture,Seaside Style, Poble Espanyol, Mallorca, Edgar Dale, Children's Holiday Homes, Representations of Reality, Outdoor Education in Germany, Baedeker Guides, Geography Textbooks, Environmental Data Theory etc
Idealog - December 2006
Writers on Landscape, Story Books, The Deep, Flour Power and the Archers,Showcases: Grand Tour, Halifax Piece Hall, Books of Concern about Tourism, Tourist Traces, Tourist Typologies, The Growth of Educational Tourism, The Field Studies Council, etc
Idealog - November 2006
A blog of ideas, comments and notes
Travel To Understand: Belfast
Telling the stories of troubled times
World Quiz 2010
Geography with a tourism angle
The Monterey Bay Aquarium
An outstanding educational facility in California
Chicago: Tourism Re-Imaging
A closer view of an iconic city
Colonial Williamsburg
A Virginia history showcase
A Social Club Outing By Train, 1935
How to do Scotland in 30 hours flat
Going Dutch
Presenting the past in the Netherlands
Keukenhof: Business is Blooming
Using tourism to promote an industry
A View of Italy for the City
Trentham Gardens Revived
A Case Study in Heritage Management
A curious tale of misleading publicity
Old Rice Farm
The story of the house in the 'holler'
Perfection in Paradise: The Eden Project
New page being added: The Eden Project's design for success
Escaping From Slavery: Facing Our Past
The US National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Prague Tourist Shows
Outstanding showcase attractions in the city
Retracing the Steps: Tourism as Education
ATLAS Conference paper given in Finland, 2000
Tourism and Historic Towns: The Cultural Key
A background paper for a Council of Europe Conference
The Social Helix
Visitor Interpretation as a Tool for Social Development, 1989
Malta Residential, 14-21 Feb 2006 - Page 1
Reports and Pictures
Malta Residential, 14-21 Feb 2006 - Page 2
Photos and reports of Friday 17 Feb onwards
Malta Residential, 14-21 February 2006 - Page 3
Reports and pictures from Sunday, 19 February onwards
Tourism Alumni Reunion, 8 March 2003
Leeds tourism students reunion 2003
World Geography Quiz 1
A test of your knowledge
The Adventure of the Timely Tourist
The answers
Tall Ships Race 2010 Converged on Hartlepool
A major event-based boost for tourism in the town
Plymouth: From the Tamar to the Sea
Starting point for explorations round the globe
Plimoth Plantation
A reconstruction of the Mayflower settlers' village of the 1620s on the north east coast of North America
World Geography Quiz 2010 - Answers
Geography with a tourism angle
World Geography Quiz - Answers
Christmas Quiz 2009 - Answers
A day in the city including the Botanic Garden
Tourist Showcases
Examples from around the world

Talking to Tourists

Work in Progress banner

Visitor interpretation

Interpretive media - Explainers

If your kind of tourism is to do with beaches, bistros, boutiques and boogying then you’ll be a happy enough bunny once you have got them. You need to know how to find your delights – a guide book might help. If you speak the language, or the owners speak yours, then you won’t bother with a phrase book. We all enjoy the pleasures and profit that popular tourism supplies.

Which is fine if the environmental, social and cultural consequences are of no concern. Sustainability will not be an issue. But of course it is always an issue, if not for the tourists, bless ‘em, it is for the managers, the communities and their leaders. Is transport pollution a problem? Are natural and human habitats being eroded, destroyed? Are drunken beach parties, druggies and unacceptable behaviours of all kinds driving coffin nails into neighbourhood life? Do the comparatively rich tourists who descend on poverty-struck places cause destruction by their unthinking, ill-informed activities?

For five hundred years people in tourist destinations of one kind or another have often been aghast at what the tourists might bring with them – attitudes, arrogance, and exploitation of some kind or other. For fifty years at least now the scale of these problems has rocketed with tourism’s growth. Since the ‘sixties and ‘seventies worries about the environment have grown. Some destinations have turned to political changes in order to protect themselves. In extreme cases direct action has been used by extremists, ranging from sloganising to physical attacks. When visitors and the people they visit are separated by their different beliefs and behaviour then there are serious problems to be faced.

On the other hand, travel broadens the mind. Well, it might, if it is well planned and managed. Visitors go home with enriched understanding and positive experiences if everything is done well. Residents gain from an inflow of ideas as well as currency. Travelling in order to understand as well as to enjoy will clock up rich rewards on the balance-sheet of human existence. Better, much better, than living in ignorance of what the world is about.

This page will set out to work towards part of the positive management strategy that is required. It develops the idea that the key to successful, sensitive tourism lies in communication. A good communication strategy has to be based on knowledge of the destinations and the markets. It must base commercial marketing on the ‘P’ that is missed out of so many strategic plans – policies: not just for making profit but for setting the limits of acceptability in terms of economic, social and cultural effects. Such a strategy relies on well-planned communication with both sides of the tourist experience – both the visitors and the visited. Much of that requires excellent levels of customer service by well-prepared staff. It also requires a properly planned, well supplied range of communications media – the guide books, visitor centres, events and displays, backed up by tours led by knowledgeable leaders or well-designed audio devices. By no means are all of these necessary for every destination or location. Oversupply can be as damaging as undersupply, not the least because of problems of intrusiveness or the danger of isolating the visitor in a kind of informational bubble that keeps them away from effective interaction with what they are there to experience. But if there is no information, no interpretation of the meaning and significance of the place, the people, then a golden opportunity will be lost.

That is what this page is about: the media that are needed in some form or other to explain about places.


Tittesworth Visitor Centre

A Visitor Centre

A visitor centre at a reservoir in Staffordshire in the UK is one of many examples of public information about utilities. For thirty or more years Water Boards - succeeded by water companies - have used their resources of space and budgets to add new facilities - effectively, tourist attractions. Environmental concerns which grew during the late 1960s took on the techniques of visitor interpretation being developed in the United States and elsewhere in order to raise awareness of many issues.

At the same time these utilities found an effective public relations channel that boosted their image. Their importance could be recognised as not just being as water suppliers to the community, but environmental conservationists on the one hand and providers of a pleasant day out on the other. Signposting, car parks, footpaths with information panels and small exhibits were added to the guide books and galleries in the visitor centre. New leisure activities from bird watching to windsurfing were often added.

Perhaps it should be recognised better that these forms of communication channel, an important and growing part of the tourism infrastructure, are also a vital part of the democratic process. An electorate has to be well informed in order to influence the adoption of policy. This kind of tourism can do what the mass media and classroom education cannot do - allow people to see for themselves what their world is about.

Whitby Abbey

Audio Tours

Whitby Abbey is associated not only with the history of Christianity but also the origins of the story of Dracula, the life of fishermen over the centuries and the early life of Captain James Cook, the explorer. It stands high above the east cliffs at the top of a long, long flight of steps climbed by thousands of tourists and people from the nearby community.

So it has many stories to tell. English Heritage care for the site and organise the interpretation of these stories through a visitor centre and guide books, and also an up-to-the-minute personal digital player. Carried by the visitor who holds an earpiece close to his or her head, the unit replays recorded words and sound effects chosen by the user according to at which point they are standing. Rechargeable batteries and no moving parts mean much more reliable units than the simple cassette players available in the last 1970s. The capital cost might be high, but it's relatively easy to revise messages. The human voice has a strong resonance for the listener. In addition, different languages and messages suitable for different ages can be added quite easily.

Audio guide device


Elephant seal location - Californian coast

nterpretive Panels

Near to San Simeon on the coast of California is a length of beach loved by elephant seals. They come ashore at certain times of the year such as July and August when they moult. These rather forbidding animals lie on the beach, throwing clouds of sand over their backs and occasionally bellowing their opinions to each other.

Drivers along the adjacent highway often stop here as there is a good little parking area. A short walk brings them to a slight drop down to the beach. Round their feet and in and out of fencing run ground squirrels, cheeky little grey animals out to steal any kinds of food they can find. Gulls land on the fence posts, eyeing the proceedings with old fashioned disdain.

Its best for the elephant seals if they are left in peace and visitors stay on the higher level. And its better for the visitors if they don't tangle with the characters down near the shore line, who can get pretty irritated with those pesky tourists. So interpretation panels have been provided explaining who these animals are, what they are doing and how they should be treated - with care. The public gets its questions answered, the fellers on the beach are left in peace, and everyone goes home a little wiser.

Oh, and the ground squirrels probably get a little fatter from anything dropped by the tourists.

Elephant seals - interpretive panel


Skansen interpretive panel

National Pride

Well, not only national but international, and not only pride but understanding. Stockholm's open air museum (with a few touches of zoo thrown in) called Skansen is reckoned one of the first of its kind. Artur Hazelius, who founded it in 1891, had been impressed by the Great Exhibition forty years earlier in London and thought of the idea of a permanent collection of buildings drawn from all over Scandinavia and Finland in order to show visitors what things were like in the old days.

Interpretation panels here were used to explain what was rather than what is (the Cardiff Bay example of an earlier posting was of what will be). This example is graphically neat though a tad dull in its white and grey, and it would be interesting to know how far the average visitor gets through the text before moving on. Some museums and nature centres use 'adult' and 'child' versions of text - it's often kid's versions that get read most - they're usually shorter and more colourful. Interpretation schemes often encompass a visitor or orientation centre, and set of panels, a number of small exhibits to explain detailed points, some guide books and possibly a guided tour or two. And maybe a video, interactive computer screen, audio recording played through headphones, possibly some outdoor theatre with actors ... well, there are lots of interesting methods. Audio systems can play the sounds of war, the songs of birdlife, the clank of machines and the evocative speech of human beings.

Much more fun than looking at a something locked in a glass case with nothing to bring it to life!

Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre

Regeneration Projects

When the City of Cardiff was moving towards creating a barrage across Cardiff bay in order to regenerate the former coal docks area, a special visitor centre was opened. The unusual 'flattened tube on stilts' building housed a model of the proposed bay area showing the various developments, Printed information could be obtained and staff were on hand to help with questions. Though only a temporary unit, the visitor centre became for a while one of the tourist attractions along with the new interactive science centre and industrial museum. Visitor interpretation was used here to describe plans for the future, rather than dwell on the past. There should be more such projects.

Books on visitor interpretation
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