One of the things I find most intriguing about travelling is to explore and getting to know new places. Every time I arrive at a new destination I wonder what history, storylines and characters have passed through here. Even with little knowledge beforehand, it is as if one can sense these stories. Indeed often we fantasize and make up our own stories, based on the specific feel and emotions a certain place might provide us with.
At most destinations in the world it is possible to get to know the stories of a place – be it factual or fictitious – for instance by reading pamphlets or engaging in guided tours. But what I have come to realize and what recent trends are dictating, is that people increasingly want to take part in the stories themselves. Not only do they want to be informed and see where it was unfolded – they also want to know how it feels. In particular this seems to be true for the more adventurous kinds of stories. Therefore it is now possible to follow in the footsteps of the Hobbits (hobbiton, New Zealand) or Indiana Jones (The jungle Maya Expedition, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico). Using stories as an efficient means to promote and brand a destination is something that is recognized by most developed destinations today. But settling at this stage, I ague, is merely to exploit the potential of the stories halfway. Studies of role-playing games (Mossberg, 2008, Moscardo, 2010) tell us that people are equipped with playful souls and that they tend to mirror themselves in roles and characters from movies. For instance, one wants to act and experience an area as Aragorn or Frodo from The Lord of The Ring. In essence, people are increasingly getting ‘younger at heart’ and they want to ‘play’. In fact, it is very likely that tourists could be disappointed upon their arrival, if they are to realize that the stories they were told as well as the opportunity to engage in them is not present.
To truly exploit the potentials of a given place’s stories the option for engagement therefore should be available for tourists. According to what the trends dictate, it is likely that it is going to be one of the dominant future trends. People are no longer just the audience but should be seen as actively participating roles in the spectacles that are taking place on the various destinations of the world. They want to be co-creators of the stories that are being played out.