What do the Istanbul Grand Bazaar and Michigan travel destinations have in common? Part 2

A pure sensory experience!

Assorted hookah’s at Grand Bazaar. Photo credit: H. Vogler
Assorted hookah’s at Grand Bazaar. Photo credit: H. Vogler

It was noted in the first part of this article series that Travel and Leisure Magazine identified the Istanbul Grand Bazaar as the most visited attraction in world, with over 91 billion visitors annually. The question posed was what is it that makes this particular site so special?

To visitors and experts alike, it is the ‘total sensory experience’ – sights, sounds, touch, smells and tastes. As Dr. Dan McCole, assistant professor at Michigan State University stated, “A walk through the Grand Bazaar floods a visitor’s senses with thousands of unique stimuli that epitomize Istanbul.”

So what will help other travel destinations showcase their ‘unique stimuli that epitomizes’ their community or location? It is the elements that are distinctive to that community – what makes a location stand out to those people who reside or visit. These are often features residents may take for granted, but local populations are still the best source for identifying the areas that represent an exclusive or special sensory quality.

A destination locale can start by asking questions of their residents, such as:

  • Where do they take people who are visiting from out-of-town?
  • What local food or drink do they make sure their guests sample?
  • What sites do they want a visitor to be sure to see?
  • What events do they take guests to and at which time of the year?
  • What activities do they organize for their visitors?
  • Are there particular historic sites of importance or notoriety?
  • Where do residents bring guests to purchase gifts for someone back home?

The answers to these and similar questions are usually the places that make a tourist destination stand out. They are usually the locales a travel destination should not only emphasize in their advertising, but also among their own community members.

Michigan State University Extension offers an educational tourism program, Sense of Place: The Importance of Knowing Your Story, which emphasizes the importance of providing an authentic experience to visitors. The workshop helps communities explore questions, such as those listed above, and how to communicate that message to the visitor.

Another opportunity to discover and reinforce what unique elements characterize a community is to design some sort of a program around being a tourist in one’s own community. See the Be a Tourist in Your own Community, a Michigan State University Extension article about how Alcona County, Michigan has increased local awareness through an annual bus tour.

So, how can a travel destination become a pure sensory experience? Discover what the community identifies as its unique elements – what does it have that provides an authentic experience for visitors? Michigan tourist destinations may not have the number of visitors that the Grand Bazaar attracts, but Michigan does have plenty of pure sensory delights that will please any visitor!

Other articles in this series:

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