Puzzle pieces

Welcoming creativity into the work process opens up new ways of approaching problems and finding solutions. | Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

January 26, 2021

Would you visit a destination to go Bigfoot hunting? The state of Oklahoma thinks you might.

A recent bill introduced in Oklahoma would issue hunting licenses for those interested in going on a Bigfoot hunt. The fees would fund the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation while drawing tourists to the area. 

As stated in a recent EcoWatch article about the initiative: "They want to buy a license because they want to frame it on the wall," (State Rep. Justin) Humphrey told The Oklahoman. "Anything that could be a revenue creator is something we ought to look at and definitely entertain."

I don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty details about whether this could harm actual efforts to find Bigfoot or whether it’s a good idea to invite a deluge of out-of-state hunters into the woods to participate in this. 

What I want to point out is this: This brilliant idea puts Oklahoma on the map, potentially boosting tourism revenue while funding conservation efforts. Countless destinations have been looking for a similar solution to this problem. Could it work?

The other key point? Creative ideas are everywhere … even in those places we least expect to find them.

The tourism industry is in the perfect position to take advantage of creativity. We’re working across a myriad of environments, tangled up in fascinating stories, and interacting with people who are engaged and interested in the world around them. Creative ideas are within our grasp, and it’s up to each and every person to smash the box their thinking is currently contained within to find them.

It is clear we, humankind, can not “return” to normal. “Normal” encompassed a system and structure that was inequitable, unsafe, unhealthy, and far from sustainable. It’s natural for people to fall back into what we know because it’s comfortable and safe — even if it’s not the best path forward. 

It seems like the vast majority of people working within tourism are eager for a new way of doing business, but what would a drastically new way of doing business look like? How far are we willing to push disruption? How do we prioritize the environment and local communities while still running profitable businesses?

What could the “new” tourism look like if we really let our imaginations run wild?

Creativity serves us well in our everyday work. Finding innovative ways to respond to open-ended problems reveals pathways of opportunity we might never have considered before. And when people are motivated by interest, enjoyment, satisfaction, and the personal challenge of the work itself, creativity knows no bounds. There is no wrong answer when we’re thinking creatively — and we’re in the perfect position to take advantage of these conditions right now.

Are you ready to realize your creative potential? It’s time to nudge it further … a little further … a little further. 

Now you’re getting to the good stuff.

1. Ask “what if?”

Nothing is off-limits when it comes to creative thinking. This Bigfoot hunting license scheme probably started as a joke — “Wouldn’t it be bonkers if we could get people to pay to go looking for Bigfoot?” — and cascaded from there. All brilliant solutions start with the spark of an idea, and no idea or question is off the table when you get started. 

Let ideas evolve, rolling out “what if?” questions that build off of or inspire other questions. Don’t hold back when you start throwing ideas around as you begin looking for new ways to define travel, offer experiences, tell your stories, or promote your products or destinations.

2. Turn your thinking upside down.

Look at a problem from every single angle. Consider it from different viewpoints. Imagine scenarios that are 180 degrees from the way you normally approach them. Take conventional wisdom and throw it out the window. It has no place when you’re tackling a problem with a new, fresh perspective.

Here’s an example: Last year I talked with a tour operator who was so concerned about the climate emergency she didn’t want her clients to fly. How could she market her tours without attracting travelers who need to board an airplane? She turned the idea around until she hit on the solution of only offering her website and marketing materials in the languages primarily spoken by people living within a train ride away. 

3. Think beyond the tourism silo.

We are all so embedded in the tourism industry that we sometimes need reminders that there’s a world beyond it. Yet, that world is teeming with ideas and strategies that can be stretched and molded to fit the challenges specific to travel and tourism.

What can we learn from the supply chains being disrupted in the fashion industry? Is there anything to take away from the way, say, a literary agency and the publishing industry work in regard to helping travelers find the right travel experiences? How can we work with non-profit organizations to ensure travel doesn’t remain an activity for the privileged? Are there local partnerships we have yet to explore?

4. Collaborate.

This, of course, leads naturally to the idea that we can and should lean into collaboration — both within and beyond the tourism industry. You do not have to work through these problems alone, so don’t! For the most part, those working in the tourism industry share the same values and intentions, so coming together to find creative solutions to our greatest challenges is in our best interest.

But I challenge you to go beyond this small, contained bubble. Find spaces that foster and encourage new ways of approaching problems, and let your mind run wild. Who knows … you may come up with the next great Bigfoot idea!


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