THL Toolbox > Places & Geography > Tourism Documentation of Places
Contributor(s): David Germano
THL is centrally committed to documenting Tibetan places in their cultural and national dimensions, and in their historical and contemporary character. This research includes essays, databases, maps, images, audio-video recording, and more. The results of this documentation are primarily disseminated through two portals – the Tibetan and Himalayan Historical & Cultural Geography (http://thlib.org/places/culturalgeography/) targeted for a more academic audience and the Tibetan Geotourism Portal (http://thlib.org/geotourstibet/index.php) intended for a broader audience.
The Tibetan Geotourism Portal in particular is intended serve tourists, tourism professionals, and Tibetan local community residents with the goal of promoting and facilitating tourism in Tibet that is centered around a deep understanding of Tibetan culture and environment, and supports the empowerment of local residents and the protection of the integrity of local culture and ecology. It should be stressed that this Portal is first and foremost an initiative grounded in ethical concerns about the integrity of the tourism process in relationship to the importance of benefit to local residents, and the importance of knowledge and understanding as a basis for encounters and exchanges between tourists and local residents. In this, it can be differentiated from primarily commercial initiatives that are geared towards generating a profit either out of the lucrative publishing industry, or specific institutions such as hotels, restaurants, theme parks, and the like.
In terms of tourists, the portal hopes to provide basic information about the logistics of tourism, Tibetan places, Tibetan culture and Tibetan environment along the lines that standard tour books such as Lonely Planet provide. However, in addition, we are trying to make the information about places, culture and environment far more rich, accurate, and nuanced, as well as include much more extensive self-representation by local Tibetans throughout. This is accomplished first by mobilizing academic researchers, teachers and students either directly, or indirectly through repurposing their academic work. Thus all of the academic research, images, audio-video, and other resources generated for THL's Cultural Geography will be automatically also exposed to uses through the Geotourism portal. Second, we aim to incorporate the submission of resources from individuals across all social and professional sectors, not just professionals and not just academics. Third, the work is integrated with initiatives aimed at the participatory self-documentation of Tibetan perspectives, cultural traditions, communities, histories, and local ecologies using modern technologies. The Portal thus aims to create a distributed network for the production of knowledge on a broad scale that includes a distributed system for the flexible, modular and dynamic dissemination of such knowledge and resources in ways that are socially beneficial to local Tibetan communities.
The Geotourism project documents Tibetan places, their natural features, communities, and cultural traditions with the aim of promoting forms of tourism that more fully involve local communities, as well as maximizing benefit to those communities. Geotourism is a widely used term used to signify such forms of tourism, which could also be called community tourism, engaged tourism, fair-trade tourism, or other labels. Geotourism contributions involve the same basic elements of the other place projects – Place Dictionary entries, Encyclopedia descriptions, maps, images, audio-video recordings and the like – but also adds structured descriptions of places with an eye towards tourists.
However, the documentation of places in relation to tourism is different in character from the academic documentation of places. Firstly, the general tone of writing needs to be more accessible and less intellectual in character; secondly, tourism facilities and access to a given place are a central part of the documentation; and thirdly, documentation needs to take into account ways in which the tourism process can be more beneficial and less harmful to the local communities being visited.
Our presentation presents each place in terms of seven tabbed sections: Facts, Sites, Resources, Activities, Accommodations, Info,Nearby. None of them expand out with suboptions - they are just buttons. The rest have table of contents on their pages for whatever other multiple items are. Down the road, these might be changed into an accordion right hand nav. If possible, provide pictures in each section. An iconic picture on the top of section works well, though pictures it is fine to put pictures wherever it is fitting and informative:
- Place facts: the basic descriptive information. on the site. This should be generated by the Wiki. Perhaps Eventually should be dealt with by Place Dictionary relying upon as yet to be build Place Dictionary Tourism Module. It includes the Place Dictionary entry. It should also link to an Introductory Synthetic Essay generated by the Wiki. Perhaps eventually could be dealt with by Place Dictionary relying upon as yet to be built Place Dictionary Tourism Module.
- Local Sites: details sites within the overall site. For now must be handled by Wiki, but should be handled by the Place Dictionary application.
- Featured Resources: slide shows, audioo-video recordings, thematic essays, maps, etc. For now must be handled by Wiki, but should be handled by the Place Dictionary application. Could make these a list with standard icons (for images, etc.) and title, and then if you choose, you get a lightbox popup window.
- Activities: various activities for a tourist.
- Accommodations: hotels, home lodges, etc. Textually expressed logistical information. This should be generated by the Wiki. Perhaps eventually could be dealt with by Place Dictionary relying upon as yet to be build Tourism Module.
- Tourism Information: textually expressed logistical information. This should be generated by the Wiki. Hopefully very soon we enter these Hotels into the Place Dictionary even without the yet to be built Tourism Module or possible Hotel Module. Detail can go in the Place Dictionary Description field. Later we might have a right hand nav column to navigate to the various categories. That would require us to make a process that converts Wiki subheaders into menu items and specify the set way to mark headers (like all h3, etc.)
- Nearby Sites: details sites nearby the site in question. For now must be handled by Wiki, but should be handled by the Place Dictionary application by using the "feature relationship" and specifying that the specified sites are "nearby" to the site in question you are relating them to.
The first step is to create Place Dictionary entries, if they do not already exist. For detailed instructions on creating Place Dictionary entries, see THL Place Dictionary Editorial Manual. If entries already exist, you may still want to add a "description" which is oriented towards tourism, even if there is already a "general" description. We would make special note of the use of the standard entry for the following aspects:
- Use the “place relationships” to document “Local Sites” (relation=contained) and “Nearby Sites” (relation=near by (which is different than “adjacent”)).
- Add a “tourist-focused” description into the standard description field but typed as “tourist description”
The second step is to create more specialized materials on the place in question with a focus on tourism. We are now in the process of making a specialized extension of the Place Dictionary that will provide an online template for entering rich descriptive data that is keyed to the tourism, but it is not yet completed. This will consist chiefly of a series of logistical categories that an editor can choose from to add if relevant to the place in question. Thus if you want to describe "banking" in a city, you add a "banking" element and fill it out. We also need to take into account when you might want to just defer a category to a larger feature that contains the feature in question.
The full list of categories:
- Accommodations (Lodging, Places to Stay – Budget, Mid-Ranges, Top End): This makes synthetic comments about lodgings available in the region. If there is also a detailed hotel by hotel survey, then those are maintained in the Place Dictionary and a button here should allow users to request to see all the hotels contained in the present site.
- Changing Money:
- Email & Internet Access:
- Embassies & Consulate:
- Entertainment: bars, gay/lesbian bars, discos and clubs, live music, cinema,
- Food & Drink (Places to Eat): Vegetarian.
- Getting Around (Transportation): to/from airport sub way, taxi, bicycle
- Getting Information:
- Getting There & Away: bus, train
- Health care:
- Libraries /Information Centers:
- Medical Services:
- Money: Banks, ATMs:
- Museum & Galleries:
- Newspapers & Magazines:
- On your bike:
- Organized tours:
- Orientation: spatial
- Post & Communications: Telephone code, cell phone coverage
- Seasonal Events:
- Shopping: books, department stores, miscellaneous
- Tourist Offices:
- Travel agencies:
- Weather (climate):
- Where to go next:
Documenting hotels, restaurants, and stores is one of the most difficult aspects of documenting a place because of both their great number and their tendency to go in and out of business rapidly. We are at present considering whether we should design specialized extensions for the Place Dictionary for each. We might begin by simply making basic Place Dictionary entries that have the descriptive data in the "description" field, and then specify "feature type=hotel". Then we can present a query to the Place Dictionary that says "give me all Place Dictionary entries that have type=hotel, and are contained by Place X". Then the link to Accommodations for a place can just be that query which returns those search results. We will index the photos in the Media Management system and use the Place Dictionary ID for the relevant hotel to index the photos within the MMS as being located at that hotel.
A Place Dictionary Hotel extension would havehave structured fields corresponding to the attributes we are tracking for each hotel (beds, etc.). Then we will have to take previously entered descriptions from the Place Dictionary and parse the information into those structured fields.
If the portal is to function as a single stop that is sufficient for a given tourist's needs, it must offer basic information that one would expect from a tour book. This includes logistical information (travel, banking, health, etc.), information on the places and features within those places, and then general cultural, historical and others types of background on these Tibetan areas. This is an imposing challenge given the non-profit nature of the initiative, and the vast extent of the necessary information for such a resource to be comprehensive and useful.
We are beginning with a systematic review of extant tour books and Web sites focused on Tibet tourism. These are not scholarly works on tourism per se, but rather books and Web sites that provide information and resources oriented towards tourists:
- Create an exhaustive list of such tour books, creating proper bibliographical entries including extent (how many pages), and putting that in a standard THL Bibliographical Excel spreadsheet
- Write a simple analysis of the each book's scope (is it focused on one region of Tibet? one type of tourist? etc.), and quality (is it out dated? are the maps poor? etc.)
The end result of this is an annotated and classified bibliography that provides tourists a way to follow up on their interests. However, ultimately , such a bibliography could cover the entire field of Tibetan Studies publications, so the following is a guide to the scope we are currently focused on (given in order of importance):
- Tour Guide books intended to be used as manuals for tourists while preparing for a trip, and while traveling
- Popular accounts of travel that are likely to be of interest to tourists
- Popular accounts of Tibetan culture, places and environment likely to be of interest to tourists
- A select range of attractive and interesting picture books of interest to tourists
The most important are by far the tour guide books. In documenting these, its important to make sure you are working with the most recent versions, since obviously tour guide books are often periodically updated.
The tour guide books then need to be analyzed in great detail. We want to document how many chapters a given book has, how those chapters are organized in terms of subject matter, the chapters' internal structures, and so forth. In addition, we want to document all topics covered formally within the book, including notes on what looks particularly useful.
Those structural analyses of the tour books, along with the actual content, will be used extensively then for us to do two initial tasks towards generating our preliminary "tourism information". This has four broad categories:
- logistical information (banking, ordering food, buying tickets, etc.)
- cultural and environmental information (history, cultural practices, flora and fauna, etc.)
- logistical information on places (the location of hotels, restaurants, etc.)
- cultural information on places (famous sites, history, etc.)
Using the structural analyses of the relevant tour guide books - which are surely under forty overall - reviewers should analyze the books for these four types of data. The books are helpful in determining the types of data that should be documented, how that data is organized, and then the actual data. It is illegal to simply copy text out of these books, so it is essential that reviewers only use the books as sources, but write in their own words.
1. Logistical Information: We are looking initially for a comprehensive draft. Thus, having analyzed the short list of tour guide books, we want a complete list of all topics. Then a given person should take on a specific topic, and synthesize all treatments from the available literature. At that point, the topic will be passed on to people with specialized information on that topic based upon extensive travels in Tibet, and they will use it as a starting point to write a final version.
2. Cultural and environmental information: We are looking initially only for a complete list of all topics, and then notes on where they are discussed in the various books, as well as short notes on which discussions seem the best or anything distinctive about them (such as how they are structured, or have maps, or photos, or whatever).
3. Logistical information on places: This is not something we are working on in this context. The structural analysis of the book should be clear where such information is in the books for later review.
4. Cultural information on places: This is not something we are working on in this context. The structural analysis of the book should be clear where such information is in the books for later review.
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