International Toilet Tourism

Toilet awards

We may be on the verge of a renaissance when it comes to toilets and the spaces they inhabit. Travel and tourism researchers Carolyn Childs and Bronwyn White conducted focus groups and quantitative research on the impact of public toilets in tourism destinations. And guess what? The quality of a restroom matters … a lot! Their research revealed that well-designed bathrooms—not the perfunctory standard stall types, but colorful, truly accessible, even entertaining loos—are revenue boosters for surrounding businesses. Thoughtfully designed bathrooms can even become destinations in their own right, encouraging repeat visits.

To spotlight their findings, the enterprising duo, whose company is My Travel Research, established the 2017 International Toilet Tourism Awards. With 30 entries from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US, six winners were chosen. ABILITY’s Chet Cooper and Lia Martirosyan caught up with Carolyn Childs to chat about “how they do their business,” the awards and tourism trends. The 2018 International Toilet Tourism Awards are now open. The destinations with the best tourist toilets in the world will be invited to sit on the throne for a year.

Chet Cooper: What is your core business about?

Carolyn Childs: Our core business is about filling a gap that we saw in the market, which is that the tourism industry is composed of a very large number of small-to-medium enterprises. They either are not well informed about research or don’t have very large budgets to spend on research and good evidence-based approaches to marketing. Bronwyn (White), through her time both at Qantas and then at Destination New South Wales, one of the state DMOs (destination marketing organizations) here in Australia, and I, as a commercial research practitioner, found was when we took research out and talked about it in the right way, people found it a powerful tool. But their perception was that they often didn’t know how to use it, and they didn’t feel they could afford research.

In the Internet age, there’s an absolute mass of information out there. First, there’s a filtering job to look at it all and ask, “Which of this information is good?” Because there’s a lot of self-interested research published now. Some of that can still be great research because it stacks up. But second, to then bring it down and package it in a way that’s affordable. So the core of what we do involves our membership site. It’s a very similar model to Skift but slightly lower cost, and we’re both research practitioners of many years’ experience. So whereas Skift has broadened out to be more of a general news hub with a core of research on tourism, we’re still sitting in the heart of researching marketing and consulting. This is what we do. With a monthly membership fee, people can go in and use the content. So really what we do is, we’ll take themes, issues, topics, and we’ll pull together the research and put it together in very practical and user-friendly ways to say, “Here’s what this research is telling you, and just as importantly, here are the practical things you can apply to your business to get better results.”

We’ve also launched evidence-based products to help small-to-medium enterprises and smaller destinations with their marketing. We’ve created an off-the-shelf marketing plan where 80 percent of the work is done for you, so the framework is there, and then we coach you to do the rest of it. But we still found there were some businesses for whom even that was too much. So we’ve just created something where we’ve said, “Look, if you do these five things, your digital marketing will work better.” That’s the heart of what we do.

As I’d mentioned to Lia, we also create research products where we see a gap in the market. Again, it’s about finding and exploiting gaps in the market, so we syndicate research on topics. We’ve looked at things like senior travelers. Senior travelers have suddenly become fashionable, but when we did that research back in 2012, people still tended to look at them as wrinkly, old, conservative, grumpy, and with no money. We’ve demonstrated that’s actually not the case. Other research topics have been things like visiting friends and relatives. The final thing we do is take on customized research for clients like any other research agency, but we tend to focus on things where—we’ve got better and better at saying, “Look, we’re working with people who know us and know what we can bring, and we’re working on topics we think fit nicely with our business.” I mentioned that one of them was around the issue of accessible and inclusive tourism. We’re doing a project for the federal government here in Australia in two of Australia’s states on that topic. That’s us in a nutshell.

Cooper: That was not a nutshell.

Childs: I know it might have been a bit too long. We’re still trying to work out how to do the one-line version of that. (laughter) ...To read the full article, login or become a member --- it's free!