II New Business Models for Creating Shared Value
Application of Slow Life Coaching Into an Agritourism Business Model
Daria Hotodnik and Kazimierz Perechuda
The traditional view of agritourism has always been intrinsically linked with rural tourism in the way services are offered and delivered (mainly accommodation and food).
Today, however, staying at a farm could mean much more.1 A wide range of tourism and leisure activities (e.g. outdoor activities, event organization, local and organic food, etc.) can be provided at the same level of professionalism and competitiveness as those provided by city hotels or hospitality suppliers. But the competitive edge of the first one can be delivered through an inspiring and natural landscape, a possibility to participate in folk art and culture, and a greater calmness as opposed to city surroundings.
From the tourist demand point of view, an ever-rising interest has been observed in tourists’ choosing those hospitality objects that offer a slow life experience and slow food philosophy as well as eco-friendly services. Slow rhythms, a desire to explore traditions, a preference for having authentic experiences, and environmental sustainability are rarely realized in city tourism and hardly met in daily life; however, they are easily experienced during the ‘suspended’ time of a farm holiday (Sidali, Spiller &c Schulze, 2011).
Since the traditional business model of agritourism services, though not effective because of low professionalism in the service delivery (in regard to those farms with a small interest in agritourism for a farm activities favoritism), has high potential for the slow life application, a new business model must be considered.
Thus, this chapter is mainly dedicated to discussing a process of designing competitive agritourism services aimed at solving humane problems through slow life teaching. In fact, two narration lines—transformation of the agritourism business model and slow life philosophy (as a means of achieving greater well-being and a harmonized feeling by agritourism guests)—are contrasted. Whereas the latter corresponds well with the humanistic management (HM) point of view, the former binds it with the service management (SM) field. When the aspect of service design is adapted to resolving various contemporary human problems, it can bring about great business success as well as help people find ways of achieving a more balanced life. This mixed approach has been used and emerged as a reflection about HM in the context of slow life application and service competitiveness; hence, it is discussed in the first section of the chapter.
In the following sections, a way to agritourism service transformation is explained by evaluating a case study research and analysis done at Lime Tree Valley Park, an agritourism object in Poland. Overall, the chapter has been divided into the following sections:
The issue of incoherence of the humanistic concept in business is at the center of discussion in humanistic management theories and practices (Dierksmeier, 2016). However, the discrepancy between the humanistic and managerial understating of business may be reduced if the two sides of the matter are assimilated in a common approach, leading, so to speak, to the two co-creating the reality per excellence (integration of conceptualization and application). Undoubtedly, protection of intrinsic values and promotion of well-being is a base of the humanistic management identity (Pirson, 2017). Yet, embedding them in organizational contexts is essential to make them vivid in an interrelated sociobusiness life. So, if the humanistic point of view is obliged to stand for human values, but at the same time is immersed in the organizational background, then its validation depends on the right correspondence between these two. The authors have taken up an agritourism business model as the main context of cultivating humanistic values, which is understood as the applicable way of increasing service competitiveness (Figure 5.1).
Figure 5.1 Application approach to humanistic management Source: Authors’ own elaboration
The fluid approach expresses the authors’ intention to look for a synergy link between humanistic management (especially related to the aspect of well-being coaching) and service management (through value chains extension), as using them simultaneously enables us to construct a modern agritourism business model. So, it can be defined by two main characteristics: competitive, on the one hand, and oriented toward diminishing tourists’ well-being problems, on the other. The key principle of making such a business model work is as follows: the more authentic a tourist’s well-being problem is experienced, the more competitive are the services offered by agritourism. In the section about the case study conduct, the issue of how interviewed tourists became conscious of the ‘empty’ state of body and mind they previously had and how they were encouraged to make a stay more ‘charging up’ is presented.
Therefore, the theory approach made up from the combination of HM and SM outlines the extent to which slow life coaching could be helpful in both harmonizing the state of well-being of tourists and increasing agritourism service competitiveness. At the individual level, we have assumed that a slow life experience can result in a good educational effect, only if one were aware of its happening—in short, when tourists were actively taught how and why they should slow down the tempo of consuming tourism services or activities as well as keep a more conscious and respectful attitude whenever they do it. As for agritourism owners or managers, it is useful to acknowledge a value creation process in the course of changing a business model.
80 Daria Hotodnik and Kazimierz Perecbuda
Figure 5.2 Agritourism business model in the traditional and creative industries Source: Authors’ own elaboration
Generally speaking, service competitiveness can be recognized by a value creation process within service delivery (Rong-Da Liang, 2017). In the agritourism field especially, it reflects the flexibility, creativity, and extension of service design (Broccardo, Culasso &c Truant, 2017). Not every agritourism farm, even after having been designated as a ‘slow life object’, possesses the same value creation qualities; consequently, the authors have proposed distinguishing the agritourism service qualities attributed to traditional and creative industries (Figure 5.2). Staying at farm can be always regarded as a nice, relaxing, and calming experience just by the fact of spending time surrounded by nature. However, in reality, it is the range of offered services (active time spending) and a way they are delivered (genuine experiences) that differentiates the quality of creative agritourism’ service from the traditional.
One of the vital prerequisites of designing a modern agritourism business model is a shift from the passive service delivery (a lack of time arrangement) to an active, educational service model (Holodnik, 2017). It means that agritourists are offered not only food and accommodation but also, and above all, they can experience a certain lifestyle.
By rule, it is only when a farm with a business model of agritourism is able to generate meaningful, inspiring, and harmonious experiences for tourists that it be classified as a creative industry (Tomaszewska, 2018). In our approach, however, we have gone a step further by saying that these experiences are valuable and precious only when they are inspiring enough to make tourists realize how to become more and more conscious of rhe need to develop a slow lifestyle not only during a stay but also afterward as well. So, in our approach, we consider an authentic slow life experience as the starting point of teaching consumers, including tourists, how to live harmoniously, reduce tension and conflicts, and get rid of difficult emotions. So, in reality the difference between traditional and creative agritourism lies in the type of knowledge (slow life) and knowledge diffusion (authentic experiences), instead of an offered service itself (Holodnik & Perechuda, 2014).
3. Research Problems and Aims (Two Models of the Agritourism Value Chains)
From the previous discussion, we discussed that a successful service delivery in agritourism relies on experience authentication. This standpoint is attributed to the humanistic management point of view, compared with the service management perspective which has a different understanding of what consumer experience management really is. For the latter, the main point is not to disappoint tourists with expected service delivery; in other words, respond as closely as possible to their preferences (Smith & Wheeler, 2002). This model, however, is based on delivering service satisfaction along with consumer education, because simply treating tourists as ‘lords’ does not teach them anything, nor make them more reflective. So, when consumer experience management is put into the context of humanistic understanding and agritourism adaptation, it requires a re-interpretation of the elements that make up service satisfaction (Figure 5.3).
Generally, the classical, linear process of service satisfaction, also referred to as ‘customer value creation process’ in the literature, is composed of two phases: service offer (equivalent to value identification) and service consumption (equivalent to value delivery). But in the agritourism business, we want to re-design them through the integration of two types of consumer experience management: consumer coaching (the humanistic approach) and satisfactory service delivery (the managerial approach).
Therefore, on the right side of Figure 5.3, the alternative model of a value chain oriented on slow life coaching and individual value creation is presented. However, what we have assumed from our former research2 is that, to apply them successfully to the agritourism business, value chains have to be re-organized in the following ways: from satisfaction delivery to experience authentication (passive service offering is replaced by active identification of tourist problems) and from service consumption to slow life coaching (instead of consuming process, slow life solutions are provided by a network of coaches).
First, capability of slow life coaching mostly depends on establishing a humanistic relationship between an agritourist and an agritourism family (Choo &c Petrick, 2014). These relationships are usually very warm,
Figure 5.3 Linear and networking value chain in the agritourism service delivery
Legend: TP,: tourist preferences (requested service); SD, : service delivery (satisfactory if relevant to a request); TP, n: tourist problems; TSE, tourist slow life experiences (satisfactory if value transfer has worked)
Source: Authors’ own elaboration familiar, and friendly, so ir has the potential to develop into a trustful relationship that functions as coach-coachee. Second, if a mutual friendship exists, it enhances generating the authentic experience for both the agritourist and the agricrew. For the guest (agritourist), it is very helpful when an agricrew can understand their way of thinking, living, and communicating. For the crew, what is helpful is reducing the chances of misunderstanding the intentions of the guest and getting rid of the hierarchical model of serving (i.e. instead of a ‘servant-lord’ relationship, a partnership co-creation is cultivated).
Third, to come up with a wider range of tourist experiences, the agritourism value chain must be networked with local specialists and suppliers (Renting, Marsden & Banks, 2003) that fit well to the slow life philosophy. So, once the tourist’s well-being problem is identified, it should be matched with adequate solutions co-created by agritourism in collaboration with local coaches who are able to provide qualified slow life coaching in a particular service field (e.g. a local bio-supplier to offer homemade food, a yoga specialist to have the relaxation session, a local artist to organize the folk workshops, etc.).
To research what type of slow life coaching and agritourism service composition could be applied to resolve a specific group of well-being problems, see Table 5.1.
Table 5.1 Tourist problem identification: slow life applied to agritourism value chain
Source: Authors’ own elaboration
Coaching by way of modern agritourism management means that the company actively assists its agritourists to find solutions to their health, social, and psychological problems. But to achieve this, an agritourist is offered the opportunity to engage in a variety of activities in the course of their stay at the location (Radwanska, Dqbrowski & Sokol, 2019).
Here, diagnosis of the tourist’s explicit (e.g. visit inquiry) or implicit (e.g. private, family, or social problem) motivation constitutes a clue in designing and delivering solutions. Basically, planning an agritourist’s destination itinerary and active advisory in service design depends on its accuracy and distinction (Stickdorn & Zehrer, 2009).
When this philosophy is discussed in terms of city tourists, its meaning is changed a little bit, mainly indicating alternative tourism places (e.g. restaurants, hotels, coffee bar, and so forth), in which healthy and local products (from eco-producers) can be served and local elements of handicraft or building materials are used. All of these implications are reflected in agritourism services and activities, but their application varies (Doh, Park & Kim, 2017).
4. Methodology and Study Design Model
The methodology of the research was based on the interpretative paradigm, according to which the socio-organizational phenomena do not exist by themselves but emerge from an actor interpretation over experienced situations, meanings, or undertaken intentions or actions (Czarniawska, 2004). Each time a content of experience manifests in front of different circumstances, a sense-making process has also been changed (Kostera, 2015). Therefore, in our research, we have assumed that the perception of an agritourism experience has a fleeting, unrepet- itive, and ephemeral nature (Bauman Z, Bauman I., Kociatkiewicz & Kostera, 2015), yet its appearance can be caught in the interpretative moments (during the time of ethnographical discovery of agritourism experiences). So, in fact, the whole research procedure was designed in the manner of organizational ethnography, for which participation and observation are the essential methods of phenomena exploration (Figure 5.4).
Although the informal (first research visit) and formal (second research visit) phases of the research conduct were put into sequential order, collecting information was always done simultaneously: through hidden participation (i.e. when a researcher identity is unknown for an event or experience participants) and/or through open participation (i.e. a researcher becomes a watchful observer of an agritourism experience). The mysterious customer (hidden observation) was, however, used as a leading method because it is especially geared toward the study of tourism, leisure, gastronomy, and hospitality (Goodson &c Phillimore, 2004) or when social interactions are part of a subject matter (Lancaster, 2005).
Figure 5A Study design model Source: Authors’ own elaboration
Both were the subjects of this research, since an agritourism experience mainly depends on service flexibility, openness, and personal design. The second reason for using it is that a shadow participation allows one to get an ‘insider’ understanding of how and why a particular interaction is interpreted in this or another way (Czarniawska, 2014).
In a case of agritourism, we looked at the slow life experience as a mutual interaction between an agritourist and agricrew and tried to understand both perspectives: a customer-coaching perspective validating the aspect of the slow life value transfer and a managerial perspective indicating the aspect of the service organization (see Figure 5.4.).
The main aim of the research was to identify the agritourist experience in the aspect of humanistic management and networked value chain. From the first point of view, the agritourist’s services were observed in terms of high or low potential transfer of slow life values in:
Then, to get a closer picture of their implementation of the agritourism experience, interviews with agritourists and agricrew were conducted. Both sides were asked for:
Furthermore, after one of the slow life experiences was revealed, an in- depth research was undertaken to check the level of impact it had on the agritourist’s well-being problems, consciousness, and daily life education. This phase of the interview was aimed at evaluating the theoretical framework contained in Table 5.1, where potential well-being problems were matched with adequate agritourist coaching that presumably constituted a helpful antidote to resolve them. So, the agritourists indicated the type of slow life coaching that took place in their case and what was inspiring enough to be considered as a value transfer or authentic experience.
On the other hand, the means by which the agritourism value chain adopts or integrates the local sources and cooperation in order to organize a more attractive, authentic, and local transfer of values was verified. This perspective makes it possible to match agritourism experiences with the service networking that is a second theoretical grip attributed to service management. In other words, it measures the networking capacity of service design and customization (see Figure 5.4).
The central aim at this stage was to see how active and capable the agricrew was in advisory services and in cultivating a personal relationship between the guest and agritourist.
During the second research visit, staff members were asked for an interview in the form of open discussion and expert analysis. The questions were divided into the following sections:
Generally speaking, identification of the value chain extension at Lime Tree Valley Park allowed us to analyze its overall potential for the agritourism business structure, particularly in the aspect of service design and coaching capability—consumer problems.
With regard to research objects, different business models of agritourism farms in Poland and abroad were selected; however, the analysis in this chapter is based on the case study of Lime Tree Valley Park, located in southeastern
Poland, not far from the town of Kazimierz Dolny.3 This is an agritourism place that has succeeded in introducing slow life services and thus has been chosen as the benchmark of ecological and creative agritourism.
As for the methodological conclusions, it is worth pointing out that the quality of this ethnography research has mainly depended on a skillful, inspective observation and ability to be an inseparable part of the research field. These two make the interpretative paradigm and ethnography approach so difficult in practice, yet it can bring satisfactory results when there is a subtle balance between taking an active part and keeping a calm distance to experience reality.
Lime Tree Valley Park is an extraordinary agritourism complex that offers five rooms, four apartments, and three cottages; local fine food; event organization for institutions and individuals; and many outdoor activities.4 What was, however, at the heart of the research is the slow life character of their delivery that is tantamount to its successful application into the business model. As was discussed in the theoretical background, it is the consumer who participates wakefully in a provided service that can attest to the slow life coaching and experience. Therefore, the tangible elements of service delivery (such as a breathtaking localization, unique design, beautiful views, nice attractions, etc.) do not guarantee either correct identification of consumer problems or a way of slow life implementation. Figure 5.5 presents how the agritourism experience was co-created at Lime Tree Valley Park.
Figure 5.5 Development of agritourist coaching at Lime Tree Valley Park Legend:
EC( 5: explicit coaching, IC, : implicit coaching
Source: Authors’ own elaboration based on the research at Lime Tree Valley Park
88 Daria Holodnik and Kazimierz Perecbuda
The interviews with tourists were conducted with a couple staying at this agritourism resort for a weekend escape. Both of them agreed that the key reason for visiting Lime Tree Valley Park was to try local fine cuisine prepared homestyle and to rest in a calm-inducing natural environment (see Figure 5.5).
However, they did not plan any special itinerary for the stay. It was rather about having relaxation time and a restful weekend. But once they arrived and talked about plans for breakfast with the extremely friendly woman who was preparing the food, they began thinking about taking up some interesting activities. As the conversation continued, the couple was presented with the possibilities available at the site (activities at the farm) and around the area (activities outside). They then became interested in extending their stay (Table 5.2) for:
It might be thought that construction of the agritourists’ service design emerged from spontaneous talk with the farming woman, but this was not so. Observation and subsequent interviews with the manager led us to believe that the results were attributable to the highly educated, intelligent, and truly committed working staff co-creating the networking agritourism value chain models.
Most of all, the agritourists felt advised through slow cooking and active relaxation, additionally gaining more understanding of eco-agriculture
Table 5.2 Coaching design in value chain at Lime Tree Valley Park
Source: Authors’ own elaboration based on study on the job at Lime Tree Valley Park and local farms. They were very satisfied ro learn how to live healthier and slower lives, even though it was only for a weekend stay. On being asked for the most valuable experiences, the participants identified the following:
They emphasized several times that all activities were arranged smoothly, naturally, and effortlessly, as if nobody had prompted them into doing anything. What could be done on site or nearby was simply very gently enhanced and introduced to them, but ultimately they had decided by themselves (see the self-realization model in Figure 5.6 later in the chapter).
So, there was no direct coaching; rather the procedure was converted into a subtle way of taking care of the agritourists’ health and good time. One of the most appreciated pieces of experience was a kind of total freedom, a feeling or atmosphere of service process and not anything concrete (e.g. communication skills). But from the managerial perspective this is part of the consumer experience design and business mode in consequence. When managers of the analyzed agritourism were asked about any special strategy for arriving at the right agritourist advisory
Figure 5.6 Dualistic and self-approach coaching Legend:
PS, n: Problem solving P, n: Agritourist problems PR, n: Problem realization Source: Authors’ own elaboration and atmosphere (e.g. well-trained staff, system of communication skills, etc.), it turned out that that was not the case. But the agritourists’ own words affirmed that the business model of Lime Tree Valley Park had been generally created according to the principle of ‘the invisible coach’. To explain that idea, let’s pass the narration to the manager:
It is much better to assist agritourists select activities than to leave them make choices independently by themselves; the reason being that they are not familiar with the range of possible services offered and how the various events might fit their schedules. It is especially difficult to think and do anything when one is exhausted. We can understand that people need time to relax, and we don’t want to put them through yet another stressful situation by requiring them to select services, make plans, and create structured days. We place high value on not coercing anybody to do anything. It must be the natural way of interacting, and the feelings are taken care of in addition to a friendly environment being created. Our agritourists should be given as much free space as they need it. The thing is to let them be inspired by themselves, while our role is finding their individual way in the perfect conditions for looking deeper and hearing louder.
The managers explained that the main source of this approach is related to slow life education within the agro-service design. As they pointed out, the difficult thing is to create an individual coaching framework when an agritourist’s problems are unknown. Therefore, the network of slow life capabilities has to be extended to a rural destination where agritourism is inherently rooted (see Table 5.2, networking value chain). The leading and only strategy for the managers of an agritourism ‘park’ is to help agritourists resolve or be relieved of their contemporary problems by means of the slow life philosophy. However, its application to the service design is very difficult, as it depends on an agritourist’s problem specification and individual preferences. Because some of the problems might be very inconvenient and uncomfortable to share, the managers have segmented them, depending on possible background, as follows:
Referring to the meaning of agritourist coaching stated by the manager, it is clearly connected with ‘reconnecting of people with themselves by means of nature, happiness, and calmness’. These values have been successfully incorporated into Lime Tree Valley Park.
6. Conclusions and Discussion
Having in mind the fact that the coaching approach can be based either on external support, with a ‘visible coach’ (e.g. as is present in psychological therapy, medical treatments, fitness training, social media contacts, etc.), or self-elimination of problems (e.g. as is mainly used in natural therapies, reflexology, slow life, life awareness, etc.), the capabilities of the business model of Lime Tree Valley Park definitely refer to the latter (Figure 5.6).
The first approach is based on the traditional way of coaching, wherein a coach guides a guest participant by means of direct instructions. This approach can be called the ‘dualistic approach’, meaning that somebody from the agricrew is responsible for sorting out the problems of the guest. In this model of coaching, the real ability to diagnose the problems of the guest depends on the coach’s skills and competences. Illustrating this in one’s agritourist farm visit, it would be as though a kind of ‘concierge’ service was done in every zone of activities. It is not that the managers of Lime Tree Valley Park want to teach the agritourist but rather to enable them to self-manage their problems by embracing, even if just for a short time, a slow lifestyle.
Therefore, the main goal of invisible coaching is to create opportunities for the tourists to engage in a self-realizing and self-solving process. By itself, a farm stay naturally possesses such a quality. Most of the problems will disappear by themselves by simply creating for the guests the perfect space or conditions to find the time to relax and engage in enjoyable activities. This is the only principle in non-dual, space-based coaching (Dolot, 2018).
In conclusion, a slow life program in agritourism is aimed at coaching people on how to reinforce the body-mind energy in different areas of life (e.g. family, health, and environment), so the whole infrastructure, services, and customer relationship management have to be manifested in accordance with it. There is no unique framework for the coaching business model of the agritourism farm. However, for the process of examining a design of agritourist experience, the following analyses should include:
Moreover, education of slow life through creating an authentic experience of calm, balanced, and harmonious existence is the way to apply the understanding of humanistic management into modern agritourism services. One of the reasons is that creative agritourism has enough qualities to teach postmodern people how to deal with a rushed, unbalanced, and disharmonized lifestyle that leads to nervous interactions with others, a feeling of being overwhelmed, and generally stressful and negative emotions. The organization of value chains managed by customer experience should be capable of generating meaningful moments, extraordinary impressions, valuable knowledge, and meaningful relations (Smith & Wheeler, 2002). In agritourism, this process refers to the arrangement of attractive time spending at the location delivered by means of slow life services.
The aim of the research, which constituted the focus of the chapter, was to analyze two aspects of the agritourism business model: slow life coaching and its application to the value chain model (agritourism service perspective). The case study of Lime Tree Valley Park in Poland shows how the former perspective can interfere with the latter. However, through different means of application, it is possible to attain a highly ‘slow’ and humanistic, yet efficient, service management. Here, it has been explained that application of an alternative (invisible) style of coaching is the most adaptable one for agritourism. Other conclusions indicate that:
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