Travellers are far more motivated by what they want to do than where they do it. That’s what the major trends making travel happen this year teach us, that it’s becoming less about the destination and more about the experience. Time to delve deeper into the experiential potential of the area you operate in and match the hottest, latest trends to your destinations.

Finding the experiences in your destination

No destination is one-dimensional. Your travellers have an adventurous spirit and are keen to try something new when they travel. It’s easy for a destination to get pigeon-holed by its typical and widely-known attractions, marketed with generic blandness to the faceless mainstream tourist. Destinations can hold their own individual appeal too and that will always have a place in the romance of travel.

But think about it.. someone dreaming of say, Paris, it’s really images of long, romantic strolls along some boulevard or other, Eiffel Tower sparkling on the horizon, concertina music serenading the effortlessly seductive ambience of a Parisian sidewalk cafe, that the mind conjures up first. Then the food, wine, museums.. There are iconic features that people simply just want in their travel pics but it boils down, purely and simply, to an experience.

I once walked across a frozen lake among some snow-laden mountains, dressed like an eskimo to keep out the mid-winter cold, then down the mountain in the quick falling dusk with only the reflection of snow lighting our way (the promise of bottomless cups of warm honey mead waiting ahead) – that was pretty romantic too, and nowhere near Paris, is my point.

As experts in travel and destinations of the world, we hold the key to the door that opens up the world of experience to our clients. They’ve got this idea in their heads and we’ve got to know our stuff well enough to present to them the right stage for them to live out their idea. We can provide them with opportunities to enact their travel romance in locations they may not have considered.. as long as the recipe for the experience is adhered to.

The most prominent take-aways from our studies into 2017 tourism trends, the adventure, sustainable and immersion trends cover the broadest cross-section of travel motivations. It’s what travellers are looking for right now and as the year winds down, they’re thinking of where to try their something new next for their year-end vacation. Or to start their new year somewhere interesting, doing something that resonates deeply with them.

Adventure There’s adventure to be found in your destination. Identify the spaces that lend themselves to exploration of beautiful natural surroundings in your region: forests and caves, jungles and deserted beaches, spectacular heights to bungee from, wild waters to raft, wildlife to observe and learn about..

Are these your destinations?

Explore these sought-after experiences to see if you can identify any in your destinations. Adventurers seek exhilarating experiences within a setting of great natural beauty. The more untouched, isolated, the better.

Sustainability There isn’t a single corner of the world that doesn’t need sustainable practices for its longevity. Your destination is no different.

Identify the initiatives being taken by the host communities, local government and NGO’s in your area, as well as the travel companies operating in-destination with an ecology-first approach. Then adjust your own operations with sustainability of natural resources, local culture and economy in mind. protect, preserve, conserve, and appease the conscience of the responsible traveller.

Guess these sustainable destinations.

You’re appealing to travellers who want guilt-free experiences, because they care about the planet, its future and our collective impact on it. Remember, they’re prepared to spend a bit more to assuage their guilt; so it’s an investment in your business and brand image as much as in the future health of tourism.

Cultural Immersion Transformative, immersive experiences of culture entail getting intimate, up close and personal with local art, food, customs, religion, architecture, history, music and festivals, climaxing with an emphasis on local interactions.

Can you name these destinations?

It takes the right mixture of ingredients to make up the right customised experience for your client. Your destination is richer than scratching the surface suggests, and we already know the locals are chomping at the bit to share their lifestyles and stories with new foreign friends. So introduce them!

Let’s face it: the inclination towards hidden gems, unique and lesser known locations and experiences, off-beaten track and responsible tourism, is now established. We can’t argue the point, just choose to ignore it or find these attributes in our own destinations.

Examine your own area for suitable opportunities and travel suppliers who sell adventure, practice sustainability, facilitate fully immersive cultural experiences, and incorporate them into your offerings as value-adds or make them the core of your offering. Your destination as a whole benefits from partnerships you forge with local companies and communities. And your clients ultimately benefit from the full experience that characterise your destination. Then they can spread the news of what amazing experiences can now be had in places few imagined possible – bragging rights galore.

What constitutes the travel experience

Holistically, we’re concerned with the entire process from discovery to browsing to booking, through travel until afterwards. Focusing on the actual travel part of the process, we realise that our modern traveller has less disposable time to plan and arrange travel.

When a dot on a map represents an experience

They don’t want to be bothered with logistical issues and will expect you to solve matters of accommodation, routing, transfers relevant to the experience, as well as access to in-destination excursions, day tours and activities.

And they want as much of it pre-planned and booked or paid beforehand as possible. But this isn’t about the practical end of things.

This is about covering bases, ticking bucket list boxes. If my ideal cultural immersion is about meeting and chilling with some locals and doing in Rome as the Romans do, so to speak, there are huge implications involved, like food. I don’t have to tell my travel agent that I’m a registered foodie, I may not exactly label myself a connoisseur of wine or craft beer; but I may certainly imply my interest in both when I talk about my desire for a cultural immersion. I’ll expect to hear all about the place, which is great especially if it’s a destination I’m not all that familiar with. But more importantly, I’ll need to know about the experience.. and see it.

CLICK FOR A CLOSER VIEW

To set the stage, an overview of the destination. Supporting imagery should indicate how I can satisfy my foodie interest simultaneously with my desire to learn how the locals source, prepare and enjoy their food and drink. I don’t just want to purchase local craft work as souvenirs of my trip, I also want to get my own hands dirty and learn how to do it. I want to learn about the history of the people and place from museums as well as the local people themselves. If my trip coincides with any festivals or local events, don’t just tell me about it – give me a visual heads-up. I’d like to know what I can expect to experience.

The content story has to further depict where I will stay and how this accommodation supplements and supports my desired experiences. It’s got to extend the theme through to activities and excursions on offer on premises or nearby; the accommodation itself could offer an experience, like spending a night with a host family, for example. Modes of travel and unique accommodation types increasingly play integral roles in sustaining themes of experience. From cruises to rail travel, mobile safaris to RVs or motor homes, multi-day tours, camping to glamping, tree houses, and more. 

To know the traveller is to know the experience

If I’m travelling solo, another growing trend for 2017, I want to see how my particular needs are catered to – opportunities to engage and socialise with other travellers, staff and locals alike. Travelling with a family has its special requirements too, so I’ll be looking out for the available child- and family-friendly facilities and activities. As nature lovers, we want the selection of imagery meant to represent the experiences we will be able to enjoy in-destination to be of the highest quality, it should be current and up-to-date.

Whether I’m solo, a millennial travelling with friends, a multi-generational family or a couple travelling together, the content story depicting my desired experience has to be tailored exactly to my needs. That’s the crux of experiential travel in terms of how it is sold: it has to be represented in customised, personalised fashion, with the traveller as the hero and an undiluted portrayal of the experience.

Enter the Experience

Putting the package together takes you 2 thirds of the way; next step is to inject it into the online space to be found, seen and shared. These various tourism trends are also trending on social media, since travellers are known to be active there. #foodporn… push your content out onto social sharing sites with the relevant trendy hashtags and ensure it is shareable directly from your website. Your brand will be seen to endorse not just destinations, but experiences that speak to the trends. Be current, be found and remain visible.

Travellers and potential clients want to brag about what they’ve done or are going to do – they can’t own a destination but they can own their experiences, the transformation they bring, and the memories they accumulate. For you it means utilising the versatility of the destinations you sell to the benefit of modern travellers and their lucrative caprices. In the end it serves to showcase a destination from different vantage points without succumbing to hard-selling the usual suspects of iconic tourist attractions, while enriching the experience of travellers. It’s good for your brand, your business, and the destination too.

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