Modern traveller seeks transformative travel experiences… and local living is a rapidly growing source of inspiration. What can you offer the traveller who wants more than just a restful break? We’ve identified that accommodation, cruise and train journey, day tour, and activity suppliers are portals to a destination – they’re also gateways to local living. Let’s shift focus onto bringing those experiences to your doorstep, for your guests to explore as the feeling moves them.
What your guest wants to feel
It’s a good thing that travellers have evolved beyond mass tourism with lists of must-do activities and must-see hot spots that everyone’s doing and having their pictures taken at. That was never going to be sustainable. Now they’re keen to feel a deeper connection with the destination they’re visiting for a more intimate understanding of its people.
Let’s call it a temporary, but real sense of belonging to a home-away-from-home. That connection can only truly happen if they’re directly exposed to local communities. It can be found in first-hand experiences of what daily life is like for locals, their challenges, pleasures, what issues they grapple with, how they blow off steam and express themselves creatively. This is additional to learning about the history of the people, and also modern trends.
..even with traditional style organized group tours like cruises or a bus coach, today’s travelers still want to get out & explore the real [destination]…meeting locals at farmer’s markets & winemakers at wineries.
There’s learning about and then there’s participation – voyeurism is no longer enough for modern travellers. Participating in local living brings a deeper understanding of how inhabitants of their chosen travel destination live – it brings transformation of perception with deeper empathy.
The concierge service goes next level
Local living needs a base from which travellers can explore your destination. They need freedom of movement with plenty of options to engage with locals as and when they choose to. Your concierge service is the logical liaison between guest and local communities in your vicinity of neighbourhoods. Rather than compel the guest to do their own research, you should offer that service and bridge the barrier between locals that have zero experience of the travel trade and travellers who desire an experience deeper than what’s advertised in traditional guide books.
Your local staff becomes your greatest resource to this end.
They can recommend their favourite local eateries, hang-out spots, sports clubs; events, museums and art galleries, places of worship, markets and parks, all based around specific interests.
It’s like giving your guests the inside scoop on what’s happening in the local community.
Involve the locals
Being an effective portal to the local community means making introductions and incorporating local initiatives into your offerings, on-site or near your premises. Travellers will appreciate knowing that their tourism spend benefits locals as portions of it trickle into the local economies.
Along the same lines is the new sophistication of locally owned & operated lodges that showcase indigenous cultures & act as economic engines for the surrounding area.
Create opportunities around township tours, cooking demo’s in private homes, language lessons, art and craft demo’s or classes, lectures by local intellectuals and historians, storytelling sessions with community elders, learning how to surf, salsa or strum a mariachi guitar – all the defining traits of local culture. Invite folks with local expertise to welcome some new foreign friends into their midst.
Cultural purists come in all shapes and ages, from the super curious and ethically-minded millennials to more mature, travel-seasoned Babyboomers, multi-generational families to solo travellers. They all want to get up close and personal with locals, to support rather than corrupt or contaminate their home. The info you provide should facilitate independent exploring and access to local living experiences.
Any season will do – what locals do during off-peak season is interesting too! Direct them to areas of local interest and encourage them to use public transport: rent scooters or bicycles, take a bus, water or motorbike taxi.
Show them where to buy local, how to dress local, and inform them of taboos.
Connect them with local translators or regular folks who can teach them the basics and some slang. ขอขอบคุณ (Kap-kun-kah)
Encourage them to attend local sports matches, visit schools or hook them up with some voluntourism on community projects. You know your neighbourhood, you know your neighbours. Put your contacts to work!
With the boom in experiential travel, hotels are more & more acting like community portals by introducing guests to popular local experiences.
Here’s how you can compete effectively with crowdsourcing and the shared economy space, where local hosts may or may not offer their guests local interaction. With your ear to the ground, you can guarantee your guests experience safe and fulfilling local living options at their leisure.
Will the real Authentic please stand up?
It’s not only millennials who are skeptical of the authenticity promised to them by tourism brands. Cynicism has spread to other travellers who are weary of being promised ‘real’ only to encounter ‘fake’ or diluted experiences. Tourism is often limited to experiencing all things traditional and historical. Local living embraces what’s current and trendy in local communities. Authenticity is relevant, not kitsch.
Local trends generally exist below the international radar – it takes a knowledgable guide to inform you on what’s the latest. The history of a place lives in the hearts of locals whose personal history has been shaped by it.
It might start off feeling gimmicky, but once your palms start turning red and throbbing from Djembe drumming and you see how the locals you’re jamming with are equally transported by the music, you understand you’re part of something real.
Music and cuisine are distinctive cultural identifiers.
Storytelling while sharing a drink, a pipe or a meal at a gathering is the genuine immersive deal.
There are few more powerful ways to engage with a culture than breaking bread with local people, learning about the type of food they eat, how it’s sourced and prepared, when and where they eat, and the etiquette accompanying a meal.
For a traveller to get that involved and show that much personal interest, proves to locals that they’re dealing with mindful individuals, not sheep-like tourists. It challenges negative stereotypes from both ends and opens locals up to the idea of hosting travellers and showing off their lifestyle.
It’s easy to discern the authenticity of a product or experience and it’s hard to fool everyone all the time – avoid the mistake of passing off dramatic representations of the culture to your clients just for show.
Chatting with locals, seeing their town, neighbourhood or city through their eyes, strips you of bias and arrogance, and makes you vulnerable. It endears you to foreign folks and opens your mind to unimagined possibilities. It also shows us how alike we all are beneath the skin. That’s why I love this local living tourism trend and I understand its popularity. It helps that it supports sustainability in tourism, awesome in its promise to serve traveller and host in equal measure. SUP