Our ancestors roamed bravely across vast geographies and distances to re-settle, explore and learn. We’re genetically programmed to do the same. It’s the reason many of your clients are moved to journey the unknown to challenge themselves, and even the familiar to understand it better, controlling their own movements to an extent along the way. Infuse that sense of wonder with practical planning and your destination knowledge, and make your brand a guiding light that helps travellers realise their dream road trip.
The state of road tripping today
With travellers evolving in terms of their demands for immersive and authentic experiences, one popular way of ticking those experiential boxes is on a road trip. They expect to have their travel experiences personalised and tailored to their specific needs and interests.
Road trips provide different perspectives on a destination, and that’s what draws travellers to the road in their numbers.
The tourism trade is already responding accordingly, crafting experiences for independent and semi-guided road trippers on motorbike, bicycle, electric bike, mobile accommodation, regular sedan or 4×4 vehicle.
The main motivation is the freedom of movement, flexibility and a sense of control.
Over 70% of respondents to Enterprise’s 2018 Annual Weekend Getaway Survey said that the car ride is part of the trip to be enjoyed, & that a road trip offers more flexibility & spontaneity than other forms of transportation.
That control over the course of their road trip experience must be guided by thorough planning and preparation, and access to information that empowers travellers to embark on their journeys of (self-) discovery, having explored at their own pace, in their own space, according to their own tastes.
Your road trippers include all demographics with families, empty nesters and Generation X sans kids leading the way; millennials are slowly catching up. A road trip typically has single, double or multiple stops in a linear or circular route, or is designed around a hub destination, and can incorporate more than 1 mode of transport. Road trips work best with a packaged approach that covers all the traveller’s needs holistically and makes it easier for them to do – that often entails combining planned excursions in-destination with leisure time. With all geographies, climates, budgets and special interests factored in, that’s where travel professionals and suppliers are instrumental: taking care of all the practical details so the traveller is free to enjoy their roadside attractions.
What road trippers want
Sunrises and sunsets in spectacular or unique locations – outside of mainstream visitation times preferred! Help them discover something unusual about your destination that doesn’t necessarily appear in guidebooks, that makes them feel a sense of accomplishment.
They want access to rural isolation, urban sophistication, and alpine, coastal, savannah, riverine, bush or desert landscapes. They expect to invest in sustainable tourism practices to offset their carbon footprint and give something back to their host communities.
Consider crafting experiences around a range of interests available in your area.
Tap into special interests available in your area: culinary; wine-tasting; local arts and crafts; nature and wildlife; adventure activities; sport; stargazing..
Alternatively, if they’re keen to experience the highlights of the destination, manipulate some added value from seasonal events, local festivals, local living, scenery, etc.
They’re interested in the farm stalls along a particular route with amazing foods and treats, typical of the region, interaction with the locals and opportunities to learn about their lifestyle.
Plan or book activities and excursions for your client, or provide info on your best recommendations, and the best route to drive there.
And remember, the promise of a dream road trip scenario is clothed in dramatic language; so put your best descriptive spin on your content:
The descent to Pang is quite spectacular, particularly the last 5km that the road passes through a series of dramatic gorges…This unbelievable stretch hasn’t finished yet & will take you to the stunning Morey Plains, a relatively flat piece of land for 40-odd km at (hold your breath) 4,800m nestled among round-topped mountains..
When the actual road trip experience reads like an adventure story, that’s what your guests want. Given your knowledge of your destination, you know the best time to see and do things. And that’s what you should communicate.
You can advise on local road conditions and surfaces (how they’re affected by weather conditions), the terrain (which vehicles are best suited), and traffic.
Are there long sections of one-way dirt roads en route to a secluded beach? Or maybe a ferry crossing to reach an island in a nearby lake..
You are best placed to provide accurate, up-to-date directions and maps from your location to different points of interest.
They’ll need info on the locations and availability of fuel and service stations, ATM’s and shops en route; on toll roads and their fees; phone signal and WiFi connectivity in the area.
You’ll be able to advise your clients on filling station etiquette, basic rules of the road and local driving habits, and assist when they take a wrong turn with some kind of messaging system. In particular, where there’s a language barrier, it helps to run interference for your client if there’s a problem getting the right fuel for their vehicle or having their rental deposit returned in full. You could provide a private guide for the time the client spends with you – a member of your staff or local community.
Assist practically with flexible check in/out times and make allowances for unique and authentic dining experiences that go beyond your basic meal offerings, including picnic baskets for outings off-premises. Ensure you’re clued up on activities in your vicinity as well and make that info freely available through your marketing. And as pleasurable as a smooth ride can be, the body gets weary; so go that extra mile and pamper them with some soothing treatments.
How your brand fits in
Where your partners in the trade have embraced the trend, support them in their efforts proactively. Engage service providers and other suppliers in your area or nearby to collaborate on a special interest or highlights package to showcase the destination. Create partnerships with your local communities, so that you’re always kept in the loop on interesting events coming up or incidental to your client’s travel dates. Always make your information easy to find and consume – by the trade and by travellers – and ensure trade partners are able to use and repurpose your content in the event that they want offer clients options or alternative travel products to sample in your destination.
Some top tour operators are now offering customised self-drive holidays as they adapt to evolving demands of modern travellers. Self-drive tours are about independent travelling, but now even tailored end-to-end package providers are giving clients the liberty to explore places on their own.
The Economic Times
You also want to make it convenient, accessible and easy for road trippers designing their own itineraries to include your products where they fit in logically. Hitch your brand to iconic routes (everyone knows Route 66 in the USA and Route 62 in South Africa has earned its own stripes) or build some hype around road trip routes like the Mongol Rally or anywhere in the Rockies. When you market your products to road trippers, create interest in your destination as a whole by highlighting the noteworthy sites and activities in your area.
Based in Namibia, for e.g. your traveller could be persuaded to do a cultural road trip that included interactions with some local tribes and close encounters with wildlife on unfenced roads (not forgetting the precautions they’d need to take as they go).
Based in South-East Asia, you could help out the road trippers with time on their hands and a love of temples and the tropical jungles of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar by showcasing those stops in your vicinity and advising on temple etiquette and how to navigate the jungle.
Wine lovers will gobble your brand up if attached to an Argentina-Chile vineyard tour, with an Andes crossing and some stargazing in the desert for wow factor – are you there? Tell the world how close you are and how amazing it is! Design little detours for connoisseurs of good food and local produce, sports lovers, or wildlife lovers. Craft a tasting circuit featuring local craft alcohol; rugged landscapes for lovers of geology and adventure-seekers.
Keep in mind that those hidden gems and hot spots en route to/from and in your area could well prompt the road tripper to spend more time there – likely stay on after other visitors have left or arrive before them for a quality experience of the location. Stopping in lesser known places or taking detours will give your client a better taste of the local flavour, of its quaint character.
Then there are those memorable sites discovered by accident that your client will simply have to return to on a future road trip to explore further.
How you know you’ve made it easier
For one thing, your traveller feels a sense of reward having discovered something on their own and experienced something unique and transformative.
You’ll know by their feedback, online reviews perhaps, definitely on social media.
I once drove a long way on a Thai island to visit an elephant sanctuary, only to find a baby elephant tied to a post with a heavy chain. It was visibly distressed, which upset everyone in my party. I wish someone had told us what to expect, because we’ll never have that time back nor will we ever un-see what we saw. Your proactive approach will ensure that your client has made optimal use of their time in your destination. You’ve also made it easier if they’ve wasted none of their precious travel time on bad roads, dull detours and mechanical issues they were left to sort out on their own. They haven’t arrived in their sedan rental, for e.g. at a remote location promising jawdropping views only to discover they needed a 4WD to navigate the rough terrain.
When road trippers share their photographic impressions of iconic landscapes or structures for some online acclaim, they lure more travellers to the road.
The final proof of the pudding that your research, time and efforts were worth it, is when clients share their experiences of your destination, its unique character, quirks and beauty on their social media platforms for the world to see.
There’s an unspoken but acknowledged competition out there for whose pics can steal the show – if your brand is hitched to that bandwagon, you score some free advertising, and it adds credibility to the fact that you’re there for the experience of the journey, not just a destination.
Help your road tripping clients indulge themselves in the immersive experiences they expect to have when they hit the road and become part of the trend. Then sit back and watch as they become your fellow destination marketers and brand advocates.🚐