This is the year to be at the top of the travel food chain! Your product is one of a kind and you are the master of your experience. At a time when travellers hold the power of choice, relevance is a do-or-die strategy for survival of the fittest. With the right approach in storytelling and the right tools in technology, you can position your brand competitively for the year ahead.. and this is the right time. Resolve to be a front-runner in your destination.

Becoming a lifestyle brand

This might be the time of year that people generally factor in renewal, rejuvenation, reflection and personal growth (sometimes to an exaggerated extent) into their planning and budgeting, but from a travel and tourism point of view, these tendencies address a deeper shift in consumerism in general. Sure, we’ve all made those New Year’s resolutions to join the gym or actually make use of that membership we forgot we had halfway through last year, we resolve to make more time to smell the proverbial and literal roses so we don’t end up jaded at the end of this year, and so on. We want to be better creatures than the ones we bade farewell to as we celebrated the end of a busy 2018. We plan to meditate, be more mindful, more present in the moment, make each one count.. only to revert back to bad habits by Easter.🐰

..the percentage of Americans who meditate grew to 14.2% in 2017

CDC

Apologies, you lucky so n so’s who have more discipline than some of us; but here’s exactly how you’re part of this conversation too. The trend has been growing slowly but surely and this year we expect it to reach something of a critical mass.

As people develop a desire to engage in wellness activities in their daily lives, they will expect to do the same on their travels, beyond the start of a new year.

As a concept, wellness has always been associated with particular destinations in particular climates, but the modern take on it is that wherever travellers go, they want and can indulge in activities like yoga, meditation, massage and related therapies, beauty treatments, and more.

In fact, the concept is such a diverse one, it encompasses culinary tourism including healthy food for the weight-sensitive, weight-loss therapies, even medical tourism, as well as spiritual escapism and opportunities to disconnect from technology.

The fact that your prospective guests are in their regular lives becoming increasingly mindful, requires your products and the experience you offer to respond in kind, with your content storytelling following suit. According to Skift, smart brands will find new ways to incorporate mindfulness into their products by buying into or partnering with wellness brands.

Wellness is also in the design of the rooms, in the food.

Andrew Gibson

We’re talking about yoga mats and similar goodies made available in-room; bicycles are going to be big this year, so acquire a few and make them available (for free or charge for a guided tour of your area); cannabis spa treatments will be the new lifestyle ‘craze’ raising fewer eyebrows as laws around marijuana are softened in some destinations; Internet- and gadget-free zones or silent retreat areas.. Package these elements together for a monetised wellness experience unique to your destination or include as value-adds and market your brand as a lifestyle brand that travellers can relate to.

Any time of year is a good time for wellness!

It’s about creating opportunities for your clients to engage in wellness, making those activities easier for them to access (with your help), and becoming the first choice in your destination for the particular interests they’re passionate about.

Mindfulness is just a few steps away from concern for sustainability in tourism. If your brand doesn’t show it cares about the destination through the values you espouse, now is a fine time to start. From nature and environment to culture and local economy, travellers will completely overlook a travel brand that shows little to no compassion or interest in those as they increasingly base their travel choices on their conscience.

The last word on the subject has to do with mindfulness of the self: the fact that travel consumers will no longer accept being treated with a one-size-fits-all approach, given that they’re all about developing themselves and doing it via travel.

Putting the personal in personalised experiences has never been more important than it’ll be in 2019; so best put that big data to good use, engage with your community and find out what they want, what they really really want. The days of patronising the traveller as if they don’t know what they should want, are over. Respect the niche, understand it, develop your products to service it, tell the right story, and make it easy for the traveller to enjoy.

Be best placed for Last Minute

Speaking of making life easier, you’ll find a lot more last minute trip planning this year. People are not just busy, they’re also more spontaneous and prone to decide to travel shortly before their ETD. Less planning months in advance and more sniffing out interesting locations to do interesting things at good prices at short notice. Put your brand in the best place for consideration by ensuring: access to your info is always quick and easy; you have a mobile strategy that works; and of course, your brand remains relevant – that is, relevant to trends and tech savvy travellers.

In a Trekksoft study last year, a large portion of survey respondents reported a common trend in last minute bookings of especially short tours and activities – tech makes this possible with mobile accessibility.

It goes without saying your mobile strategy must be capable of giving your brand ubiquitous digital presence, at all hours of the day for the benefit of travellers from all corners and time zones of the planet.

If you can offer a live availability check option, that’s a huge plus, but at the very least, for travellers who like to plan their travel independently, you need to empower them with the option to book directly with you, with quick response times.

If you know what’s hot in your destination – events, festivals, or some other trendy activities – designing some last minute specials around that time is smart practice and making them super visible is even wiser. Make sure you research the niches accommodated in your destination and determine how you can tap into them. Trends for 2019 are pointing at heritage trips, microtrips (to urban areas as much as countryside), trips for adventurous couples, skills-based holidays, activity-based trips in ‘new’ trendy locations aka less touristy locations, and of course conscious travel.

Make your experiences look great again

Travel imagery is the kick-off point to travel planning. A study around this subject conducted at the University of Applied Sciences (Finland) uncovered the following among respondents interviewed about pictures they considered important when sourcing travel inspiration – while this study was based on users of social media such as Instagram and Pinterest, the result indicates clearly that there’s a strong preference for👇

📸photographs of location/scenery 83.6%

📸sights and interesting places to visit 76.6%

📸activities and things to do 67.2%

After that, in descending order of importance were: food and drink; hotel/accommodation rooms; restaurants; hotel/accommodation facilities (between 46% and 33.6%). Another biggie in travel pics: humans instead of objects! These findings are increasingly relevant in a world of Facebook and Instagram envy, 2 major sources of travel inspiration along with travel blogs (whether written by influencers, DMO’s or yourself). For optimal exposure, your digital brand presence needs the right visual representation in this online space. This is the year to make sure the kind of content travellers want to see (of your products) can be easily uploaded to any online platform or can be accessed on any mobile device; so they can be inspired to travel to your destination to sample your experience.

Another interesting find in the same study that surprised the researcher, was that as many as 36% of respondents aged between 19 and 23 years preferred brochures and travel guides as info sources, more than other age groups. Millennials, as connoisseurs of the information age and early adopters of new tech, will be suitably impressed and inspired by this type of content being made available to them on the same mobile devices they conduct their entire lives upon. Make the experience of finding and consuming your content as great as it is visually engaging.

Credible content, credible brand

When the pretty pics aren’t enough, you need endorsement! The trend has grown to the extent that travel brands do better when they’re vouched for by someone trustworthy. This year travellers will be less likely to choose your brand simply for its reputation if they’re first-time shoppers. Recommendations from trade partners, OTA’s, influencers and other travellers are becoming increasingly important in this context.

Enabling your content and marketing/sales collateral to be co-branded is a way for operators and re-sellers to put their stamp of approval on your products, and promotes your credibility. Peer reviews, client reviews, and UGC (user generated content) that complement your own imagery, should take pride of place on your website and on your social media pages.

Travellers will seek those out as a point of departure in their relationship with your brand, purely because they’d sooner believe multiple content sources than stake everything on just one. Cynical but true. This is why it’s best practice to have your content appear consistently wherever it’s featured on third party sites and social media,👈that contentious, fun space that’s just waiting to amplify your brand for you..

Ultimately, it comes down to the race to be first in the mind, visually impressive, relevant to the consumer, accessible and trustworthy. Yours is one of many brands competing in the same space, but you don’t have to change your spots to be recognisable as a quality brand. All it needs is a bit of forward thinking, strategic planning with technology driving and simplifying your processes; and a leap of faith! Adjust your game face for 2019 and make your experience the best of its kind in your destination.

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