The portal to a destination has become the gateway to an experience. That’s what tourism trends have brought to your doorstep. Travellers look at destinations differently now – they’re less focused on the place itself and more intrigued by what can be done there. Travel is more about the experience than the destination. And with that in mind, consider your respective target markets and realign your offering with the various experiences they desire; then use your content to tell those stories.

The trends that shape the experiences

The tourism trends of 2017 have pointed us in the clear direction of transformative, immersive and responsible, experiential travel. And we know our main focuses in terms of traveller types are millennials, multi-generational families, solo travellers and responsible travellers. We’ve also learned that they’re after adventure, sustainable, culture and wellness experiences.

 

This is no time for ‘Better the devil you know’ nostalgia – generic referencing of iconic sites and traditional tourist traps won’t have the same power as in the past.

 

Travel companies reading the writing on the wall are compelled to personalise their offerings according to the clientele they wish to attract; and they’re looking for suppliers of accommodation, day tours and activities, mobile accommodation like cruises and trains, RVs and tented safari camps, and restaurants to help them package experiences that run thematically consistent throughout.

Travellers, equally, are focused on the experience they want first and then seek appropriate venues to live out their desired experience.

If Adventure is your angle, then #adventuretravel #discovery #intothewild and similar hashtags on social sharing sites should feature your offerings and reflect  your value-adds and/or partnerships with like-minded local partners. And it always helps to have your shareable content on hand to prove that your brand does, in fact, represent the trends it claims to do.

Sell the experience, sell the brand

First get the basics right: the creature comforts of a good bed, space to relax and all the necessary amenities. Now place your basic offering into the context of the desired experience. Have you involved local community members? Have you incorporated their authentic stories into your content? Show it.

Guess the destination below. Ayurveda and aromatherapy treatments, fresh air amid acres of forest, yoga on tap in a winter garden, overlooking a dense, leafy grove, followed by a purifying sweat session and a dip in the outdoor pool.

There’s beauty, comfort, peaceful spaces and varied opportunities for meditation, promoting transformation and wellness in general. You could offer the same benefits in a snow-subdued mountainous retreat or a placid lakeside resort fringed by towering trees. Show off the luxury to appease the affluent, or sell it as rustic and down-to-earth for the authenticity-seeking millennials. #Wellness #MeTime #Mindfulness #balance

Can you guess this destination? This location features an eclectic mix of vineyards, sophisticated and alfresco restaurants, artists’ studios and galleries. This particular spot happens to cater well to solo travellers with its communal areas inviting social interaction among guests, while still offering plenty of privacy for me-time.

The way to a cultural experience is through the traveller’s stomach. Combine these interests with off-site excursions to museums, art galleries, local markets and craft work displays, ruins, historical sites and architecture. Providing opportunities for your guests to do these sorts of off-site activities as add-on’s is first prize. Alternatively, make it super easy for them to book and pre-pay it with you, and certainly do include the correlating content to depict those parts of your story.

When your brand is the experience

For the traveller that prizes sustainability as a primary criterion for choosing travel, what you do and offer to guests to get involved in will matter more than your location. The lodge below was the first of its kind in its destination to obtain LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It’s designed to have minimal impact on its surroundings on an agriculture-inappropriate site with no archaeological remains, and the surrounding flora has been maintained intact. This could be anywhere..

If you’ve adopted sustainability into your operations, you can showcase your product(s) as the full experience in itself. #tourism4development #TravelEnjoyRespect

Take a leaf out of White Shark Projects‘ play book: they are offering a one-day hands-on and in-depth volunteer programme for travellers who want to get involved but don’t want to spend a protracted period of time on voluntourism. A sustainable seafood experience in Auckland caters to the guest’s conscience and stomach! Or cater to golfing foodie appetites like Fancourt does, now offering a full-day culinary experience of the outlying Karoo Swartberg areas.

How about this experience on offer at Six Senses Samui? With sustainability in mind, organic waste gets converted into nutrient-rich soil that helps fertilize the resort’s Farm on the Hill. Guests can volunteer to feed goats, collect eggs, gather fresh produce, then settle in for a Thai barbecue. Accompanied by killer views..

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Remember to feature your staff, feature the locals, and show yourself to be engaged with your communities and natural surroundings – illustrate the investment you’ve made in your destination.

#KnowThyClient Know the experience

Consider that excursions and activities are the meat that dress the bones of any travel destination. You offer some of these as value-adds, but consider, in turn, how solo travellers might connect your brand with those experiences they need. Opportunity to participate in group or individual activities – perhaps a surf camp on a Costa Rican beach for the adventurous solo traveller; or a day of spa treatments followed by guided meditation session on a private terrace somewhere overlooking the Atlas Mountains..

This is what your content should depict. And hopefully you provide a space (on your website or social media platforms) where satisfied guests and influencers can post reviews that endorse your brand and promote the experiences you showcase. On marketing experiences, Drifters Adventours recognise that within one destination there may be variations of culture and biodiversity, each with its own unique flavour:

[Travellers] want to explore & experience more & we need to be cognisant of this when packaging experiential travel..

Christiaan Steyn

It is well-known in the trade that millennials choose their destinations by first checking out the activities on offer and according to reviews from other travellers. They want to do weird and wonderful things like sleep outside under the stars. Millennial nature lovers want next level one-of-a-kind eco-experiences: unique vantage points and the authenticity of local living, with all the necessary amenities and comforts as standard. Give them the experience in a lesser-known location and they’re even more intrigued. The other way of looking at it is that you’d be giving them an experience they desire that they wouldn’t have expected to enjoy in your location. It’s about showcasing the versatility of your offering and matching your products to the trend.

Experiential trends are good for business

There are some amazing experiences available in destinations plenty of travellers wouldn’t expect, that cater to 2017 travel trends. There are ‘new’ places to experience the food and wine trend, some unique experiences for culture lovers, whether they travel solo or as part of a multi-generational family, places where millennials can give back to the community and enjoy authentic local experiences, where adventure seekers can incorporate thrill-seeking with wellness for a truly transformative experience. Make the experience a reflection of your brand and be first in line to be picked.

Where the brand becomes the experience, it takes your business to a higher level of competition as you bring the entire destination into the way you represent your brand. As soon as you attract the right kind of attention from interested travellers, you’re not simply showing off what you’ve got, but you’re also showing off the versatility of the destination.

You portray the image of a destination that is marketed in collaboration with multiple stakeholders, which is as good as the promise of a holistic, authentic travel experience – exactly what travellers are after.

It’s also a way around seasonality – some traditional tourist activities are season-specific but adventure can occur in different manifestations at different times of the year.

Sustainability is perennial too. Culture is constant and so is history. Wellness, food and wine tourism, all of these can occur at any time of year. By making your destination attractive at any time of year with the promise of fulfilling experiences that meet the demand of modern travellers, it ensures your brand appears in more travel searches and retains interest for longer.

A little bit of research, a look around your neighbourhood and a closer relationship with your local communities, are all you need to do to redefine how you tell the story of your experiences. Present those gateway experiences to your destination that travellers are looking for. It’s a way to represent your brand as multi-dimensional and diverse in character as the destination you’re based in.

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