A Chilean friend visited last year and realised her dream of experiencing a taste of Africa. Working as an Inbound Tours Consultant at the time, I knew what locations and activities would interest her and her daughter. With too much to do in too little time, I gave them several choices – they chose to do everything! A jam-packed 2-week trip ensued with shark cage diving, swimming with penguins, a meerkat experience, ending with a luxury game lodge stay for a dreamy African wildlife experience. They left exhausted, exhilarated and ready to return.

2016 is the Year of the Experience

Experience is the new currency, to be shared and shown off, to be remembered forever. The motivation to do something for the first time will influence their choice of destinations and accommodation. Research shows that travellers will have a bigger travel budget this year and they’ll be keen to use it to treat themselves and their loved ones.

6 1Do you know what motivates and entices travellers? What keeps them loyal to your brand? If we understand what our clients wish to experience and we can identify ways to supplement our basic offering in any way, going that extra mile will score major points for us and make a more attractive offer for the client.

Value adds are vital to your sale. If you knew your travellers were interested in cuisine and culture, you could pair their stay with a visit to some of the local restaurants or epicurean markets, perhaps a traditional experience like a coffee brewing ceremony in Zanzibar, a ritual observed by locals. In fact, locals are as keen to show off their lifestyle and neighbourhood to tourists as travellers are to have those authentic experiences.

A 2-night stay in a small cottage in the Cape Winelands last winter became a complete country experience for me.

It packaged seasonal food- and chocolate-wine pairings, laid-back spa pampering, and cycling through vineyards in fresh country air as one full experience, courtesy of value adds.

The guesthouse I booked had cleverly partnered with local service providers for a truly holistic, comprehensive end-to-end service. Let me tell you, it was hard work cycling around after the third wine tasting, but also great fun trying!

The Consumer Experience

A major technology trend shows that consumers want apps for everything, one way the consumer experience has been impacted by developments in tech. SaaS solutions will increase in scope as software becomes a service you can and must provide. Modern travellers expect to benefit from the integration of mobile technology into travel – from the planning and booking stages, right through the travel stage and after. Give them access to quality content for their trip planning and make it digital, quick!

More than 3 in 4 travellers agree that their smartphones are very important, even critical

Review Trackers

They also expect offers tailored to them individually; not as part of a generic group.

6 2Personalising their experiences potentially fast tracks loyalty to your brand.

For some, air-con and WiFi will outrank breakfast and a swimming pool in importance, and become decisive factors.

Why not offer the client a translation of your travel content into their own language?

It’s about being sensitive to the needs of international travellers by offering the best possible purchasing experience. And this includes convenient access to their essential travel info on their mobile devices.

Experiential Travel

Did you know that 69% of global travellers plan to try something new this year? The ways to access traveller insights are via analytics and social media – important tools for predicting trends and preferences among your clientele, and in managing brand reputation.

6 8As travellers rely increasingly on recommendations from online reviews, your participation in this space is an investment in reputation and crisis management.

Engage the public, illustrate your empathy, and gauge client satisfaction with your service.

Analytics are valuable in understanding potential clients and what motivates them to either purchase your travel products or not. Studies show that travellers choose hotels based on price, online reviews, videos and pictures posted online, proximity to key attractions, and proximity to transport options. You need this info to refine and polish the client experience.

Consumers are choosing experiences over stuff… experience is the new branding.

Brian Solis

Marketing to your client must take its cue from the knowledge you’ve built of that client. The right content will evoke emotion in a very personal, direct way, which sits at the heart of experiential travel. It makes sense then to invest heavily in visual imagery to appeal to your prospective client. The more vivid the visual, the greater the impact. And remember: moving images move audiences.

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Use the stories told by satisfied clients – this is the ultimate trustworthy source: word-of-mouth accounts of other travellers. Humanise your brand, get creative and interactive with your storytelling, so they can visualise themselves experiencing your offerings.

What Experiential travel in 2016 looks like

  • For families road tripping in a camper van, enjoying nature or grandparents treating children and grandchildren to a wildlife safari holiday. Their priority is to share quality time and create lasting memories together. Try multi-generational travel.

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  • Ocean cruising promises all-inclusive luxury, gourmet dining and onshore excursions to add variety on the one hand. On the other, river cruising continues to grow in popularity as a more affordable option. Partnerships with land-based service providers add huge value to the basic offering if done well. Try cruise travel.

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  • For travellers who desire an escape from daily routine and want to challenge themselves. Adrenaline-filled activities such as trekking, rafting or zip-lining earn them bragging rights and make them feel like pioneers braving unique or untouched places. Try adventure and activity travel.

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  • For health conscious travellers or seekers of deep relaxation inside-out¬†healing. They want detox menus, healthy vending machines, in-room exercise equipment, yoga spaces and opportunities to commune with nature, near water, in mountains, forest or desert moonscape. Try wellness travel.

6 7The common denominator is the desire to experience something specific and fully. The traveller will be more conscientious about purchasing travel products that reflect those desires. Prove that you know your client by giving them the experiences they want, and they’ll repay your efforts handsomely with their loyalty.

Travel products beware: crisp sheets and firm pillows are just not enough. Modern travellers want personalised, memorable experiences, sold with the digital imperative in mind, promoted with emotive, interactive travel content.. Transform yourself into a trader in the priceless currency of memorable travel experiences.

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