A Chilean friend visited me last year and realised her dream of experiencing a taste of Africa.

She brought her 10 year old daughter along on her first trip abroad, making it an even bigger occasion. I was working as an Inbound Tours Consultant at the time, so I knew which locations and activities would interest them. With too much to do in too little time, I gave them several choices – they chose to do everything! What followed was a jam-packed 15 day trip with little time for rest, including: shark cage diving; a pre-dawn meerkat experience; swimming with penguins; and the pièce de résistance, a visit to a luxury game lodge for the true African wildlife experience my friend had dreamed of. They left exhausted but exhilarated… and ready to return.

Experience is the new currency, to be shared and shown off, to be remembered forever.

6 12016 is the Year of the Experience:

Experiential Travel & the Consumer Experience

The Consumer Experience is heavily impacted by developments in technology.

6 2One major trend already evident is that consumers want apps for everything.

So too, travellers increasingly expect to benefit from the integration of mobile technology into travel – from the planning and booking stages, right through the travel stage and after. They want to access quality content while they’re planning their trips and increasingly need this conveyed to them digitally.

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

Review Trackers

Modern travellers expect offers tailored to them as individuals (not as part of a target group). This personalisation is a sure way to earn their loyalty to your brand. For some, air conditioning and WiFi included in their accommodation will outrank breakfast and a swimming pool in importance. SaaS solutions will increase in scope as software becomes a service you can and must provide your clients.

Why not offer your client a translation of your travel content into their own language? It’s about being sensitive to the needs of international travellers to give them the best possible purchasing experience. And of course, give them convenient access to their essential travel information while they travel, on the devices they use. This requirement will become increasingly indispensable.

Do you know what motivates and entices travellers? What keeps them loyal to your brand?

6 3If 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 two night stay in a small cottage in the Cape Winelands last winter became a complete country experience for me with seasonal food- and chocolate-wine pairings, laid-back spa pampering, and cycling through vineyards in fresh country air, all courtesy of value adds. The guest house I’d booked with had cleverly partnered with other service providers in its vicinity to provide a more holistic offering, for a comprehensive end-to-end service. I can tell you, it takes some doing cycling back home after your third wine tasting, but it was great fun trying!

Did you know that 69% of global travellers plan to try something new this year?

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. Experiential travel in 2016 looks like this:

6 4Multigenerational travel – it’s the family on a roadtrip in a camper van enjoying nature or grandparents treating their children and grandchildren to a wildlife safari holiday. Their priority is sharing quality time to create lasting memories together.

6 5Cruising – there’s ocean cruising with its promise of 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 can add huge value to the basic offering if done well.

6 6Adventure and activity travel – for travellers who desire an escape from the daily routine and want to challenge themselves. Adrenaline-filled activities such as trekking, rafting, ziplining, etc. earn them bragging rights and a sense of the pioneer experiencing unique or untouched places.

6 7Wellness travel – this is for the health conscious traveller or someone who desires deep relaxation to heal inside and out. They want detox menus, healthy vending machines, in-room exercise equipment, yoga spaces and plenty of opportunity to commune with nature, whether in a forest, in the mountains, near a body of water or in a desert moonscape.

The common denominator is the desire to experience something specific. The traveller will be more conscientious about purchasing travel products that reflect those desires. Proving that you know your client translates directly into brand loyalty.

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 your reputation.

6 8As travellers rely increasingly upon recommendations from other travellers, especially from online reviews, your participation in this dialogue is a key investment in reputation management. Engage the public and illustrate your empathy with them. It’s also a way to gauge your clients’ satisfaction with your service.

Analytics are extremely valuable in understanding your potential clients and what motivates them either to purchase your travel products or not to. Studies show, for example, 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 to have this information, so take some time to learn how your analytics work.

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

Brian Solis

Once you know your client, your marketing efforts need to follow suit. The right content can evoke emotion, and emotion is at the heart of experiential travel. It makes sense then to invest heavily in visual images to appeal to your prospective client. The more vivid the visual, the greater the impact. Video is now a staple in any marketing campaign – particularly effective with its moving images and sound.

Moving images move audiences!

Use the stories told by your own satisfied clients – this is the ultimate source of trust that travellers seek: word of mouth. Humanise your brand, get creative and interactive with your storytelling, so people can visualise themselves experiencing your offerings.

Travel products beware: crisp sheets and a firm pillow on a bed are just not enough. It’s an experience the modern traveller wants. Personalised, memorable experiences sold with the digital imperative in mind and promoted with emotive, interactive travel content.. Provide your clients with the priceless currency of memorable travel experiences.

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