Travel is all about experience and emotion.
I once saw a volcano erupting in the distance – it was an exhilarating sight. I’ve always wanted to experience that. After hiking up the side of an Andean glacier, it was the ache in my muscles that gave me a sense of joie de vivre. And then an angry alpaca chased me because I called it a llama.
Experience is the new currency to be shared and shown off, underscored by emotion, something to be remembered forever.
2016 is the Year of the Experience:
Experiential Travel and the Consumer Experience.
Two separate issues but in the case of the modern traveller, they are very much intertwined. And we as tourism professionals have some work to do to address the demands of our travellers, to understand what motivates and entices them, and what keeps them loyal to our brands.
The impact of developments in technology has very practical implications for travellers.
One major trend already evident is the growth of the mobile market – consumers want apps for everything. Travellers increasingly require 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.
They expect personalisation of offers to them as individuals (not as part of a target group) and want services tailored to their specific requirements. Let’s say your traveller has an interest in food, for example: a map of restaurants and markets in the vicinity would add great value. And of course they want convenient access to essential travel information while they travel on the devices they use.
More than 3 in 4 travellers agree that their smartphones are very important, even critical…
Travel is becoming more complex – travellers need our expertise to guide them to make the right choices for their trips. Learning how to differentiate in order to compete better is extremely useful, if not vital – to develop and source new or additional experiences for our clients. If we understand what our clients wish to experience and we can identify ways to supplement our offering in any way, going that extra mile will score major brownie points for us and make for a more attractive offer for the client. We can engage in partnerships with other service providers for a more holistic travel offering, for a comprehensive end-to-end service. The experience also needs to offer the convenience of content in your client’s own language, wherever possible. It’s about being sensitive to the needs of international travellers to give them the best purchasing experience.
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. Research shows that travellers will have a bigger travel budget this year and they’re keen to use it to treat themselves and their loved ones. Experiential travel in 2016 is quite diverse:
Multigenerational travel – it’s the family on a Winnebago road trip, camping and enjoying nature or grandparents treating their children and grandchildren to a wildlife safari holiday. The desire is to spend quality time together and create lasting memories. The challenge is to cater for the interests of varying ages to add appropriate value.
Cruising – on one hand, ocean cruising represents the luxury, first class treat of an all-inclusive, hassle-free holiday, with gourmet dining and onshore excursions adding versatility and convenience. On the other hand, river cruising continues to grow in popularity as a more affordable option, where a partnership with land-based service providers would diversify the offering.
Adventure and activity travel – for the traveller wishing to escape their comfort zone and the tedium of routine. They want to challenge themselves with activities such as trekking, rafting, etc. The stuff of adrenaline and endless photo opportunities. This kind of traveller is often environmentally conscious and desires a green travel experience, even to volunteer in local conservation projects. They’re keen to experience untouched or unique places.
Solo or spiritual travel – only authentic, off-the-beaten-track experiences wanted, preferably in the way that locals live. These travellers feel spiritually compelled to immerse themselves in the culture of the place and people.
Other examples of experiential travel include sporting events, music festivals and culinary vacations. The common denominator is the desire to experience something specific and 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. It is therefore vital to gain and retain access to your client’s insights – analytics and social media are important tools in predicting trends and preferences among your clientele, and in managing your reputation. Travellers will rely increasingly upon recommendations from other travellers, especially from online reviews. It’s a simple matter of embracing digital tools and enhancing your online visibility. This is also a way to gauge your client’s satisfaction with your service.
Consumers are choosing experiences over stuff… experience is the new branding.
Knowing your client will render your marketing efforts far more effective. The right content can evoke emotion and emotion is at the heart of experiential travel; so it makes sense to invest heavily in visual images in order to appeal to your prospective client. The more vivid the visual, the greater the empathy you’re able to illustrate with the traveller. So for effective storytelling, emotive, beautiful images, slideshows and video are the best way to go. Video is particularly effective with its moving images and sound. Moving images move audiences. Perhaps even use material provided by your satisfied clients. After all, theirs are the travel stories most wanted by travellers – a source of trust and authenticity, that all important ingredient in the emotional, mystic pizza of experience.
This is the immediate future of travel. Empowering consumers with emotive, interactive content that illustrates empathy with their desires; offering personalised, flexible experiences both as travellers and consumers; and crucially, providing clients with the priceless currency of memorable travel experiences.