I once saw a volcano erupting in the distance – I’ve always wanted to experience that. What an exhilarating sight! Travel is all about experience and emotion. 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.
Experiential Travel and the Consumer Experience
Two separate but, in the case of the modern traveller, very much intertwined issues. We 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.
Travel is becoming more complex and travellers need our expertise to guide them to make the right choices for their trips.
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.
Learning how to differentiate is extremely useful to develop and source new or additional experiences for our clients, in order to compete better.
We can enter into partnerships with other service providers to stitch together more holistic travel offerings, and so provide the individual traveller or travel parties with comprehensive end-to-end service that matches their needs.
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.
2016 is the Year of the Experience
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.
Did you know that 69% of global travellers plan to try something new this year?
Experience is the new currency to be shared and shown off, underscored by emotion, something to be remembered forever. Experiential travel in 2016 is quite diverse:
- Multigenerational travel It’s for the family on a Winnebago road trip, camping and enjoying nature or grandparents treating the kids and grandkids 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 diverse options in gourmet dining and onshore excursions conveniently accessible. On the other hand, river cruising continues to grow in popularity as a more affordable option, where partnerships with land-based service providers would complement the overall offering.
- Adventure and activity travel It’s for the traveller wishing to escape their comfort zone and the tedium of routine. They want to challenge themselves with the likes of trekking and rafting, the stuff of adrenaline and endless photo opportunities. This traveller is often environmentally conscious and desires a green travel experience. They’re keen to experience untouched or unique places, even to volunteer in local conservation projects.
- Solo or spiritual travel Only authentic, off-the-beaten-track experiences wanted, preferably in the way that locals live. These free spirited travellers feel compelled to immerse themselves in the culture of the place and people, but to do it in a respectful, culturally-sensitive way.
The new currency of experiences
Other types 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.
Consumers are choosing experiences over stuff… experience is the new branding.
Proving that you know your client can translate directly into brand loyalty. That’s why access to client insights is vital – analytics and social media help us predict trends and preferences among travellers, and also manage our reputations. 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.
Knowing the client will inform and render your marketing efforts far more effective. The right content can evoke emotion; so it makes sense to invest heavily in visual images to appeal to your prospective client.
Emotion is at the heart of experiential travel.
The more vivid the visual, the greater your illustrated empathy with the traveller. For effective storytelling, emotive, beautiful images, slideshows and video are the best way to go. Video works particularly well with its moving images and sound. Moving images move audiences. Even material provided by your satisfied clients are useful to repurpose – after all, theirs are the travel stories most wanted by travellers. It instills trust and authenticity, those all priceless ingredients in the emotional, mystic pizza of the modern travel experience.
Mobile is part of the service
The impact of technological advances has very practical implications for travellers with one major trend already evident: the growth of mobile.
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 need this conveyed to them digitally.
More than 3 in 4 travellers agree that their smartphones are very important, even critical…
Let’s say your traveller has a particular interest in food: maps of local restaurants and markets would add great value. They prefer convenient access to essential travel info on the devices they use during travel. It’s our job to give them the experiences they expect: personalised to them as individuals (not as part of a generic group) with services tailored to their specific requirements.
This is the immediate future of travel. Empowering consumers with emotive, interactive content that illustrates empathy with their desires; offering personalised, dynamic experiences both as travellers and consumers; and crucially, providing clients with the priceless currency of memorable travel experiences.