Now, perhaps more than ever before, your visitors are steering clear of cookie-cutter trips. Rather than simply being tourists who tread the beaten path, they’re increasingly demanding to be travelers and to enjoy authentic, experiential opportunities to interact with their destinations and the locals.
Even when on the move, wherever they roam, they seek ways to stay in the heart of a neighborhood—and to live like locals themselves.
Whether a hotel or resort, a DMO or CVB, or any other tourism-based business or organization, read on for details on how you can create authentic connections between travelers and your community.
What does a successfully authentic experience encompass?
Travelers define “authentic” experiences as those that are unique, meaningful and memorable, and that they’d want to enjoy again and again.
Generally, these can all be achieved by providing opportunities to:
- Be immersed in the personality and style of the destination.
- Learn about the local culture, interests and lifestyle.
- Interact with friendly residents who make a good impression.
- Get involved and do something important in and/or for the destination and its residents.
Lucky for you—these are exactly the same types of experiences they’ll eagerly promote via word of mouth and the power of social media.
Hotels and resorts should present a true sense of place.
Besides often providing the first welcome and feel for a destination, their accommodations can form a lasting impression. When looking back, guests should be able to remember your hotel and want to return. Typically, that doesn’t happen when it’s too generic or similar to every other one in which they’ve lodged. Perhaps the growing need for a sense of place explains the enormous popularity of companies like Airbnb, promising personalized, neighborhood-centric stays.
Fortunately, hotels and resorts can find lots of ways to infuse authenticity and ensure guests can connect with their destination. Here are just a few examples of how to integrate locality into design, activities and amenities, to remind guests where they are:
- Characterful furnishings and décor that reflect the aesthetic and outdoor environment.
- Artwork, photography and maps representing the locale and/or crafted by local artists.
- Highlight local dishes, flavors and ingredients on menus, including craft beer and spirits, in restaurants and bars.
- Source goods and materials locally, such as toiletries, gift shop items, furniture and linens.
You’ll keep things not only authentic, but fresh, interesting and fun, too!
Engage with the locals—and have them engage with your visitors.
Of course, your authenticity infusion should also extend to human interactions.
For hotels and resorts:
- Yes, every staff member should deliver those all-important friendly greetings and “have a great day” exchanges throughout their stay. But they should also be trained and encouraged to familiarize guests with their surroundings and help with recommendations.
- Stage locally focused entertainment, activities and events, presented by locals, and open them up to the public, so that guests benefit from extra chances to mingle with natives. Consider musical performances, art talks, tastings, fitness excursions (jogging, biking, hiking), wellness offerings, public speakers and hands-on demonstrations (think cooking and painting classes).
For DMOs and CVBs:
- Organize tours and programs with which knowledgeable locals can provide an orientation, insider tips and expertise on the culture, history, landmarks, dining and all sorts of hidden gems, plus insight into the average daily life of someone who actually lives there.
- A shining example: Choose Chicago, the city’s official destination marketing organization, implemented Chicago Greeter.
Travelers can register, in advance, for free two- to four-hour guided visits in more than a dozen languages, and customized based on their choice of neighborhoods, language and interests. Over 200 passionate volunteers lead these visits, via a combo of walking, buses and trains, a format that also acquaints visitors with the public transit system they can use afterward.
For those in a hurry or needing more flexibility, the InstaGreeter option allows visitors to drop in spontaneously to a few popular, public locations for an informal, guided walk.
By applying these ideas, you’re sure to spark visitors’ curiosity and interest in exploring further. Because who better than residents themselves to showcase the personality of your destination and enable visitors to feel at home in the community—like they’re locals, too?!
Real-deal localhood for your brand begins here.
We’re no strangers to creating authentic connections. Let’s build some with each other—and with your guests and visitors. Contact Lynn Kaniper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609.466.9187, ext. 117.