While some might claim that all travel could be called experiential, you’ll know the difference when you live it. Prefer the road not taken to the beaten path? Go for local gastronomy over the same old, global-chain grub? An adventurer, rather than (the horror!) a “tourist?”
You just discovered experiential travel.
Experiential travel, also known as immersion travel or cultural travel, is that type of tourism in which the trekkers truly delve into a specific spot. Whether a single city or an entire country, they connect personally with the location’s homegrown history, culture, cuisine, nature and shopping, as well as its residents and their social relationships.
As part of this trend, U.S. travelers increasingly demand unique and “unpackaged” travel, often foregoing the relative safety of big brands for the intimacy and insight of local ones. These behaviors cross generation gaps and budget categories.
For a range of reasons, this desire to bond on a meaningful level has intensified over the last few years, making experiential travel growth a market trend that’s likely here to stay.
But why now?
Many attribute the timing to a combo of globalization and technology. There’s our now-simple ability to see and learn more about the planet and its people in every region. Of course, social media allows us to spy on family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers, as they visit spectacular places and showcase their happy faces.
It leaves us daydreaming about fulfilling our very own bucket lists. And okay, maybe there’s a hint of envy too. There’s a name for that: the “Instagram Effect,” by which we view others’ pretty moments in time, which just might be too good to be true. Whether or not they are, of course, online travel research and booking also make it super-easy to find out for ourselves.
Turns out it really is a small world after all—and curious explorers aspire to be good global citizens, understanding it better and opening up opportunities for individual transformation.
What does that mean for the industry?
Examples of experiential travel run the gamut, affecting many sectors and driving smart brands to create products that satiate this penchant for the authentic and engaging.
According to a detailed report by Skift and PEAK Destination Management Company, “the most forward-thinking travel brands are delivering those types of experiences by focusing on three things above all else: inspiration, personalization and a path toward self-discovery.”
Here are only a handful of the ways they are making that happen:
• Tour operators are tapping savvy local contacts to organize ultra-customized activities and packages. They’re also leaving more time in itineraries to breathe and spontaneously be.
• Travel and hospitality brands are beginning to think like locals, on a smaller, familiar scale. Who lives in the destination? What do they do there? Where do they eat? And so on.
• The same applies to international hotel and resort chains too. They keep the corporate brand consistent, but as the guest’s gateway, also provide perspective, ambience and services that are unique to each address.
• As a result, many hotels and resorts are launching hands-on, locally oriented, educational activities, so that guests can dive right into the surrounding community.
• More and more, hotels and resorts are partnering with tour operators who share their vision for experiential travel on a local level, and then linking their services to guests.
• Branding tends toward the inspirational and authentic, showing—not just telling—why they’re the real deal.
At Dana, experiential travel marketing is our genuine, everyday lifestyle. How can we enrich your brand? Touch base with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609.466.9187, ext. 117.