There has been a time when travelling was an activity reserved for just a few. Orient Express used to link Europe with Asia, transatlantic ships brought travelers from America to Europe, and Europeans to the New World. Hotels used to offer pretty much similar experience at that time. Imperial style, glamour lobby, well-dressed bellboys. Travelling was a privilege and the world was still undiscovered.
Over a century later our world became smaller and travelling is an experience of a lot of people. Together with the rise of tourism, hotels and various other properties flourished in nearly every corner of the planet. The world became tiny and also, very often, quite cramped.
Nowadays it’s nearly impossible to discover anything new on our planet, it is, however, possible to unveil a new face of a well-known place that we are arriving to.
Would any of you like to take part in first grape harvesting? Or maybe you would wish to learn how to make Belgian chocolates? What about staying in a monastery and seeing how it is to live a life of a monk? And most importantly – would you like to experience a real adventure? No problem! The modern tourism industry has something for you – Experiential Travel.
What is Experiential Travel?
Some people will simply call it „insider travel” – slow, immersed, authentic experience in a new place.
It’s a form of tourism where the most important accent is put on experiencing a country or a city, rather than just sightseeing. Most importantly, it’s all about getting to know people, their history, and culture. While observing modern travellers, a large proportion of them is not seeking a traditional walk from one landmark to another over a weekend in Rome. They know how the city looks like and they would rather familiarize with the city by discovering culinary treasures, local little shops, and social life. Everything connected with people, who live in the city and create its vibe.
Experiential travel is on the rise – said Lonely Planet at the beginning of this year and indeed it was right. The increase of creativity in the tourism industry is a direct result of demand of the market. The product, and that includes destinations, can never become boring. Boring isn’t something that people are looking for. Especially one type.
Millennials and Experiential Travel
Life, especially among modern young people broadly called Millennials, is fast. Carpe diem – that’s what seems to drive them and lead to maximization of experience. These are also people, who, thanks to the digital revolution, process much information. And despite the fact they are non-stop: browsing, consuming, partying, liking, buying, clicking, something changes when travel comes.
People nowadays become more and more aware of the connection between their little trip and the rest of the world. With growing awareness, there is a demand for more sustainable and ethical focus. This can be achieved by making sure our travel funds, at least a part of it, remains with locals, rather than just travel companies. Such model not only brings tourists to the local world but also help locals to get to know global citizens, in a friendly and balanced way.
For those, who travel, a longer period of time spent in one place, converts into a personal enrichment. It leaves a sort of fingerprint on travellers’ life. Millennial travellers develop friendships, learn languages and cultures and most importantly, they intelligently speak about places that they visited, when they return home.
Yet another adjective?
One of the leading travel bloggers, Nomadic Matt, published an article a couple of months ago in which he challenges the idea. While the concept in his opinion sounds great and it’s good that people want to do great things, he says it’s just a pure marketing targeting currently the most important clients – mentioned millennials. In Matt’s opinion, adjectives are not needed. It’s pure travel that always makes a difference:
When you travel, you (ideally) do more than just see the major sites, capture photos for Instagram, or check off lists: you eat the local food, soak up the local culture, take public transportation, and talk to people – says Nomadic Matt and adds that in his opinion, something that may bring a real change is the sharing economy rather than another way of describing travel.
Why does it matter to hotel and travel Brands?
It’s the emotional part that matters. Travellers want to keep fond memories and some personal stories that they can tell in meetings with friends, something that others cannot replicate. Travel companies as well as hotels that would like to follow the most up to date trends. To be truly authentic they need to start thinking like locals. To give an example – small B&Bs would replace their decorative photographs of famous international landmarks with photos of their own city. It’s a little change, but worth doing. Similarly to that, global hotel chains look at unique cultures where their properties are located and while the brand may need to remain consistent, they allow local little touches in their interior designs. The change of design is one step, but there is much more that can be done.
More importantly, though, the whole idea may add value to our world only when both hoteliers and travel brands, find ways to with the local community to provide a broad look into the culture of the land. They shall act as the connection point for travellers looking for a true experience.
As only one example, we looked at Moldova, the least visited country in Europe. Various organizations work hard to promote it as a new destination for Europeans that saw pretty much everything and at the same time, haven’t even heard about the place. We travelled some two hours from the capital city – Chisinau, to a little village called Palanca. A place that the whole world forgot about, is now receiving a fresh, new start. One lady, Tatiana Popa, in co-operation with young activists from the capital city and supporters from European Union, managed to create a slow life, close to nature village resort where people can spend interesting time with locals, cooking with them, eating eco products, riding a bike or even working in a field or producing wine. The income of tour operators bringing tourists to Palanca is fairly divided with the community, which, thanks to the whole idea, develops, learn about the world and teaches the world about their country.
The world becomes progressively globalized, recognized sights were seen on social media thousands of times. Travellers today leave home and step away from the familiar. They look for adventures and they look for an experience. No matter how we call that sort of travel, the direction is definitely a good one and it can contribute to the world.