One of the most satisfying aspects of working on Explorer is knowing that the publication is completely in tune with today’s travelers. Nearly every conference I attend refers to research that shows how important experiential travel is to consumers. In meeting after meeting with suppliers, I hear about new efforts they are making to satisfy clients’ adventurous spirits.
The other day, one of my colleagues sent me a link to a TripAdvisor survey called “The Psychology of Travel,” which looks at some of the motivations of U.S. and foreign travelers. In the report, 66 percent of U.S. travelers said they wanted vacations “to provide unique and interesting experiences,” which was the top response. Also among the top five motivations were “to help to enjoy life to the fullest” (45 percent) and “to get immersed in the local culture” (41 percent). What’s more, plenty of research shows this is not just a trend in travel, but a shift in the very nature of how people want to experience new places.
Recently, I spent some time with an acquaintance who had just returned from a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. This woman clearly felt it was a life-changing experience, and she described all sorts of details of the trip — navigating the thrilling whitewater rapids, hiking inside the canyon when she was not on the water and what it was like waking up and staring at the rim of the canyon so far above her. What was most interesting to me was that every description of the trip was connected to a feeling or revelation she had about the world and about herself. That connection — between her experiences and what those moments told her about her life — was clearly the true journey.
We sometimes forget that travel is an emotional experience as well as a physical one — travel changes us personally and alters our world view. In “The Psychology of Travel” survey, 55 percent of respondents say they “introduce new foods into their diets after a trip” and 49 percent say they “become more open-minded and tolerant of others.”
In order to be truly great trip planners, agents need to remember how much of an impact experiential travel has on us. With this in mind, they will not only improve clients’ experiences, but their agency’s business too.