Experiential travel is a growing trend for luxury clients and includes eco-travel as well adventure activities. // © Thinkstock
Last week, Mary Pat Sullivan, president of Sullivan Marketing Advisors, moderated TravelAge West’s “Immerse Yourself in Experiential Travel” webinar for the new travel agent education platform, the Experiential Travel Nexus. Sullivan spoke with two leading professionals in the growing experiential travel industry: Deane Motis, director of sales for Global Voyages Group and representative for Hurtigruten, and Steve Lima, U.S. marketing manager of G Adventures.
Following are some of the highlights of their conversation. To watch the archived webinar, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Key points about experiential travel:
- According to travel media professional Serge Dive, experiential travel is “a journey away from home, involving a truly memorable and powerful experience (active, cultural, natural, social or spiritual) that will enrich a person’s life and improve the way they connect with both loved ones and the world.”
- Based on findings from American Express Spending and Savings Tracker, 48 percent of people surveyed are seeking meaningful experiences while traveling. This usually includes opportunities to be immersed in local culture rather than following a standard tourist itinerary.
- Eighty-eight percent of adults with a household income of $250,000 or more plan to travel this year, according to the Shullman Research Center. This data point, combined with the 48 percent of people seeking meaningful experiences while traveling, equals a large market of prospective customers looking for an experiential travel trip.
- Data shows that not only are older and more financially secure groups interested in experiential travel, younger travelers looking for off-the-beaten-path experiences are also willing to flex their budget for this kind of travel.
- The definition of “luxury” is changing. While the term used to mean black-tie dinners and elaborate suites, now it can also refer to once-in-a-lifetime trips, or simply a trip one has the “luxury” of taking. It doesn’t always mean fancy in today’s fluctuating economic climate.
- Prices for experiential travel trips vary. Different companies, including G Adventures, offer immersive trips in a wide range of price points and travel styles.
- Great photos of experiential journeys are excellent marketing tools, and agents can often request them from tour operators.
An experiential travel experience might include:
- Small tour groups, which are better able to join in local activities without much disruption.
- An “unscripted” itinerary, where not every moment is planned and the unexpected can sometimes happen.
- Visits to less-traveled towns and sights.
- Plenty of opportunity to converse with locals, which might mean sharing modes of transport. Some experiential travel trips include working side by side with locals as well.
- Less of a focus on hitting a destination’s must-sees or collecting souvenirs. The stories travelers take home are more important.
- An awareness of how a specific journey impacts the destination. This might include using local guides in order to support the native work force, rather than flying in a guide.
- An awareness that this type of travel encourages a deeper understanding of, and respect for, other cultures.
- A focus on food and culture, off-the-beaten path destinations, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, eco-travel, living like a local and/or adrenaline-inducing experiences.
For up-to-date stories, deals and videos on experiential travel and other topics, visit ExperientialNexus.com.