The experience economy

The experience economy has been around for quite some time now, and the tourism industry is slowly adapting. This article provides you insight in the experience economy and how to start selling experiences instead of activities.

Sell experiences instead of activities

Technical innovations, higher educated and demanding customers are pressing the tourism industry to change. Tour operators are required to shift away from their focus on services and facilities, and instead start to focus on customised and memorable experiences for their customers.

The expectation of a memorable experience motivates customers to book holidays. While travellers create their own experiences, tour operators are facilitating and providing input for these experiences. This unique combination gives tour operator an advantage in the growing experience market!

Sell experiences instead of activities

Beyond products and services

The experience economy is basically the phenomenon that has been growing more and more: people have started to realise there is more to life than just owning stuff. Essentially, this means a movement from activities to experiences. Travellers are more and more searching for meaningful and unique experiences they will remember for a lifetime.

More specifically, they don’t want to tick off the same list as everyone else. They are looking for an actual connection with the local population and enjoy untouched nature. They look for experiences, they will think back to ten years later. To put it simply, travellers no longer want to just visit places, they want to truly experience it.

“Customer experiences are what determines customer satisfaction”.

Enhancing customer experiences

The main job for tour operators is to engage their customers in their experiences. The customer experiences are what determines customer satisfaction, and a good customer experience means that the experience matches expectations throughout the experience. Key here is to keep relevant in the eyes of your customers. Develop and offer experiences travellers can’t organise by themselves. Create that added value only a tour operator can provide them.

Anticipating on the experience economy

Tour operators who want to meet their customers’ expectations need to anticipate on the experience economy. According to multiple studies, there are four underlying dimensions of traveller’s participation in experiences. It’s good to keep them in mind when turning your activities into experiences and to determine their focus.

Travellers request experiences to be entertaining, educational, imaginative, and attractive. This means including interactive elements where travellers participate instead of just watch. Also include educative elements whereby the traveller learns more about local culture and vegetation and broadens their mind. Surprise them, over-deliver and have them make memories for life.

Examples of unique experiences

A few examples of unique experiences are:

  • Cooking class: visiting a local market, buying ingredients and cooking together with locals
  • Village walk: guided walk through a local village where tourists are shown their daily lives and where they are encouraged to participate and do chores
  • Bonfire storytelling: have locals share old authentic cultural stories with travellers during a bonfire in the community
  • Homestay: have travellers become part of a local family and culture for the night
  • Public transport or biking: there is no better way to meet locals and enjoy the destination on a slower pace
  • Walking safari: guided walk to spot wildlife and to be educated about local flora and fauna

By creating and selling experiences rather than activities, you are entering a new market. One where the memory of the traveller is most important and where tour operators have the opportunity of including local communities and nature conservation in the experience.


  1. Namara Hilda

    Learning alot from this topic I’m thinking of more activities to include in my packages, thanks Anne & Rik

  2. Harriet Ntege

    – Learning more and encouraged in the new ideas of packaging experiences and not activities. Makes it a two way traffic. More interactive, entertaining, educational, imaginative yet attractive and yet giving back to the community and pre This to me is a win-win situation. Way to go!

    Thanks team


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About <a href="" target="_self">Anne de Jong</a>

About Anne de Jong

Anne is a passionate change maker and fascinated by the tourism industry. Wanting to contribute to a futureproof tourism industry, she supports tour operators and destinations to become more resilient and sustainable.

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