Sell experiences instead of activities
Technical innovations, higher educated and more demanding customers are pressing the tourism industry to change. Tour operators are required to shift away from their focus on simply offering services and facilities, and instead start to focus on customised and memorable experiences for their travellers.
The expectation of a memorable experience, motivates travellers to book trips. While travellers create their own experience, tour operators are facilitating and providing input for these experiences. This unique combination gives tour operator an advantage in the growing experience market.
In this article
Beyond products and services
The experience economy is the phenomenon that has been growing more and more: people have started to realise there is more to life than just owning things. 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. And they’re also willing to pay more for it.
“Customer experiences are what determines customer satisfaction”
Know what your customer is looking for
When developing new experiences, you want them to meet the needs and demands of your target group. To do this well, you need to know who your ideal customer is and how to attract them.
Key aspects of a travel experience
Travellers are losing interest in pre-packaged, standard tourism. They are looking for tailor made, unique and authentic experiences they can tell family and friends about. Experiences that are authentic, active, participatory, and respectful for locals and nature. A well-designed experience:
- triggers pleasure, positive emotions, or senses
- enables the acquisition of new manual or intellectual skills
- fosters beneficial interactions with other people
Good experiences also stimulate five senses and when looking to develop memorable experiences, focus on including as many elements as possible:
For example, the sounds of nature (birds) or local music (local musicians), smell of herbs or plants, and tasting of local dishes. Every destination will have different interpretations of elements that stimulate these five senses. Key is to identify what makes the destination unique and interesting for new travel experiences.
“Products are so yesterday, and customers want to engage with your offering with all their senses”
Stay relevant and add value
The main task for tour operators is to engage customers in their experiences. The customer experiences are what determines customer satisfaction, and a good customer experience means that the experience matches or exceeds expectations throughout the experience. Key here is to stay relevant in the eyes of your customers.
Develop and offer experiences travellers can’t organise by themselves. Create that added value only you as a tour operator can provide them. Value that is gained through your local insights and knowledge of the destination and opportunities.
Examples of unique travel experiences
Be inspired by below list of travel experiences that have incorporated most elements of the experience economy. Use them as inspiration to develop memorable travel experiences for your own travellers.
1. Cooking class
Learning how to prepare a local dish under guidance of a chef. Perhaps even visit a market together to explore foreign foods.
2. Walking safari
A guided walk or safari with a local guide to enjoy nature, spot wildlife and be educated about flora and fauna.
3. Farmer visit
Visiting a coffee, tea, or vegetable farmer to learn more about the process from seed to end product, including a tasting.
4. Sunset picknick
Rewind and enjoy an amazing sunset with good snacks and a glass of wine from a well selected place.
5. Bonfire storytelling
Sharing authentic cultural stories or fairytales with travellers during an evening bonfire. Including hot chocolate and s’mores.
6. Wild-plant themed tour
Exploring a forest or jungle in search of a specific wild plant under guidance of an expert. Think about mushrooms or edible plants.
7. Treasure hunt
For the adventurers who like puzzles and riddles, set-up a (themed) treasure hunt in the area for them to complete. Also, easy to make kids-proof.
Attending a (cultural) festival that takes place in your destination. A great opportunity for travellers to experience local life.
Design memorable travel experiences
When looking to design new travel experiences for your travellers, it’s important to include the value you can offer as tour operator. Through your local insights and connections with local partners and stakeholders, you’re able to develop something unique. To differentiate your offerings from other operators in the area.
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. Together this creates memorable experiences that your travellers will highly enjoy.