A. SO WHO IS THIS NEW GENERATION EXPERIENTIAL TRAVELLER?
The experiential traveler cherishes a purposeful and compelling experience, and if the travel operator or lodge also has a social purpose that they are willing to pursue irrespective of their stated business goals and profitability, even in the absence of their business or organization than this might tilt the business in their favour.
More over, tailor-made unique experience increases the guest’s willingness to pay top dollar for it thus ensuring that experiential travel is a profitable enterprise for the travel operator. Which is more than what you can say for mainstream generic travel, where the travel agent is getting redundant with reducing profit margin.
Here is a quick list of 10 things that I think will help you understand the experiential traveller as we understand them! You are welcome to share your expertise and experience, and add to the list.
1. They are socially connected with the rest of the world all the time
With real time access to live or interactive videos on the youtube and vimeo, with instant access to free content on the internet, with cheap phone calls to people across the world over skype and viber, with instant sharing of their thoughts using instant messages on whatsapp and longer posts on emails, and real time updates of what their friends are up to in various parts of the world in an interactive manner, there is a slow realization that we are living in an increasingly inter connected world where there are no barriers of communication left. We are connected to the world, all the time and free at that! All you have to do is walk in to the local coffee shop.
Action – “I know exactly what I want and it’s my way or the highway says the experiential traveller. Are you offended? Or do you nod your head in agreement say ‘ofcourse, that’s par for the course, and that is no problem, really!”
2. They want to ‘Travel Differently’
The new generation triggers can be as simple as going on a hike in the forest with the locals or praying with the monk in a monastery in Western Himalayas. Or as complex as chasing the snow leopards in the trans himalayan or a cross-country multi day hiking, bicycling and camping across the Western Ghats of India.
We love off the beaten track places and like to do enriching new experiences. We seek a new way to understand our world. And we now look forward to using all our senses in a way that they enrich us when we have real travel experiences meeting real people, eating what they eat and doing what they do.
As technology evolves and personal networks grow in ever widening circles thanks to google plus, facebook and linkedin, there’s both a quantitative and a qualitative shift in why a traveller choose a destination. Now it’s no longer just about skiing in Switzerland or watching the wildebeest in Serengeti that triggers a travel quest.
Action – “Traveling to typical touristy towns being towed along with thousands of others doesn’t appeal to them anymore. They want to travel differently and the question that you need to ask is ‘How can I make help them ‘Travel Differently’?”
3. They want something for everyone in their family
Travel today is all about creating an emotional connection with the customer that leaves them feeling that they are the most important person in that moment in time. Today’s discerning traveller are asking ‘What will we do there’ instead of ‘What’s the best deal you can give me’ and its a tough question to answer for traditional hotels & resorts centered around F&B. And today everybody in the family is a decision maker, whether they are 6 or 76 years of age and they have different tastes in life and different expectations from a holiday.
Consequently for a today’s leisure resort, its imperative to know that if a family of 4 arrives for 4 days, they must have a bank of quality 30 to 40 different unique experiences to be able to create a truly enriching experience for its guests from all walks of lives. Hence Ecomantra Nature Adventure was created to service this latent need of why an educated person travels today – to seek real & deeper travel experiences. They want to return back enriched by their travel experiences. And a good room and good food is not just good enough anymore.
For instance, at Ecomantra, we operate 49 adventures and close to 300 interactive experiences to ensure that we can cater to a mixed group of people in the same family on an extended holidays wanting to do their own things?
Action – “A great experiential travel company under stands that different people want different take aways from the same trip. And that different people experience the same destinations differently. Do you have something for everyone in the family?”
4. They buy emotionally and then justify with logic
With this fondness of being always connected has sunk in a new realisation that ‘people are not thinking machines that feel but feeling machines that also think’.
We humans think we are logical decision makers but in reality we are emotional creatures who love to communicate with our friends, family and whoever care to listen across the world on a real time basis. Social media has made that possible on a real time basis. The mobile phones and tablets are now pocket devices, always connected and extremely affordable.
And emotional people, as is wont, might forget what you said or did, but they do not forget how you made them feel. So if you get the emotions right and make them feel special, you have a fanboy and a raving client, who will be your best word of mouth advertiser.
The problem with an emotional feeling is that you actually have very little or often no control over them and things unravel and go downhill very fast before you can say ‘what me worry’? Even a small thing like the jeep safari vehicle arriving at 5:15 am when the guests were ready to leave at 4:45 am is enough to irritate them and you will lose brownie points despite an other wise faultless services delivery in a 3 weeks holiday. And if you get the emotions wrong (or even apparently wrong), your client may be equally trigger happy in posting a review on tripadvisor thus causing reputation management based mini crisis that is available around the world, 24/7, 365 days a year, and forever, for people to read and click their tongues.
What matters is not that whether the traveller is justified in feeling irritated, what matters is that they are feeling irritated. And its your fault. If you sell the right trip to the wrong traveller just because the client wanted to buy that trip – its your fault. Or you didnt do a great job of correctly orienting the traveller about what to expect in that trip before they put their money on the table – its your fault.
Remember, a traveller is far more keen than you to have a great time and ensure that it is memorable. At Ecomantra we insist on a detailed orientation before they transfer the tariff to our account and we always undersell our product – we will rather that they have a surprisingly unexpected great experience versus a surprisingly unexpected miserable one. Never, ever, ever, over sell your service. Be British about it – describe Taj Mahal as ‘not really a bad place, huh’. Period.
Transcending customer experiences is emotional. When you trigger positive emotions, you create a raving client who forms an attachment to a company and once that emotional bond is created, it tips the balance in your favour for a great feedback and word of mouth. Its a tricky to get this right and easy to get it wrong. And if you do get it right than this relationship doesn’t break easily, unless your services channel makes a mistake or some other travel company has more inspiring stories than you.
“ Action – Knowledge based service channels thus is a very important differentiator. Is your organization knowledgeable enough to emotionally appeal to the experiential traveller?”
5. They know more than you do!
Another problem with the experiential traveller, especially the luxury traveller who has access to Conde Nast gold list, Zagat, Virtuoso and Kiwi collection’s curated list, Google’s Hotel Finder and Tripadvisor on his fingertip, and who is a frequent world traveler is that more often than not they are more knowledgeable than your best salespeople!
And they can afford to buy the best in class, which they prefer to buy from knowledgable travel specialists or concierge who can answer all their queries, meet all their requirement and still surprise them with an insightful, bespoke personalized travel experience with the vow factor which was unexpected.
Action – “Do you have it in your company to vow the Internet savvy, been there done that, probably more educated and more traveled traveller than you do?”
6. They are traveling more often, is your content up to mark?
Whether it’s the check list empowered bragging right based traveller or it’s the story inspired extra ordinary experiences seeking experiential traveller, seeing other people share their travel stories on the social media inspires them to travelling more often to different places than the previous generation.
Since they travel more often, they quickly cover the usual destinations in the initial years of their traveling life. More often than not they continue to seek newer things to do and newer places to visit. And hence these travelers quickly graduate to become experiential traveller who look forward to offbeat, unseen and not yet on tourism circuit destinations.
Action – “The experiential travelers are traveling more often. They need more places and more things to do. Are you keeping pace, and reinventing and rebuilding your content as often to stay relevant to them?”
7. Its raining Mangoes here. What’s your story?
The experiential travellers choose a destination because he liked and was intrigued by a story behind the place. The questions that needs answering is ‘Who the hell are you and why the hell should I travel with you?’The problem statement is that end of the day a room is a room is a room and a beach is a beach is a beach.
At Ecomantra lodges, we don’t pluck fruiting trees and leave it for the bats and other animals. A few years back Sheldon Santwan, editor of TravelBizMonitor, India’s foremost travel trade magazine was visiting our Rivertrail Eco Camp with his family in the summer. And his wife wrote to us that its raining mangoes here! And accused us of trying to kill her with a mango falling every few minutes. She was thrilled about it and felt special eating farm fresh organic mangoes by the dozens.
So how do you make them feel special? How do you create a services and product differentiator? How do you plan to engage everybody in the family?
Action – “Do you have inspiring stories to pull your guests or do you still continue to push sell destinations? What’s your story, man?”
8. They want to know the Faces behind the Places
My experience that is also corroborated by research shows discerning travelers cherishes the emotional story behind what they are buying. He uses travel as a medium to fulfill his personal quest for growth in the form of a journey. He wants to feel inspired when he travels, and he wants to connect with real people.
As my friend Marcus Bauer from Respontour Consulting, Germany says ‘He wants to know the faces behind the places and not just the places behind the faces’. And I like that and agree with it.
Action – “Can your travel organization make your guests meet the real people in the places that you market? Can you create an eco system that creates opportunities for the traveler to have a real experience that enriches them at their own pace without you contriving to create a manufactured experience”
9. They see and hear and feel more. And they want to do more..
A few years back when I was traveling to Sikkim, while I was ignoring the countless salesman boarding the train at various point and selling myriad stuff and food, Marcus Bauer was busy being amused and making notes in his red diary.
Towards the end of the rail trip, he pointed out to me that there was upwards of a few hundred products that had been offered to us in less than 6 hours of travel town! Other than a house we probably could have bought everything required to set up a house in that train itself!
Is your travel product designer or trip leader great at seeing and hearing more? And more importantly can they inspire your guests to see, feel and do more? Can they make them laugh and think? Can they ensure that the traveller return back more enriched and knowledgable than when they arrived?
“And more importantly is that they want to even buy their holidays from pre sales and sales person who are as knowledgable and as passionate about what they are selling as their trip leaders. Nothing puts them off and makes them hang up the phone if their first line of communication in your travel company are what I courteously call, as SIDNK experts.’Sir, I do not know’ the answer to your query (and nor do I care about it) but tell you what, you must still buy from me’
Action – “Experiential traveller dont want to travel with trip escorts – they want to travel with trip leaders who are real person that are well read, intelligent, inspiring, has a sense of humour and are high on emotional quotient.”
10. I want a holiday sir, and not just a hotel for the night
The experiential traveler knows that he is buying important travel components that go in to making a complete holiday package that is hopefully extra ordinarily enriching, preferably affordably customisable and possibly forever memorable.
Can you bundle the total holiday experience for the traveller and his family, the way they like it including hotels + flights + cars & transfers + excursions + adventures + experiences + visa + forex + insurance + guides.
“ Action – If I simply want a hotel I know where to buy and I will buy it myself. I want a total holiday experience and not bits and pieces of it. Savvy?”
And now that we understand the experiential traveller and what they seek in a holiday, lets talk about the 7 different types of experiential traveller and understand why do they travel experiential?
B. Who are These 7 Types of Experiential Travellers?
1. The Luxury Vagabonds
Travels differently, travels in style
- Motto – You only live once and deserve the best, so lets live life king size.
- Look – Men wears Jacket & Linen Trousers with a brogue and a beret. Women prefer a loose jersey dress with a necklace or a white blouse tucked into skinny jeans with a thin belt. Evenings are oversized scarf, and cute blazer or leather jacket. Knick-knack goes in leather duffel.
- Transport – Luxury Sedan
- Shades – Rimless
You prefer to travel in a private group, value your privacy and like to keep the fun to yourself. You want air-conditioning and extra spaces everywhere and will pay for that extra leg space in flight. You settle for a suite in the grand hotel, only if a private villa or palaces aren’t available. You have a butler and a chauffeur on your beck and call, while your personal concierge will pick up your call on the 2nd ring at 3 am in the night.
2. The Purists
Loves culture, loves food
- Motto – When in Rome do as Roman does.
- Look – Men wears white shirt & blue jeans with loafers. Women wear jeans, a coat, and beanie with flats or boots. Knick-knack goes in a satchel.
- Favourite Legendary Landscape – Heritage Cities & Towns
- Transport – Sedan
- Shades – Wayfarer
Historical travel was never out of fashion and is more in demand than ever. After all there is only one Tajmahal or Ajanta & Ellora, and in this way historically immersive luxury travel is no different today than getting your hands on a 1934 Maybach.
Like urban contemporary utopian cities in the world, Heritage cities are waiting to be discovered!
Not in the usual touristy way, but in its hidden sights and smells. In its forgotten corners and treasures. In the endearing charm of its stories, only a Purist traveller would appreciate and enjoy!
You travel to not only discover new places but to experience the diversity of different culture by getting an insider’s access to local art, craft, food, temples, and way of life.
You like to sample delicious local cuisines in little known local eateries and often participates in the culinary process.
You opt for all the heritage tours to visit all the must see, cultural icons, art galleries and museums of that place and often stay in a heritage hotel or palace
3. The Adventurers
Loves excursions, love adventures
- Motto – Where there is a will there is a way so why drive when you can hike or bike?
- Look – Men wears Parka & Nylon Trek pants. Women wears a light jacket, scarf, leggings with a tank. Both wear with trekking boot and helmets. Knick-knack goes in backpack.
- Favourite Landscape – Hills
- Transport – Bicycle/Kayak
- Shade – Oversize
You are always on the move and will climb the mountains, bike the highest cliff and than jump from the cliff in to the sea to swim or surf with the dolphins.
You are addicted to adrenaline and will do every thrilling activity under the sun, aren’t afraid to get lost in your quest to see the unseen and really remote, and yet unspoilt amazing places.
Whether its the paddling or sailing tours on the waterfront, or a heavenly hike in the mystic mountains, you are always game for it.
You love Aerial rope courses and are thrilled by the idea of zip lining across the valley or going paragliding and hot air ballooning in the blue skies.
And once in a while to go birding or watch the sharks, gorillas, wildebeest, leopards and tigers at close quarters in the national parks of the world completes the adventures that you love.
You are an expert in traveling light and knows how to pack 3 weeks of supplies in a very small day pack. After all as you say “you are a traveller and not a porter”. 4. The Sun Worshipping Foodie Hippie Who Loves Beaches, Music & Partying
4. The Sun Worshipping Foodie Hippie
Loves music, loves to party
- Motto – Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you will die.
- Look – Men prefer bermuda shorts, flip-flops, beach hats, and a beer logo t-shirt. , Women prefer simple chambray dress with plunging necklines & statement necklace, espadrilles & Havianas. Knick knack goes in an oversized bag
- Favourite Landscape – Beaches
- Transport – Scooter
- Shades – Horn Rimmed
Where will you visit this summer / winter begins with your stored notes on a weeklong pizza trail by the 3 star Michelin chef that made your mouth drool or something on rather similar lines. While others are keen to see places & do things, you are determined to eat the iconic dishes of each restaurant that you have heard so much about and also naturally drink the best that it has to offer when you hit the pub trail with equal vehemence.
Your day begins at 6 pm and ends at 6 am for you party all night, and sleep all day; sleep all day on the beach that is with a martini by your side and the masseuse closeby for you do need a bit of pampering after all night long on the dance floor.
You are laid-back person, infact so laid-back that your friends says you are mostly horizontal. You believe that its always 5 o’clock somewhere and spend most of your time getting drunk in the best watering holes where you can also shake a leg, and who are happy to serve dinner at 4 am.5. The Explorers Who Loves To Explore The Destination In Depth
5. The Explorers
Loves to explore destinations in depth
- Motto – If It’s there, I am going to see it.
- Look – Both men & women prefers sweater, jacket & Jeans, loose jersey dress, comfy sandals or high ankle leather shoes, peak cap. Knick-knack & Binoculars goes in a daypack.
- Favourite Landscape – Countryside
- Transport – Jeep
- Shades – Aviators
You travel with map & guide book in hand and a camera around your neck. You have researched the region in detail before you arrive with a well drafted written down plan.
You rise early everyday so that you can cover everything, whether it’s heritage tours on foot or bicycles, or day trips in cars, cruises or trains. You are famous for arriving for an 8 am bike tour at 7 am just to be on the safer side. Your local taxi drivers in 15 countries and you are on first name terms.
You are not content being a mere spectator and participates deeply in everything that goes around you.
But you are content and ok to stay in the most rustic to grand palaces of the world with equal elan as long as you get to explore the blue planet. And you are prepared to use local transportation to explore the area or go on foot if a car cannot go out there. I mean, its not that you are going to return to the destination anytime soon – so now that you are here, might as well take some pain and see and do whatever the destination has to offer.
After all why do less when you can do more!6. The Digital Nomadic Yogi Who Travels Slow
6. The Digital Nomadic Yogi
Lives local, travels slow
- Motto – What’s the hurry, so lets take it easy, do the right things, go with the flow and find inner peace.
- Look – Men prefer fisherman pants & loose Kurtas, Women lounge pants and Kurtis. Both are partial to dreadlocks, tattoos and lots of necklaces. Knick knack goes in an oversized clothe bag
- Favourite Legendary Landscape – Far from the madding crowd, really remote & yet unseen destinations that are not on any tourist maps
- Transport – Public
- Shades – Round Metal
You are the traveler that people read about in travel guides & envy for you are always on the road with a perfect work/life balance. After all why go fast when you can go slow. You are free spirited yogi inner peace seeker who often chooses to travel green, culturally immerses in the destination and live like the locals by staying put in one place for long.
Because you love to stay longer, you have figured out how to stay connected with the world at all times & work remotely. You invented WorkFromResorts (WFR) while rat race runners are satisfied with their WFH.
You aren’t as eager to get out and about, as you aren’t rushed to see a place. Instead you prefer to love to read a book or two on social justice in the hammocks, hire a bike and buy your favourite food from the local organic cafe.
You have best friends in 36 countries with a crazy fan following of your travel blog. That’s why your dear friend, the travel editor insist that you share your secret spots & tips with her readers, and perhaps inspire them to become Yogis themselves! Some of you have manage to quit your day jobs to work as dive master, a trip leader, a travel blog writer or simply a destination specialist.
7. The Wild Mowglis
Born Free, Born Wild
- Motto – Far from the madding crowd amidst creatures great & small
- Look – Jungle Boots & Fatigues, Comfortable full cargos shirts & pants in neutral colours, Veiled Hats to ward off the pesky bugs and a binocular on a chest harness
- Favourite Landscape – Forests
- Transport – SUV
- Shades – GI Glasses
Where will you visit this season begins with your stored notes on legendary national parks and wildlife sanctuaries of the world. While others say what the hell is Galapagos and Yosemite, you swoon & enter a surreal dream world of the last wild & beautiful places on the blue planet. You are the quintessential nature lover whose idea of a great time is to escape the madding crowd & the maddening horns of a crowded city and seek solace in dense misty forests & grasslands, where you will wake up to melodious birds & wildlife calls.
Unlike the squeamish travellers, you find it sacrilegious to hear that silly people allow silly things like mere mosquitoes, bugs & leeches to dissuade them from getting close to nature and let go of the joy of waking up to melodious birds & wildlife calls and a glorious sun rise over the steamy forests.
After a spirit cleansing refreshing dip in the waters of forest streams & rivulets, what can bring more joy than watching the beautiful birds & butterflies fluttering from flower to flower, and tree to tree! Followed of course by a walk or jeep ride to admire & be awed by the majestic world of cats, elephants, apes, bovines & deers just like how our forefathers did in the ancient times!
C. So why do today’s travellers love experiential & prefer to travel differently?
Today’s Travellers Love Experiential Because They Want To Travel Differently i.e. Fun & Yet Enriching; Travel Real i.e. Experiential & Yet Ecological and Travel Their Way i.e. Bespoke Yet Flexible
As we go up the value chain and become prosperous, we become more confident and surer of ourselves and our individuality begins to put It’s feet down and shines through. We begin to revel in being ourselves and our creativity and ideas begins to express itself as an individual personality making us realize in no uncertain terms what we love to see and do, and what gives us joy and wings.
At the same time because we feel more connected with ourselves, we feel more connected with the world too and our curiosity about the planet grows by leaps and bounds. We now want to explore the world.
We are now prosperous enough to not only reward our selves and our loved ones but now that we also feel the web of life, we have the urge to give back to the society, and ultimately the blue planet that nurtured and sustained us. So that we now want to explore the world responsibly and enrich our lives but in a way that conserves the community and preserves the blue planet.
When we explore the majestic planet, our curiosity about the planet instead of satiating, alleviates, and that’s when we realize that the travel bug has bitten us. The mind expands; it becomes more accepting of different people from different lands with different customs, looks, languages, food, dress and way of life. We revel in this difference and want to travel at the drop of the hat in this unquenchable quest to see more, do more, and know more. In the process we fan the fire of this innate age-old curiosity about who we are and what is this world all about.
That’s when you realize that you are different and has different requirement from your travel and experiences. Some of us realize that they love the culture aspect more than the others who love adventures and exploring new destinations. Some become inner peace seekers while others are most content to spend the day on the beach and night partying.
We at Ecomantra has served over a 1,00,000 experiential travellers and to us, there are 7 basic types of travellers and they all need to be served differently, so that even if a family of 4 with 4 different travel personalities travel together, we can ensure that they each gets what they wanted from the holiday, and in the same holiday.
That’s why we created so many different types of heritage tours and day trips, micro fests and learning programs in different destination so that we have something for everyone in the family.
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