The future of travel is experience

The future of travel is experience

Michael Donald, co-founder and customer experience specialist at Halo Business Consulting, looks at how travel is evolving in a post-pandemic era, when hybrid working, environmental awareness and a thirst for adventure are among the factors driving destination selection decisions.

As we progress through 2023, it’s evident that a number of travel and tourism trends are evolving in this post-pandemic period, with the common theme of travelers wishing to seek out new and authentic experiences having become a powerful inspiration for travel.

Purposeful travel
The push for more sustainable travel has been gathering momentum for a number of years. However, a new sense of responsibility toward travel has also emerged in a world that remembers, all too clearly, what it felt like to be banned from travel altogether – and even ordered to stay at home – for long periods of time in recent years.

  • Fewer trips, longer stays: many people are now looking to travel to fewer places and spend longer at a destination, focusing on quality and fully immersing themselves in the location and the people. Hybrid working is allowing us to take longer holidays that are interspersed with working days throughout the trip.
  • Experiential travel: in a recent survey, 74 percent of Virtuoso travelers said they’re willing to pay more to travel sustainably if they know where their money is going. And 70 percent agreed that traveling sustainably actually enhances their vacation experience. Travelers are seeking out companies and experiences that focus on “benefitting local people and the economy” and “preserving natural and cultural heritage.”
  • Carbon reduction: the focus on reducing carbon footprint is also evident across the tourism and hospitality industries. Slower train travel is seen as a more sustainable option and there has been an influx of innovative train companies lining up to offer creative and ethical solutions for potential customers to travel with a lower carbon footprint. Businesses that have started programs of carbon reduction are looking to communicate this with potential customers, while accreditations like Green Key are now being recognized by Google and positively affect visibility across search and booking platforms.

Mixing business with leisure
While business travelers adding a few days of fun at the end of a work trip is nothing new, we are starting to see these travel decisions focused first on the leisure destination, followed only afterward by plans being made to also work remotely from that location. The post-pandemic era of hybrid and remote working is now allowing this to happen from a social
and business perspective. Free from pressure to be physically back in the office, employees can spend the morning on a beautiful beach in Thailand before logging in to start work remotely at 9am in Europe.

While product placement has long been recognized as an effective marketing tool in TV and cinema. Today, places are also an established “product.” Game of Thrones was partly filmed in Croatia and Northern Ireland, with this exposure proving a huge draw for fans when they came to book their next holiday. More recent series, like Emily in Paris and White Lotus, are having a similar effect by boosting bookings for trips to Paris and Sicily, with travelers looking to replicate the experiences of their favorite characters by stepping into their shoes on location.

Adventure travel
When recently polled 24,000 customers across 32 countries, almost half of those (44 percent) admitted to looking for holidays with a more back-to-basics feel, while 55 percent sought out “off-grid”, escape-from-reality experiences (55 percent). Even more (58 percent) said they used 2023 as an opportunity to learn survival skills. Perhaps in part taking a cue from the classic coming-of-age movies that Hollywood has provided, adventurous outdoor holidays are undoubtedly having a renaissance. Whether it’s a trip to Disneyland, a waterpark or a magical desert adventure, these holidays are also more likely to include multiple generations of extended family members, with older relatives happy to relive previous experiences alongside children and grandchildren, together with cousins, nieces and nephews.

The metaverse and virtual travel
A number of hospitality and travel companies announced moves into virtual real estate, while early experimentations with NFTs and Crypto were taking place. Despite the second half of 2022 being marked by highly publicized losses in this field, there is little doubt that the next generation of the web will offer travel industry players huge opportunities to market their business to prospective customers.

A new kind of all inclusive
Aligned with the adventurous spirit that is a hallmark of the contemporary traveler, the concept of an all-inclusive holiday is now being adapted and tailored to particular lifestyles rather than a generic one-size-fits-all. Moving away from the idea of traditional all-inclusive, which was fast becoming synonymous with “cheap” or “all-you-can-eat”, creative operators are now finding ways to protect their businesses from the increasing cost of living, while continuing to offer great value to their customers in a highly competitive market.

Michael Donald,
co-founder of Halo Business Consulting
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