Meaningful journeys need experiences to fill your soul
Amid shifting generational demands, economic crises, a surge of new technologies and social media influencers teaching us how to travel, tourism destinations are drastically transforming.
Experiences are a curated collection of once-in-a-lifetime travel adventures and are the new vocabulary that differentiates tourism destinations worldwide.
Today the experience economy, which is the sale of memorable experiences to customers, is at the core of expanding the ways travelers can engage with people, places and cultures.
The next generation of travelers are interested, curious and want to do more than see sites. They want to fill their mental suitcases with authentic experiences that touch their hearts and minds, carving memories that last a lifetime.
Earlier, destinations had a simple formula: working alongside big hotel chains and tour operators to create the holiday experience. But today, those spots that provide only another place to sleep will find it increasingly harder to put heads in those beds.
Tourism infrastructure is paramount, but if destinations want to stay on top of the minds of the next generation of travelers, they need to be experienceable, innovative, sustainable, transformative, fun, authentic and resilient. Improved product, authentic food and beverage positioning, wellness programming, cultural sampling and adventure activities that add to the sense of place are becoming the norm.
Guests demand sojourns that expand the mind, shift perspective and push boundaries of one’s comfort zones.
Millennials, the generation that travels the most, make up more than 50 percent of all hotel guests worldwide and are willing to spend $1.4 trillion on travel each year. Whether the focus is surfing, yoga, longevity and anti-aging experience or appreciating nature, farm-to-table dining, excursions should be designed to allow one to see the destination like a local.
Therefore, every tourist spot needs a water-tight strategy that delivers unique and authentic experiences that tap into these millennial travelers’ passion for anything but ordinary.
A wholesome experience makes us significantly happier and has much-longer positive effects on our mental health and well-being. According to the Happiness Research Institute, 23 percent of people’s memories were of novel or extraordinary experiences.
Examples that get the most tourist dollars on popular platforms such as Airbnb and TripAdvisor vary from white water rafting at the Balsa River in Costa Rica to exploring Hawaii’s largest limestone cave during a tour of Makauwahi Cave Reserve, among others.
Likewise, the new destinations in Saudi Arabia will need a curated inventory of unique, authentic experiences to capture the imagination of consumers and entice them to visit the Kingdom that too now.
Experiences are the critical link that converts the desire into immediate action. Fortunate travelers seeking to explore the authentic diversity and essence of the Kingdom will have much to experience, from the natural environment to the authentic local culture.
Segmenting the travel and social values of travel enthusiasts to your destination and highlighting an experience program aligned to their specific interests will also grow visitation to the giga-projects.
So, is there a silver bullet strategy for destination stakeholders crafting memorable experiences appealing to the tourist’s dollars?
A quick look at the world’s top-ranked countries for travel experiences reveals that the front runners, rated by the travelers, are Costa Rica, New Zealand and Vietnam.
The secret sauce? It is about putting travelers at the heart of nature and keeping the adventure spirit alive throughout the entire traveler’s journey.
Authenticity and prioritizing the human element are among the biggest differentiating factors in crafting long-lasting memories. In addition, such factors are essential for connecting and inspiring tourists to share their adventures with their families and friends and eventually return.
Many people experience low-satisfaction vacations with superficial encounters with other cultures. However, as we explore the world again, people prioritize sustainable and authentic experiences that broaden their horizons, enrich their understanding of the world and deepen their connection with others.
They want carefully curated trips tailored to their specific likes and interests, and destinations can play a crucial role in guiding people toward their desired outcomes and using this behavior change to advance tourism as a force for good.
Destinations in the Kingdom must invest in product development of unique and diverse experiences catering to different target groups and generations to lead the fight for tourists in the future. This is the golden opportunity of the century for Saudi tourism to fulfill its regenerative and transformative potential.