What is experiential travel? Isn’t all travel a summation of various experiences, perspectives, transformative emotional reactions, memories carried back and the all-important feel-good factor that the traveller takes away?
Event planners have to unlearn a few things. Bookings, revenues and packages are not the ultimate goal of business promotion activity any more. Does everyone know that? Apparently not. To be able to imbibe the philosophy and address the client’s needs is a different ball game altogether. Travellers are now taking back experiences in a much more pronounced manner than earlier. Social media is an outlet for such experiences while there is a sense of self-actualisation in undergoing a satisfactory, if not sublime travel experience. Perhaps, there is catharsis in very personal and individual ways. And the outcome is mostly positive.
For one, travel redeems a sense of self-worth. Two, it adds to motivation to achieve. Three, it adds to belief in oneself for the accomplishments that may have contributed to such travel.
Now, when a MICE planner formulates a proposal for a group, it is essential to look beyond the bottom line of numbers and add value (real benefits such as developing client loyalty or brand equity). The itinerary must open a channel that connects directly with people, places and events in a personal and experiential way. Now experiential travel in which focus is on the experience by directly connecting to people and their cultural context is growing fast.
MICE planners have to understand afresh how travel experiences change the client’s outlook and understanding. It is not about merely providing the best travel facilities any more. A new engage-with-the–community tourism is fast gaining ground, especially among younger travellers who incidentally become spokespersons for the destination they experience.
There is a social advantage angle, too, through a community and traveller-centred approach in which tourism is leveraged to help deliver sustainable community infrastructure. You could call it ‘impact tourism’. The new travellers are ready to handle the dirt and grime to some extent, in place of insular comfort, if the experiential trip provides interesting food for their sensibility and understanding.
Age does not matter. The lure of experiential travel is not restricted to the young and adventurous, but the senior or middle age traveller seem to share the same enthusiasm. The global traveller is now looking for experiences and a story rather than just a been-there-done-that, photo shoot tour.
A survey conducted by ixigo on millennial travel trends in 2018 has revealed that Indian millennials are increasingly choosing travel destinations based on out-of-the-box experiences where there is direct tactile contact with the communities they visit.
The trend report also revealed that 35 per cent of millennials prefer experiential travel to off-beat destinations like visiting vineyards in Tuscany or fishing villages in Vietnam. About 29 per cent are opting for adventure activities like skydiving in Dubai and scuba diving in Indonesia. Spending time with a Sherpa guide’s family in Nepal and trekking to the Mount Everest base camp with them may create the ultimate in memories of an unforgettable experience. MICE planners have to put their fingers squarely and surely on this pulse.
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