Buzzwords like ‘authentic’ and ‘experiential’ travel may be overused, but they’re here to stay. Research shows that travellers continue to demand more authentic travel experiences where they can completely immerse themselves into a new culture, feel part of a new country, and live like a local.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) recognised ‘living like a local’ as one of the top five trends for 2015, and WTM London acknowledged that 2016 would be all about ‘authentic’ and ‘experiential’.
At Amadeus, we call these travellers Cultural Purists. For this tribe of intrepid travellers, authenticity, cultural immersion and diversity are far more important than luxury, comfort and convenience. They want to walk in the shoes of locals when travelling within a destination to gain insight into a different way of life.
Travel agents seeking to tap into this market need to create experiences for their travelling clientele. So, how can they go about this?
- Social media is the place to be for insider tips and recommendations, as ‘word of mouth’ is the best endorsement for this tribe. So, look out for small, local restaurants that are highly rated by locals. Or, introduce your clients to a nightlife host who can take them to the coolest bars and nightspots and tell the story from their own perspective. Building niche and specialist knowledge is key to answering to the demands of this tribe.
- It might seem obvious, but don’t offer these clients experiences that are written in guide books or on the Internet – they can find those by themselves. Offer them the real magic of a place by gaining insider knowledge and off-the-beaten track options. They won’t shy away from hard-to-reach and unknown destinations, so brush up on your geography.
- Don’t make the mistake of thinking that only the younger millennials want to have these immersive experiences. This trend reaches a far wider audience that spreads across the age spectrum.
- Remember that flexibility is essential,so recommend travel options that allow for changes and cancellations. These travellers want to keep their options open so that they can modify their itinerary on a whim.
- Remember at all times that communication is crucial. Jack Ezon, president of Ovation Vacations in New York, mentioned in Travel Market Report that authenticity can be taken too literally. “You really have to be clear with clients about what they’re getting. When they say they want a ‘sense of place,’ that really means they want to be in a hotel they can use as a springboard from which to see their surroundings. If guests get to a ranch and there’s no air conditioning, they might not be happy.”
While the Cultural Purist Tribe travellers come with a number of challenges – they are demanding and self-assured – they also offer the travel agent the opportunity to really shine. So, resist the urge to reach for the pre-packaged tours and tap into your unique knowledge as a travel agent to get creative to attract these customers!