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Have you ever had a client who would rather tuck into street food than a McMeal? Or someone who opts for the rather perilous 34-hour bus trip through the Andes instead of catching a quick flight on a commercial airline?

If yes, then it’s more than likely that you’ve encountered a Cultural Purist.

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 the locals in the destinations they visit to gain insight into a new and different way of life that challenges them intellectually and changes the way they view the world.

By their very nature, Cultural Purists are averse to pre-planning – they don’t want to visit a destination with any preconceived notions and prefer to remain open to any experiences that may happen spontaneously. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t huge potential for travel agents to connect with this adventurous tribe.

So how can you recognise and inspire these intrepid travellers?

  • Word-of-mouth is the most respected endorsement as far as Cultural Purists are concerned, but they are also likely to be influenced by the books they read and may travel to chart the courses of their favourite literary and historical figures. They may even plan a trip to coincide with a particular cultural or religious festival.
  • While the behaviours and preferences of Cultural Purists may typically be associated with younger travellers, it now reaches a far wider audience that spreads across the age spectrum. They are also very happy to travel solo.
  • Steer clear of recommending the well-trodden tourist attractions. They’re quite happy to miss out on seeing the landmarks that make it onto the front of the postcard if there are opportunities to head off the beaten track into unchartered territory.
  • These travellers are keen to visit destinations that most other Africans have not been to – so don’t be afraid to recommend destinations that are harder to reach, even if it’ll take a while to get there.
  • They are happy to use non-commercial airlines and fly into secondary airports, or even better – travel like the locals do and make use of ferries, trains and buses to get around.
  • Flexibility is essential, so recommend fares and accommodation that allows for changes and cancellations. These travellers want to keep their options open so that they can modify their itinerary on a whim.
  • There is huge opportunity for agents with niche and specialist knowledge that can make recommendations that will enable Cultural Purists to eat, drink, sleep and speak like a local.

While these travellers are educated, demanding and self-assured, they are also open-minded and very receptive to creative suggestions, presenting excellent opportunities to travel agents that think “out of the box”. So whatever you do, resist the urge to reach for the pre-packaged tour brochure on the shelf and instead impart insider knowledge from your own research and experience.