For the modern travel agency, offering customers clichéd travel packages simply won't cut it any more. Nowadays, travellers are seeking something more – they want the 'real deal' when it comes to their holidays, and that means no contrived experiences. Authentic travel is what's desired in 2016 – and there's plenty of research to back up this claim.
Skift and the Peak Adventure Travel Group have released a report entitled 'The Rise of Experiential Travel', detailing the popularity of authentic travel experiences and the need for more unique offerings in an overcrowded travel landscape. Similarly, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has released details pertaining to millennials and their desire for more experiential travel; it seems that more than 33% of Asian millennial travellers would rather visit unchartered landscapes or interesting cultural sites and try new foods than stay in a big city.
So it seems that experiential is one of the big, key trends shaping travel in 2016. While other trends such as the rise of multi-generational travel, voluntourism and remaining on-board when cruising are also shaping the industry, it is the need for genuine travel experiences that seems most prominent.
Cultural immersion is another way of describing this trend, as AAA Travel also predicts. Cultural immersion is again an example of travellers seeking an authentic or educational experience when on holiday. Instead of taking a tour of a winery, they want to make the wine themselves; instead of seeing a local town from the top of a tour bus or as part of a group, they want to wander the streets themselves. Accommodation choice is changing too – instead of booking into a typical chain hotel, travellers are seeking local B&Bs or historical hotels to truly get a taste of the culture.
And how has this trend been recognised? The answer is, through the use of consumer data. By tracking social media, website analytics, location data and search metrics – as well as traveller reviews and blog comments, etc. – travel brands have been able to recognise the growing importance of experiential.
It has been discovered, for example, that 71% of US travellers would be happy to book with a local travel/tour provider, and 60.6% of UK travellers would be happy to do the same. The second most popular option for both US and UK travellers was to travel independently with local firms, followed lastly by the option to travel in a group with a large firm, chosen by only 6.4% and 16% of US and UK travellers respectfully.
Travel brands looking to attract customers in 2016 need to start thinking outside the box (or suitcase!) when it comes to their holiday offerings this year.