Attending both the Condé Nast International Conference and the World Trade Market Africa 2019 in Cape Town this week, I hear a resounding message echoed throughout various talks, conversations and presentations: More experiences, less objects.
According to Booking.com’s Hotel Area Manager, Toni Rasanen, millennials across the board are more likely to spend money on an experience than on buying, say, a car.
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Spending up to 5 and a half hours daily on their phones, they are mobile-first. This generation is always connected and seeks seamless user experiences, both online and in real life.
An emerging market in travel is, undoubtedly, niche travel experiences. Airbnb introduced Trips in South Africa in 2016, and now Booking.com has done something similar. Offering customers information on attractions, city guides and things to do once they have an active booking on the site.
More travellers are looking for authentic content and experiences within a city or town they plan to visit, where tourism is specialised, customer-focused and feels like it has that human-touch. For Booking.com, the whole journey is considered - before, during and after your stay. The booking site now has a new vertical, which suggests trip itineraries - including considerations like transports, etc.
More real, less fake please
Platforms like Instagram, and the influencers that run its #wanderlust content (currently a whopping 96 163 723 posts on Instragram under this hahstag!) has for a long time shown us, to a large extent, beautiful and aspirational content. However, replicating this content is not always possible as it's often staged, and therefore pretty unattainable for the average Jane.
For example, one blogger might post a picture of themselves all alone, walking the Great Wall of China. Travellers then expect a similar experience to that when visiting, not realising the blogger edited out almost all of the other hoards of tourists.
People want replicable itineraries they can follow, travels that allow them to discover, to feel and connect with the people and the place.
Speaking at the Conde Nast International Conference, Marco Bizzarri, CEO of Gucci says, “People want to be part of a narrative, a story.”
But in overcrowded, overtourism cities like Dubrovnik in June, having an authentic experience can be hard. And communities in the area often suffer (to an extent) under the social and environmental pressures a sudden influx of tourists bring.
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Keith Jenkins who is the founder and chief executive officer of iambassador, a company that markets destinations and travel brands by utilising leading online travel influencers from around the world, says that people relate more with bloggers and Instagrammers that give information. About the place, and about the culture.
Practical information on where something is, how to get to a particularly attraction and how it feels to be there; this is the information people want. We want to be able to be part of the story for real.
This is where secondary-destinations like smaller cities and towns come in. Drilling deeper into destinations means to head to cities that weren't necessarily on your radar. But should be.
Going to Montpellier instead of Paris or Graz instead of Vienna offers traveller so many advantages in terms of experience:
- It's usually much cheaper in terms of accommodation, food and drinks and attractions
- It's often just as spectacular in terms of nature, architecture and culture
- It's less crowded, so you waste less time standing in queues, etc.
- It's much more likely that you'll experience the 'real' people of the place as the communities are more open to talking to tourists
Basically, secondary-destinations are not second-choices, they are untapped destinations on par with big cities that have always reaped the benefits of excellent marketing.
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