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From Grand Tour to Wanting More: The Evolution of Experiential Travel

Image © Joshua Earle

Since the days of the Grand Tour to Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) in the 1970s and the gap years of the 1990s, there have been a variety of reasons why experiential travel has evolved and taken hold. Recently, an emerging generation of travellers have begun reshaping the experiential travel market. Along with the rise of the Instagram society, which now boasts more than 300 million monthly active users and enables us all to explore the world through the lenses of others, these new travellers will continue to change how we think about travel. By 2020, millennials will account for 50% of global travel spending; they already spend an estimated $180 billion in tourism related revenue. They have the power and numbers to influence every lifestyle experience they engage in, including the future of experiential travel.

As millennial travellers have become a consequential market force, there has also been a broader shift in consumer attitudes. People today want to control what they get out of their trips. A study by Harris and Eventbrite highlighted a growing demand for enriching life through special experiences and learning; over 78% of respondents said they would rather spend money on gaining experiences than buying things.

Experiential travel has taken these changing social mores into consideration and shifted its focus towards providing enriching, localised experiences. Concentrating on the local allows travellers to forge deeper connections with the people, traditions and customs of the places they visit. Born out of the desire to explore further no matter the cost, “one of a kind” holidays are now being perceived as the newest model of luxury travel.

This new approach to travel means that the role of the travel agent is changing It’s no longer enough for a travel agent to have a strong handle on logistics. Today’s agents must act like travel designers. Like hospitality designers, travel designers are constantly looking to tell a story that roots the guest experience in an ongoing narrative; they are selling a story based experience as opposed to an itinerary. New high end travel shows such as Pure Life Experiences bring designers together to bridge the gap between unique and package holidays and to offer experiences that challenge, inspire and deeply affect an individual, thus changing the traveller’s life for the better.

As a keen traveller and explorer myself, I’ve often selected and curated holidays that offer memorable experiences. Sometimes those experiences come looking for me—e.g. getting lost in Rome and stumbling across the Trojan Column (the closest I’d seen it before was in the ‘Fakes and Forgery’ room of the V&A). During a trip to South Africa, where I wanted to challenge myself physically and mentally, I spent my final two days hiking up and down the Drakensberg mountains to see the world’s second highest waterfall, where the most hair-raising obstacle was a vertical climb up a metal chain ladder tacked into the rock face with no safety ropes. If that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, we proceeded to camp in a cave high up on the plateau to watch the most spectacular sunrise I have ever seen. The clouds forming beneath the plateau lapped its edge like waves hitting the shoreline, while the sun rose higher and higher. I personally wouldn’t describe it as a luxurious travel experience, but it was memorable beyond belief.

Sunrise in South Africa - memorable beyond belief

The rise in demand for experiences such as these has led to a growing acceptance within the hotel industry that travellers are more interested in exploring what’s going on outside the hotel walls than lounging within them. In turn, hoteliers are evolving to offer differentiated experiences for every guest. This need for uniqueness and the growing embrace of local cultures has prompted the rise of local, conceptual design and expression. This change in hospitality design is forcing hotels to start acting as portals to external communities rather than disconnected entities. Introducing each guest to the best local experiences is paramount to success in the new travel economy, because lasting memories is what we as travellers want to associate with a country, a destination, an emotion, and the hotel’s brand.

Nicola’s passion and creative flare derives from her deep rooted international background, continued travel experiences and at the core, her love of different cultures. It is through this exploration that she is able to sensitively design and create memorable customer experiences. Nicola has successfully managed projects of varying sizes and complexity where touching on all aspects of design continues to inspire and influence. She can be reached via email at nicola_law@gensler.com

Reader Comments (4)

enjoyed this posting about exploring experiences, and reminding myself that i need to keep drawing those travel experiencs for even better memories...
07.31.2015 | Unregistered Commenterdoug wittnebel
Astonishing!! For the first time I actually read the entire content in a day. Good job man. From that time onwards I started researching and came across this Mission Impossible 5 Tom Cruise Blue Tuxedo at Angeljackets. Why don’t you check it out?
I need to travel
08.6.2015 | Unregistered Commenterbassi
I am very gladsome for your post about travel experiences. I need go to travel. Hotel Inspection is a fun job that is almost too good to be true. Imagine traveling to beautiful tourist destinations and staying in the most luxurious hotels. You are often treated like VIP in these establishments because they want your approval and good reviews.
08.21.2015 | Unregistered CommenterMd. Amir Hossain

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