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Monday, 01 October, 2018, 16 : 00 PM [IST]

‘Unpackaging’ The Experiential Travel Idea

Travel and tour operators do have to unlearn a few things. Bookings, revenues and packages are not the end-all be-all of tourism promotion activity any more. Of course everyone knows that. However, to feel it in the veins is a different thing altogether. Travellers are now taking back experiences in a much more pronounced manner than earlier. The group tour and itinerary driven package is losing its sheen, unless, of course it opens a channel that connects directly with people, places and events in a personal experiential way.

Now experiential travel in which focus is on the experience by directly connecting to people and their cultural context is growing fast and is here to stay.

Tour operators have to understand afresh how travel experiences change the client’s outlook and understanding. It is not about merely providing the best travel facilities any more. A new engage-with-the–community tourism is fast gaining ground, especially among younger travellers who incidentally turn spokespersons for the destination they travel to.

In certain quarters it is called ‘impact tourism’ - a community and tourist-centred approach in which tourism is leveraged to help deliver sustainable community infrastructure. That’s the social advantage angle.

Luxury hotels and plush coaches that cut the grime and dirt out are definitely good and useful, but the new travellers are ready to handle it all to some extent if the experiential vacation provides interesting food to their sensibility and understanding. Instagram is the new brochure for any destination and its promoters are those who visit and delight in their experiences.

The average global tourist is now looking for experiences and a story rather than just a been-there-seen-that photo shoot tour. The experiential vacation is not limited to the young and adventurous, but the senior or middle age traveller shares the same enthusiasm. Going to Ladakh or a trip on the backwaters of Kerala is not about staying in the houseboat or living in glam tent or hotel in the Himalayans. It is about talking to the boatman and interacting with the school kids carrying satchels on their backs in a Himalayan village.

Technology, especially through social media, has breached the age barrier and older tourists are fast catching on the fever. The conversations with local communities inspire the tourist experience and not mere sights of valleys or monuments.

Social media and digital innovation have together spurred the experiential travel and impact travel idea. This experience will never come about unless the movement to involve people as tourism ambassadors doesn’t get a strong push. Advertisements and TV campaigns will help but not quite. It has to be introduced in schools, offices, buses and public spaces.

There are enough experts, media moguls and nerdy brains that can come up with innovative ideas to promote that cause. The only thing the government can do here is to nudge, gather and facilitate their effort and then step back. Ditto for the travel business leaders.

Anurag Yadav
Industry Expert

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.
 
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