The travel recovery that hotels are bracing for next year will not show the same guest behavior as 2019. The world has changed and hotels have to adapt to the new requirements. A key direction travel is taking is maximizing time – filling a holiday or business trip with meaningful moments because you never know when the prospects of moving freely around the world will falter again.
This concept of maximizing time means guests are looking for hotel brands that support this goal by designing trips and itineraries that make those experiences a reality. Travelers are looking for operators who can reduce the friction of experience travel by handling the logistics on their behalf and guaranteeing security and smooth operations.
To give hoteliers some inspiration on what will attract guests interested in experiential travel in the post-pandemic era, we sat down with Geraint Hamer, VP of Tours, Packages and Wholesale at TRIPS by Culture Trip – a company that really Need has no introduction as it is a world-leading hub for unique travel experiences. Culture Trip launched TRIPS in late 2021 as its curated series of immersive cultural multi-night vacations for small groups, with first departures already underway.
Not that it needs to be hammered home, but can you provide recent stats that point to the increase in travel experiences since the pandemic began?
In 2021, we surveyed 2,000 Americans and found that one in four Americans (24%) doesn’t want to travel like they did before the pandemic; They prefer to travel more meaningfully and responsibly. We’ve responded to this post-pandemic desire to explore the world in a different way with our small-group adventures, curated by travel experts and led by local insiders. We combine immersive experiences with unique and (often) boutique accommodations and a whole lot of thoughtful behind-the-scenes research, which is ideal for people with limited time to plan their next adventure.
Given the increasing demand for experiential travel, what forces should hoteliers consider?
The world is opening up again which is amazing to see; Humans crave human connection and exploration. Of course, some travelers are still hesitant. I think we can all do our part to encourage them while making sure they can book with confidence. We want to enable people to enjoy these once-in-a-lifetime experiences and give them peace of mind while being stress-free for them. That’s why we offer a Covid Booking Guarantee, giving customers complete confidence when booking should plans need to change due to the latest regulations, and we ensure safety protocols are in place on all our adventures.
How do travelers find the experiences they want, and what immediate steps can hotels take to spread the word about their experiences?
Making a travel decision can be a lengthy process – now more so than before the pandemic as there are many things to consider such as: B. Travel Regulations. First, people do a lot of research and reading before actually booking. Travel content like ours is a touchpoint during the research process. With guests using so many channels, it’s not easy to cover them all, especially if you’re a small, independent operator. Because of this, it’s important for hotels to really think about what kind of consumers they want to attract and to understand what kind of channels that audience likes to use. By taking these first steps, you can reach the right audience at the right time and in the right place. It’s more efficient than trying to cover everything when you don’t have the time, budget, and resources that big companies might have.
Can you provide specific examples where specific hotels or brands have excelled in creating a strong, profitable experience program?
Hotel Húsafell is part of our Iceland itinerary; It is a modern property with far reaching views over parts of the unspoilt countryside. Part of the hotel experience are the Húsafell Canyon Baths, fed by the hot springs of Giljaböð and a relatively new attraction in Iceland, where you’re invited to bathe like the Vikings did. The Húsafell locals who implemented the Canyon Baths project have gone to great lengths to keep the entire structure as environmentally friendly, sustainable and true to the region’s heritage as possible.
Matera in southern Italy is also a great example. Known for its ancient cave dwellings in the hills of the UNESCO-listed Sassi area (and its recent appearance in the latest James Bond film), this is one of the oldest cities in the world. In this endless labyrinth of caves, some have been restored and converted into hotels. The Corte San Pietro — part of our Southern Italy tour — lets guests sleep in rooms with ancient tufted walls and vaulted ceilings. And there are also modern art projects and cooking classes with regional products.
In South Korea we found a stunning cliff temple to stay in. Built in the sixth century, the Golgulsa Temple houses 12 caves carved into the side of a mountain near the former capital of the former Silla kingdom. It’s a quiet place to spend a night. Guests not only get an insight into the Buddhist way of life, but also learn all about Sunmudo – a traditional Korean martial art and form of moving meditation that dates back over a millennium.
With many hotels currently facing budget constraints, do you have any tips for hotels on how to develop their experience programs without impacting other operations?
Working with the local community can be a great way to cost-effectively improve the guest experience. For example, you could host and showcase independent businesses that are local or from your immediate neighborhood on your property one day per week or month. This provides much-needed support to small businesses and is of interest to your guests, as they may discover a store or manufacturer that they would not find otherwise. We know that people are increasingly looking to discover and connect with authentic, local activities and products. Therefore, this could be an experience that motivates travelers to choose your hotel.
Looking beyond the immediate travel recovery phase, what experiential travel trends do you think will dominate for hotel guests over the next five years?
After two years of travel deprivation, many people are prioritizing the bucket list moments we’ve all longed for; Instead of thinking that one day in the distant future they could fulfill these dreams, many want to experience them now. Guests want to travel responsibly and purposefully; That means caring for the world, but also for local communities. They also want unforgettable experiences to create memories we will cherish forever (and share on our social channels). Next, think of local immersion; It’s not just that we couldn’t travel, we also couldn’t make new friends or spend enough time with the people we love that reconnecting is a top priority.
In short, it’s now much more about a more meaningful way of travelling. The opportunity to discover the world just got so much more valuable, and it’s our job to make sure our guests get those experiences from us when they set out to discover the world again.
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited
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