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Recently, I met a group of young travellers at the airport. Avid fans of the popular fantasy series, Game of Thrones, they were headed to countries where the show’s most iconic scenes had been filmed. “Travelling with a unique theme…interesting,” I thought. But later, it really got me thinking how travel is becoming more individualistic. We are moving towards experiences that reflect our distinctive personalities, interests and tastes.
The ‘why’ and ‘how’ of travel are swiftly changing. A vacation is no longer restricted to summer holidays; the reasons to travel are now manifold and they will continue to be defined and redefined in the coming years. What was once a pursuit of luxury is now a passion for many, which is something that didn’t happen naturally. The evolution of trends and the emergence of new themes are, in fact, conscious decisions made by travellers. The new-age vacationer wants to have a choice, avail personalised services and be involved in the complete process. They want everything to be seamless, and curated for the individual.
The increasingly savvy traveller is utilising advanced technology to create and share each unique experience. With millennials driving social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, the tribe of influencers is steadily growing. Travellers connect with one another for inspiration: where to go, where to stay, where to eat. They strive not to mimic others’ stories but to create their own, to satisfy innate desires and share memories with friends and family. The brag factor may not remain but the need to influence and inspire definitely will.
In the premise of experiential travel, new product lines have and will take shape based on the demands of people. Tourists are constantly in search of stunning landscapes, unique experiences and impeccable hospitality that they may no longer find in the confines of a five-star hotel. Now, it is less about the cost of travel and more about its transformative nature. Over the recent years, there has been constant disruption in this sphere that has led to the diversification of products based on the increasing diversity of travellers. Most of it has fallen in the ‘experiential’ list. The curiosity to learn about the world or, at least, your favourite TV show has given rise to a plethora of trends—culinary tours, wellness retreats, adventure tours, cruising, genealogy, glamping, dark tourism, voluntourism and last chance tourism—that have come to define travel. Sustainable tourism is expected to be huge as people will seek eco-experiences that should help them reduce their individual carbon impact.
Experiential travel has already taken precedence over destination-based travel but, in the coming years, personalisation will become more essential. Personalisation is quite a challenge, given the constantly changing traveller behaviour. However, how tour operators, airlines and hotels showcase their ability to move towards the future, and adapt to changing pace and preferences, will give a new meaning to vacations. Technology will continue to be a great enabler as it will provide the tools to discover trends that are in vogue and the ability to connect with people, targeting specific niches.
The writer is the the Head – Relationships and Supplier Management, Cox & Kings Ltd
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