In December 2017, our Consumer Markets team made several predictions for the sector in 2018. We forecast a shift in consumer preferences from buying to doing and that businesses needed to innovate to capitalise on this trend.
Health, wellness, retro experiences, responsible tourism and bucket list destinations were expected to be winners but particularly for the 'always on' Insta’ generation unique, customised and bragworthy experiences are king.
For me the conflict between the social media/tech heavy generation and the immersive experiential holiday is an area I’d like to explore.
Some insights from the last few months or so to start us off…
- The Association of Touring & Adventure Suppliers (ATAS) was formed last year aiming to raise trade awareness and drive sales within the touring and adventure holidays sector which supports this direction of travel (no pun intended).
- We saw Kane Pirie, of Travel Republic fame, launch VIVID Travel in 2017 with the vision to deliver more interesting holidays designed to appeal to families and those active on social media who want more ‘real’ experiences on holiday.
- Intrepid Travel was recently quoted as aiming to double the size of its UK business in the next three years by enticing customers away from the mainstream holiday market. Operators including Shearings, Explore and G Adventures have also all added to their offering this year.
- Recent ABTA research indicates that almost 70 per cent of people want travel companies to ensure their holidays help local people and the economy. This comes hand-in-hand with immersive travel which often positions itself as having a greener, more sustainable focus.
This got me thinking about my own travel experiences over the last decade or so. Whilst I didn’t have the opportunity to catch the travel bug through a gap year or year abroad at university, it was the cramming in a month’s Interrail around Europe after graduation, and before starting my accountancy career, that cultivated my interest in more adventurous holidaying.
This was back in the early Noughties when access to the internet on the fly was limited to internet cafes but, of course, even with access, the volume of information online was much thinner (indeed TripAdvisor didn’t launch until 2000). Instead, heavily thumbed copies of Lonely Planet’s Europe on a Shoe String and Europe by Rail were the norm. Extensive research was completed before departing, and I recall many an evening back at a hostel after dinner planning the next few days and gaining insights from fellow travelers. Information was harder to come by but it was all part of the adventure.
Rolling forward, I’ve been lucky enough to travel a significant amount over the last ten years, visiting over 50 countries in that time through more conventional, mainly ATOL protected, means. Time is a luxury when travelling within the confines of annual leave entitlement (a day’s annual leave spent in the UK is a wasted day!), and therefore fast organisation through an operator or agent is the preference. For me, experiencing new countries and cultures is at the core of most longer excursions and, whilst some may accuse me of being a country collector, it is looking for something unique each time that keeps me from returning to the same places.
Which brings us onto technology.
I don’t consider myself to be the most technologically advanced but thinking about use of tech on my last vacation to Singapore and the Philippines I can recall, without effort, the following…holiday booked via mobile, PackPoint App, check-in via Singapore Airlines App, breakfast with ApplePay, boarding pass in iPhone wallet, Wi-Fi streamed movies on SilkAir’s SilkStudio App, countries visited updated to 64 via been App (two-thirds the way for eligibility to join the Travelers' Century Club), reviews for local restaurants through TripAdvisor stood outside the restaurant, itinerary accessed via Vamoos App, one too many a Facebook check-in/Instagram post, holiday snaps taken exclusively on iPhone…I’ve made my point (and indeed my wife often does – ‘are you on your phone again?’)!"
All of the above are a real enabler and time saver (particularly in advance of the trip), but I can’t help feeling that having my phone to hand all the time, and particularly during a beach/rest element of a holiday, prevents true relaxation and immersion in the experiences in front of you.
The ‘always on’ culture encourages box ticking tourism (#there’s a hashtag for everywhere), endless Googling, review perusing and the work and personal inboxes a few screen presses away (or less if push notifications are left on)… far too easy when you are lazing on a sun lounger and thoughts drift. Locking the devices away in the hotel room safe may have a positive influence but in going cold turkey, you’re also suddenly caught without your camera (perhaps I’m missing the point).
It is this dichotomy that presents the challenge in the age of continuous connectivity. Harnessing technology in order to gain the best possible travel experience will remain firmly in the forefront of consumers’ minds, and should feature high on all operators’ agendas, but we do need to remember to switch the devices off – myself included.
For more information, please get in touch with Tim Robinson or your usual RSM contact.