May 10, 2018

Experiential Travel Is No Longer A Trend—It’s A Reality

National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) is here. Destinations across the U.S. are celebrating the value travel holds for our economy, businesses and overall personal well-being.

This year’s NTTW theme is “travel then and now”—so it seems only fitting that I reflect on the 10 years I’ve spent in the travel and tourism industry. But rather than compare what has changed over the last decade, let’s focus on what has remained unchanged.

It’s no surprise: people want experiences over things. Experiential purchases make us happier longer than material purchases. This was true 10 years ago, and it’s true today. Yet plenty of travel websites out there still focus on deals over experiences. 

How can travel websites and destination marketing organizations stay relevant and drive bookings? Focus on experiences. During a recent presentation, world-renowned travel writer Rick Steves, suggested storytelling to share real experiences that inspire travel.

Craft your story and build a memorable trip with these experiential marketing ideas:

1. Recharge in nature

Promote calming activities from forest bathing to good ol’ fashioned hiking—anything that doesn’t require a cell phone

2. Accomplish something new

Offer challenging situations from completing a marathon to climbing Mount Rainier­

3. Immerse in local culture

Send visitors to local markets and restaurants beyond the most Instagram-worthy meals

What’s your most memorable trip? Tweet us @jayrayadspr.


My Most Memorable Trip

In 2011 I attended my first PRSA Travel and Tourism Conference in San Antonio, Texas. I was eager to learn, network and check out a new place! On the last day of the conference I had a few hours to roam before catching my plane. 

Staying along the River Walk meant I could easily get from my hotel to many waterfront restaurants. But as I neared my dining options I ran into the lunch rush. After standing in line and wondering if I’d have enough time to dine, the woman in front of me who had just been seated invited me to dine with her. Hesitant, I said “sure.”

Sitting at a table for two, along the river on a beautiful afternoon, I learned that she had come to eat at the taco shack because she and her husband (now passed) had a tradition of celebrating their anniversary there. She had lived in San Antonio all of her life. She described her favorite places in the city, and I wished I had more time.

At the end of the meal she insisted I visit St Joseph Catholic Church—where they conduct Mass in German. She gave me directions and I thought I was off on my way. But at the last moment she decided she could walk me there. We went inside the church and gaped at the amazing altars and architecture. Then off she went.  

I’ll never forget this experience.