Port of Spain, Trinidad – The travel market is changing and providers must change with it.
There are many new challenges, according to Trudi Pearce of Responsible Travel.
Power has shifted dramatically from the industry to the more informed client, she said.
“Underlying the market is a growing polarisation in the holidaymaker mind-set between security, luxury and convenience on the one hand and freedom, independence and authenticity on the other,” she explained, quoting a July 2011 report by Mintel Oxygen.
The current generation of travellers wants to explore, have adventures and even test emotional, spiritual and intellectual goals. This, she said, was in line with the next economic phenomenon.
Following the agrarian, industrial and most recent service economies, she said, this is the experience economy. Businesses, Ms Pearce said, must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product.
In other words, she said, commodity business charged for undifferentiated products, a service business charged for the activities you perform and an experience business charged for the feeling customers get by engaging it.
“Are you in the service industry,” she asked, “Or in the business of orchestrating memorable events?”
Value for money was being supplanted by “experience for money,” she postulated, and there was also experience inflation, in which things that seemed like significant experiences 10 years ago were now perceived as commonplace or pedestrian.
Expectations of luxury were also changing, with the Baby Boomer perception of luxury, exclusivity and expense being a holy trinity now rejected by Generation Y, the 18 to 29 year olds who now demanded to know the origin of luxury products.
“Where was it made, how and by whom?” asked the travel expert.
“With what impact [was it made] on the environment and local community?”
She said that leading marketers could exploit that by “re-connecting people who buy with people who make things”. In other words, telling the back-story of products is important.
Genuine and authentic
At root, responsible tourism was where the traveller actively wanted to create more authentic experiences that created in turn better places to live and visit. This was becoming more important in the light of the financial crisis.
Buzzwords of authenticity included “genuine, real, honest, truthful,” in contrast to commoditised travel, which was where culture was altered for and by tourist consumption where the original meaning was lost.
“Places that see themselves through the eyes of tourists are lost,” she said.
Product design was also important, which had to be co-created with local communities to examine ways of life, old ways and stories, traditions, rituals, language and dance. On the flip side, finding “willing pioneers” among tourists would assist the evolution of the experience which was a constant process.
As regards to the buying cycle, Ms Pearce noted that suppliers were in the mix later so needed to go to the media at an earlier stage. The five stages, she said, were ideas and inspiration, which came from relationships and the media; insights and advice, from trusted sources; pricing, from info gathered; comparison from impartial aggregation; and buying, which is where the best deal was received.
Stories, she said, were the new marketing currency where the consumer travelled to the product rather than the other way around, and social media was a prime example of this.
“[Social media] enables marketers to access the ideas/inspiration phase of buying cycle through family/friends,” she said.