The phrase “experiential travel” has almost become a cliche in the industry because it’s been bandied about so often over the past few years. But like most cliches, it’s become commonplace because it is, in fact, an important new trend in travel. It’s no longer a niche, but a compelling aspect of a vacation and travelers have become more and more adventurous in terms of their travel choices. They want to make their vacations and leisure travel an opportunity to not just visit a destination, but absorb the culture, interact with the people and pursue a different, or at the very least, a new—dare we say it—experience in terms of their own interests, whether it be culinary, wine, photography, art, culture or whatever.
The national parks, for instance, are one of the most popular domestic leisure vacation choices among Americans because they’re places where they can experience not only the beauty, but actively involve themselves in those attractions by hiking, biking, rafting, birdwatching, camping and photography. Robert Drumm, president of General Tours, points out in Tour Talk on page 16 that his customers are looking more and more to exotic and adventure travel because of that need to not just visit a destination, but to—here we go again—experience it.
“That’s why you’ve seen us going a little bit further afield each year…. I think the interest in far-flung travel is growing and upscale travelers are looking for more attention—not just straight tourism anymore, but engagement, not only with the circumstances around them, but also with the tour leader or the tour guide that we provide.”
In fact, more and more tour operators are adding home visits on their tours, where their clients can interact with families in a destination, sharing meals and ideas, getting a first-hand, personal experience with a culture, not just observing it from afar. Cruise tours, too—both ocean and river cruising—are offering more and more cultural-inclusive aspects to their tours, ranging from behind-the-scenes visits to cultural attractions to wine tastings at family wineries and bringing local artists, entertainers, culinary experts and more on board to directly interact with the passengers. Most African tours now are including almost as much time visiting local villages to interact with the tribal people and getting first-hand instruction on tracking, plant life and medicinal herbs, as they do on the traditional game drives.
Indeed, in the recently released Virtuoso Luxe Report, the survey pointed out that, “Of those booking travel, top motives influencing travel choices were similar to those in the 2011 Luxe Report including: seeking authentic experiences in new destinations; rest and relaxation; and personal enrichment.”
Virtuoso chairman and CEO, Matthew D. Upchurch, CTC, pointed out that, “The Virtuoso traveler continues to look for new resorts and destinations to visit, personal enrichment and tailored experiences from their travels.” And in this issue, you’ll find a global menu of those experiences to offer your clients: sailing on tall ships through the Caribbean (page 26); camping along the Inca Trail in Peru (page 30); immersing oneself in the cultural wonderland that is Malaysia (page 42); or cooking up a true Mexican feast in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo (page 63).
In the Out of Africa Come Romantic Retreats feature, page 20 in the June issue, we inadvertently printed that game viewing was included in the rate for Lupita Island. It is actually an extra charge.
At the end of this month, you’re going to get the opportunity to experience everything you need to know about selling one of Latin America’s most popular destinations—Chile, an incredibly beautiful and diverse destination that offers five geographical zones: the North & the Atacama Desert, Santiago & the Central Zone, Lakes, Rivers & Volcanoes, Patagonia & the Extreme South, and the Islands, all replete with an array of experiences, from culture & heritage to food & wine. Visit edu.recommend.com to enroll in the Chile Specialist Program.
And if you’d like to “visit” the world through our editors’ camera lenses, we’ve got a selection of “eye on the world” slideshows online featuring destinations far and wide—Curaçao, Fiji, Mozambique, and Colorado, just to name a few. Look for “eye on the world” under “departments” on recommend.com.
We’re going to share with you a variety of reviews of destinations and hotels our editors have visited all over the world in an issue that focuses on first-hand reports you can learn from and share with your clients. We’re also bringing you the Central and South America Tour & Destination Guide, an informational source you can use all year long. In the meantime, have a great read.