If you’ve attended any of the educational conferences in the travel industry as of late, you’re well aware that today’s travelers are seeking experiences that are anything but passive. They want active, they want immersive, and at the end of the day, they want something unique and innovative.
The very definition of "exploring" is to travel in or through an unfamiliar country or territory to learn about or familiarize oneself with it, and that trend is fueling a wealth of new travel products that go beyond the ordinary.
Destinations that would never have been considered ten years ago have emerged and captured the attention of an entire traveling public, much of which includes a Baby Boomer market that is ripe for exploration travel. These Boomers are intent on not only checking off their bucket list, but crafting a list the likes of which they or their neighbor never even dreamed about.
But, hold on … it’s not just Boomers who are driving this trend. It’s the younger generations coming up behind them, as well. Why? Because their parents have given them a taste of travel and now they’ve got the travel bug. And what else? They don’t want to wait until their parents age to satisfy their thirst for new experiences.
Overcoming their regrets
In fact, new research of over 20,000 global travelers by Booking.com and published by Lonely Planet has revealed that 71 percent of these explorers have regrets over missed travel opportunities. And it might surprise you to learn that Generation Z is the most regretful of them all.
According to the research, 82 percent of the 18-to-24-year-olds surveyed, or Generation Z, regrets losing out on chances to travel. The findings also revealed the biggest missed travel opportunities include: not traveling more often (46 percent), not traveling more when younger (35 percent), not seeing more of the countries visited (29 percent), not going to more far-flung destinations (25 percent), not embarking on more adventurous travel (25 percent) and not going to more remote destinations (25 percent).
The good news is that despite their sense of regret, 53 percent of all travelers surveyed have overcome their worries about traveling to a new destination. Previously, these worries were around perceived barriers with regard to language, expense, directions and safety in the unknown.
So, what does this mean for you, their trusted travel advisor? First and foremost, it means if you give these travelers a reason to travel, odds are they will go. And what better way to entice them than through exploration-type experiences? More clients who have “been there, done that” are now seeking out travel that delivers these authentic and transformative life experiences.
“I am seeing the younger travelers wanting a 'hands on' experience with the area they are traveling to, whether it is with the culture, animals or nature,” said Joni Thomas of Avoya Travel, based in Rogers, Arkansas. “They have a keen desire to dig in a little deeper to things they haven’t experienced before.”
The very nature of exploration travel, being led in smaller groups, lends itself to an in-depth experience. Spending more time with locals and immersing themselves with the food, culture and nature that surrounds them is a driving factor for those seeking a more intimate type of travel. “In these moments, travelers are finding meaningful connections to other cultures of the world, while they learn and discover a slice of everyday life that somehow feels extraordinary,” said one industry supplier who has witnessed a surge in demand for these types of trips.
From the people they meet to the local cuisine, exploration travel is about connections and epicurean adventures. And the accommodations are an integral part of the experience, as well. Many of these tours feature luxurious hotels that reflect the true personality of the destination, giving travelers the opportunity to rest and rejuvenate for the next day’s activities, without losing their sense of connection to a destination. Whether staying in an igloo in Finland to search out the Northern Lights or a majestic castle in Ireland, exploration travel opens up a whole new world of possibilities that many travelers didn’t even realize existed. What’s more, it allows for a human connection that today’s travelers, young or older, are craving.
Bringing the destination to life
According to agents who specialize in this market, their clients’ desire for exclusive travel experiences that will “wow” their friends is one of many drivers of this travel segment. Some of the hot spots trending right now include Morocco, India, Iceland, Africa and Vietnam, to name just a few. “The more different, the better,” noted Shelley Knoedler, president of My Trip Coach in Davidson, North Carolina. “I just had honeymooners who combined the adventure of Africa with the food and wine experience of Northern Italy. Everyone wants this amazing experience that they can Instagram out.”
Family and friends are the traveling partners of choice when it comes to exploration travel, as these explorers want to experience all that’s new with “like-minded” people and those they feel comfortable sharing memories with.
Education is another draw, as more families seek out these experiences together. “I have seen more and more young children getting involved with hands-on experiences with the animals and rain forests,” said Thomas. “Their parents want them to have that type of experience so they will know the importance of taking care of our surroundings.”
The reasons for exploration travel are endless, and the potential for fulfilling your clients’ dreams is virtually limitless given the overwhelming number of new experience-based innovative itineraries in the market.
FROM THE SPONSOR: As the longest-running tour operator in North America, Collette has provided guided travel for over 100 years. With trips to all seven continents, guests fulfill their deepest travel aspirations in a variety of ways. Our guests are all unique so we offer diversified travel styles including small groups, single hotel stays, faith-based experiences, river cruises, and rail journeys. As a family-owned and operated business, we emphasize a focus on our travelers as our personal guests and are dedicated to making the world a better place through a comprehensive corporate social responsibility platform.