There were 956 million international tourists between January and September 2016—a 4% increase (34 million) over the year before, the World Tourism Organization recently announced. So it appears that despite the warnings of naysayers that travel will be curtailed due to global safety, weather, economic and political concerns, it’s just not happening.
The planet is a pretty big place and people travel for myriad reasons. Travel psychographics—the reasons WHY people travel—can include escape, relaxation, adventure, curiosity, emotional pampering, social media content, photography…and 100 more.
In 2017 travel will continue to grow, the reasons to travel will expand, and the definition of “value” for travel dollars spent will be re-interpreted over and over again. To provide some insight into what clients are looking to do when they explore the planet, here are four travel patterns that raise the concept of “travel” to new levels.
1. Ichi-go Ichi-e. This Japanese idiom, which literally means “one time, one meaning,” refers to the precious nature of each and every experience. While the words originally were used to describe the tea ceremony where every moment should be enjoyed as if it were the last, the meaning has expanded to involve memorializing, savoring and appreciating events, circumstances, experiences, friends, feelings and even food. It’s similar to the phrase “carpe diem,” literally, “pluck the flower of the day,” meaning that whatever happens today is important and should be appreciated.
Ichi-go Ichi-e may refer to a conversation with new friends in another country, or a first look at a landmark you’ve always wanted to visit, or a smile on a stranger’s face as you pass. It’s the reason why years later, when you recall your trip to western Nepal, the first thing you think of was that kid who shouted out “Namaste” across a mountain valley and you waved back and felt honored. That’s what happened to me. Ichi-go Ichi-e.
2. The 7.4 Syndrome. There are roughly 7.4 billion people on the planet. Some, perhaps including your clients, strive to experience uniqueness—something that differentiates their experiences from a billion others—when they travel. And what could be more individualistic than fulfilling a travel dream.
When I was in Rome, I wanted to see Michelangelo’s Moses in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli. I walked over from my hotel at 7:00 am, the church was open and I was the only one there: just me and the statue of Moses. I was the only one out of 7 billion people on the planet to be present at that moment. The same feeling occurred when a small group of us watched thousands of bats flying out of the Mulu caves in Borneo at sunset, and again as a friend and I sat alone on the ancient walls of Nimrod Fortress in Israel watching hawks riding the wind currents overhead.
Of course the knowledge and experience of a travel advisor can be front and center through this fulfilment process. Many years ago my travel agent set up a trip to China for me and asked if I was interested in visiting Mongolia’s Naadam Festival afterwards. Of course I asked what that was all about and, to make a long story short, two months later I was watching the Archery, Wrestling and Horse Riding competitions in Ulaanbaatar. Again, something that 7 billion others were NOT doing.
3. Transformative Engagement. Those in the business of marketing destinations and package tours have jumped on the “transformative” bandwagon. Everything is transformative. The minute you step on the ship, the moment you land at the airport, the second you enter the historic marketplace. It’s a popular marketing buzzword as it requires no definition and everyone who reads or hears the word will interpret it as they please.
BUT…for travel die-hards, the term transformative, meaning “causing to undergo a change,” has deep subliminal implications. It denotes the type of invaluable experience that causes a traveler to want to venture out more and get involved with experiences he or she never thought possible. The “change” may involve having their five senses explode in celebration of new encounters: Seeing constellations in the desert sky or seeing living reefs below the oceans; hearing the sounds of silence, or the call of a muezzin from a dusty village tower, or a lone loon in the middle of a northern Canadian lake; touching an ancient building in Peru or a newborn camel in Egypt; smelling flowers in a French garden or freshly caught fish in a market in Kanazawa; tasting new foods in local restaurants or as a guest in people’s homes. These are the type of truly transformative experiences that live on in the minds of travelers. This is what people equate with the term “meaningful.”
4. Ubiquitous Serendipity. The words actually contradict each other when they get together—they refer to the wish, the dream and the goal of some travelers to have surprise, awe, amazement and astounding experiences over and over again when they explore the planet. These travelers are looking for knowledge, insight and cultural engagement on a constant basis. They are looking for the experiential—activities where they can get involved, whether it’s milking a goat, wandering through a village, drinking a locally made beer or learning to beat a drum. They are looking for connections, to get up-close and personal with a destination and see it through their own eyes and actions—and then tell their friends about it on social media or in a blog. It’s all about the thrill, mystery, satisfaction and adrenaline of the personal adventure, of seeing the planet on their terms as much as possible.
All of the above travel concepts emphasize the celebration of “moments,” of individual engagement with people, places cultures, history, foods, nature, wildlife and 101 niche market interests that go hand-in-hand with travel. It’s all related to that warm, fulfilling concept of Ichi-go Ichi-e. And this is what many travelers—your clients—will be looking for as you organize their travels in 2017 and beyond. It’s a lifetime dream to them—and a do-able goal for you to accomplish.