The needs and wants of today's traveler are changing. "Overview trips" are being replaced by something a bit deeper—people have a magnetic attraction toward in-depth cultural experiences that go beyond trinkets and overpriced Mai Tais.
What does it all boil down to? Authenticity. If you're a small tour or activities operator, you're in the perfect position to use this movement to your advantage. Read on for six simple ways to make the "authentic" travel trend work for you.
1. Promote quality over quantity
A 10-day-long whirlwind tour of Europe gives travelers a rough sketch of landmarks, people, places and foods. They'll cover a lot of ground, but they're not likely to make many meaningful connections.
A different trip might offer a traveler the opportunity to stay in Belgium for 10 days, which will give them a deeper understanding of the culture and the chance to build relationships with locals.
Which do you think offers a more authentic opportunity? Try offering a unique “deep" trip or activity in your realm of expertise—say, five days exploring Brooklyn's foodie scene, or a week spent shadowing a sea lion trainer. See what happens.
For example, Travel Talk Tours takes people on an eight-day immersion into the cultural diversity of Morocco. The journey breaks the mold of a traditional vacation by blending the all the colors, culture, archaeology and history to tell the real story of a breathtaking destination.
2. Offer a vivid glimpse of the road less traveled
A special part of the authentic travel trend is called "Frontierism." It's all about visiting remote places that are off the beaten trail. If you're already off the beaten trail, congratulations! You have an opportunity to show travelers just how far off the trail you are.
But being in this niche doesn't give you an excuse not to run stellar ad campaigns. Find a good WiFi connection, then take and share high-quality photos of experiences. Couple these images with compelling stories on Instagram, Facebook, and other social channels relevant to your audience, and very soon, you will have built a dedicated "tribe." Don't shy away from ads on social networks, either. They're all grown up and can be targeted to hit just the right audience at just the right time.
For example, Outdoor Odyssey shares beautiful photos on their Instagram to lure travelers to book an informative and fun kayak trip in the San Juan Islands.
Stuart Island State Park encompasses 85 acres of public land, inclusive of over 33,000 feet of shoreline. #outdoorodysseys boats get ready to wake up for the day in Reed Harbor during one of our multi-day tours. Little do these boats know, our guides and guests are nearby enjoying fresh brewed, locally roasted coffee. // Photo by guide @heapmonster
3. Optimize your site and ensure it's mobile-friendly
While we're talking about your social sites, let's talk about your website. Does it look the same as it did in 1999? Are you constantly fielding phone calls and taking down card numbers for reservations while you should be leading tours? Do people get confused or complain about the booking process?
If you answered yes to any of these, it's time to revamp your website. Don't forget to make your site and booking process mobile-friendly—by 2019, mobile will make up 46 percent of digital travel sales. If your website isn't up to par and mobile-friendly, you'll likely miss out.
4. Showcase limited tours and activities
No, we're not advocating “Act Now!" or “Limited Time Offer!" messages blinking all over your website. Instead, we're advocating an honest approach—perhaps a number next to a booking experience that indicates how many spots are left for that day, or a trip that specifies a limited number of spots available. This is a great approach to increase signups as it enhances the exclusivity factor.
Another important thing to consider when you write the copy for your travel experience? Don't overwhelm your visitors with different options (at least, not right away). Create one page per activity with a single “Call-to-Action." For example: join our mailing list, book your trip, or contact us today. Your website is a reflection of your business, and travelers will likely look there first. Be straightforward and detailed about whatever you're offering, and you'll be rewarded by a trusting, highly engaged audience.
For example, THE RIDE has a limited number of seats available per tour. During the checkout flow, a customer can see which tours are already fully booked and which tours are still available.
5. Offer a carefully curated experience
Along with an authentic experience comes a higher demand for tailored or “curated" travel experiences — meaning travel experiences geared toward a traveler's personality and unique tastes.
Figure out your target audience and rethink the tours and activities you currently offer. Are your tours geared toward anyone who will pay the fee? Or have you created an experience with your target audience (say, business and leisure travelers) in mind? There are several ways to show travelers you're offering more than the usual trip:
Position yourself as a professional in a niche market.
If you have 20 years of experience leading historical tours in North Carolina, say so. If President Obama attended your “Hunt for the best BBQ in NC" crawl, let people know. Travelers will learn to expect a more authentic experience with you.
Showcase the growth and history of your business.
If your business started in one location, then expanded its locations and offerings, say so. Tell people your story of how your company grew to what it is today. For example, Pike Brewing describes how the founders started "one of the country’s smallest breweries with the tallest smokestack" and expanded to now having over 30 barrels in their brew house.
Re-frame your tours.
If you're a bike tour guide in San Diego, you're offering more than just a bike tour. You're offering an active learning experience in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Share that viewpoint with your audience.
Offer tailored travel experiences.
If you're a smaller company, you have a unique opportunity to create custom-built travel packages for your clients. Take advantage of it! Think of new ways to dig into local culture (or into your area of expertise), and leverage connections to offer new experiences.
The age of authentic travel is here, and you'll navigate it well armed with these simple tips. Leverage your in-depth travel offerings and use technology to help today's travelers find you, instead of chasing after them.
Looking for technology to help travelers find you? View a live demo of ZOZI Advance.