How much time do you spend thinking about the reason why people travel? At The Storied Experience, this is top of mind for us every day. As Design Hotels recently suggested, “Why we make a journey is as important as how”, and we couldn’t agree more. The WHY impacts everything we do, every decision we make across the guest experience.
As travelers’ why starts to change and evolve, the industry must change and evolve with it. Here are the three most common misconceptions we see and hear again and again that we encourage you to leave behind this year.
This is something I spoke on in a recent podcast episode with Wil Slickers, so be sure to tune into the Slick Talk: Hospitality Podcast for more insight.
Mentality #1: “Travel is all about entertainment and R&R”
Lying on a beach, pina colada in hand. Guitar singalongs around the firepit. These quintessential moments are the backbone of hospitality. But is that all travelers long for today? If you’re familiar with the five modes of tourism experiences (summed up below) recreational mode and R&R are just two of the modes.
The other three modes are really about self-discovery and seeking experiences that help them achieve certain goals. And research has found that people’s desires actually fall closer to the middle range, and that less travelers are interested in surface level entertainment & relaxation than you may think.
Of course, entertainment and relaxation have their value, and we’re not suggesting anyone should abandon them, but to simply to acknowledge the value these experiences offer. Oftentimes, they are just temporary bandaids for a bigger problem that people are seeking to change.
The question we need to be asking is “why is someone seeking entertainment and R&R? What is going on back at home that has them in need of an escape?” Are they feeling detached from their purpose? Family? Sense of self? This is the ‘why’ that we really need to know, because depending on the answer, the experience will change drastically.
As covered in a previous article, the goal should be to create a balanced experience that hits the sweet spot of entertainment, education, esthetics, and escapism.
Mentality #2: “Wellness is what our guests really want”
You’ve seen the statistics: The global wellness tourism industry is predicted to be worth around 1.2 trillion U.S. dollars by 2027. You may have tuned into the Wellbeing Workshop and already know our stance on this. But we believe the preconceived notion of wellness is limiting and results in a one size fits all approach. As an industry, we need to shift this notion from ‘wellness’ (in the physical, health-oriented sense) to wellbeing (in the holistic, emotional, physical, and mental sense).
Because the terminology wellness often conjures up ideas of mindfulness, spas, yoga, healthy eating… and only a small percentage of travelers actually desire that. In a Skift study, nearly 75% of respondents reported a growing interest in "wellness" related travel experiences, with the highest overall interest being mental wellbeing and gaining a new perspective of the world.
Do you see the disconnect? If you just read the first statistic without knowing the real story, what sort of experience would you create? Mental wellbeing and new perspectives are rarely found in one massage treatment or a healthy meal. Sure, those things are nourishing and make us feel good, but wellness alone is not enough.
We need to leave this wellness mentality behind if we are going to really cater to guests’ actual needs: the need to feel engaged, the need to feel connected and part of something bigger than themselves, the need for meaning and purpose, etc.
So, to recap: your guests don’t want ‘wellness’, your guests want to flourish. There’s a difference, and once you start thinking that way, you’ll deliver immense value to them.
Mentality #3: “The story is all about us"
Is your marketing team pressing you for a unique story? While yes, a unique story to drive your concept is incredibly important, and storytelling is a powerful marketing tool, the story spotlight needs to shift from you to your visitors & guests.
The story guests care about is really the journey that you’re taking them on – and that’s the story that needs to be contemplated and told. Consider this permission to stop talking about yourself (you’re welcome). Focus your efforts on creating an experience that plays out like a story, and then paint a picture of that story within your marketing. That’s story at its most powerful.
Instead of following a rigid storytelling framework, imagine how your experience would play out if it were up on the big screen or stage. If you were going to see a movie or play of your experience, how would that story go? How would that story hook & captivate you? What exciting moments would the main character (your visitor/guest) get into? How does the character evolve throughout their journey?
This exercise will help you develop a critical eye for your guest journey & the story that stems from it. It will guide you to see where your journey is strong, where it has potential, and where it lacks substance/purpose. From there, you can start to see where a truly alluring story might take shape.