Right now, your dream guest is changing. In this moment, they are out somewhere in the world, facing an obstacle or challenge. The stable foundation under them is cracking. The familiar no longer brings them comfort. Their beliefs about reality are being challenged. And they will not (cannot) carry on in the same ways they used to.
The visionary hospitality & tourism hosts that come to me, they pay close attention to what is going on in their guests’ lives. Superficial experiences, on the other hand, come from ignoring the fact that people are all dealing with something, with the hopes to change their situation for the better.
Because when life tests us, that is often when we turn to travel. We say “I need a vacation” when the boredom from a mundane job becomes unbearable. When a relationship is on the rocks. When we’re on the brink of burnout from one too many responsibilities. Because what we really mean when we say, “I need a vacation” is “I need a change”.
By the way – change is a good thing. Without change, there is no journey. There is no story. There is no adventure. And of course, there are plenty of people in this world that are not ready or open to change, but that's not who a storied experience is for. If you're here, it's likely because you care about purpose and impact.
In The Science of Storytelling, we learn that all journeys begin in a similar way: this is me, and it’s not working. Change triggers the dramatic question: who are you really? Who are you going to become? And when your guests are grappling with this dramatic question, they are simultaneously being immersed into a new world where they are hopefully exposed to experiences and people that continue to challenge their beliefs and notions of reality.
I say hopefully because that is where you come in. You, with your fresh perspective. You, with your novel cultural ideas and stories. You, with your own unique beliefs and values that are the exact anecdote to your guests’ trials & tribulations.
These different ideas, stories, beliefs, values – they continue to test and challenge guests, but they do so in a more productive and guiding way. Have you ever had someone say to you, “that’s exactly what I needed to hear?” People rarely say this because it enables them to continue down the same unenjoyable path, but because you’ve encouraged them to venture a new way.
Embracing a new way of being is not easy, and often comes with even more challenges and obstacles. Changing deep-seated beliefs that have served us well for decades can be incredibly difficult. But your guest also knows that their old beliefs and behaviors aren’t serving them any longer and turning back would come with its own unique set of challenges. And with the act of travel, neuroscience is on our side, allowing us to change more easily in new environments.
Start looking at how you are planting seeds of change in your guests. This requires (1) acknowledging a belief that you are eager and committed to turning on its head (2) understanding your ideal guests’ primal beliefs, how those beliefs drive their behavior, how those beliefs are being challenged right now, and their true desires. For example, if I operated an experience or hospitality property…
A belief I am committed to turning on its head:
life moves fast, I have to move fast if I want to keep up ➡️ There is more enjoyment in going slow and savoring each moment, I will not get left behind
How this belief drives the behavior of my ideal guests:
Rushing through life, getting caught up in the rat race/urgency culture, nervous system dysregulation (constant state of fight/flight), always responding to others needs and not their own (and therefore not even knowing what makes them happy)
How this belief is being challenged right now:
Physically can’t go on like this anymore (burnout)
Their true desires:
To not be so easily influenced and swayed by the collective hustle and bustle, to feel accomplished and grow - but on their own timeline, to truly savor each moment in a grounded, present, and patient way (instead of future tripping and worrying about “what’s next??”), to get on their own path to happiness instead of stumbling over someone else’s.
With this awareness, I can begin to create a truly valuable and transformative experience because I know what my guests desire and what sort of journey I need to take them on when their call to adventure begins. I know where they will feel most challenged and where things might get shaky when they near the end of their comfort zone. I know what they need to hear, see, and deeply understand. I know what I need to emphasize within each moment so that they are growing and learning. I know how to guide them through the change, because I am a few steps ahead of them on a similar journey.
This is, I repeat, how we move from superficial tourist activity to meaningful adventure & journey. And it’s actually easier than most people think! Why? Because you have a passionate belief stirring inside of you that’s ready to come out, and following our passionate urges and whims is as natural as breathing. So take a deep breath and get going!