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Changing Hearts and Minds in Tourism & Hospitality: Creating For Impact

What’s the purpose of travel and hospitality in today’s world? Is it just to give people a few days of reprieve from the chaos that is their life? Expose them to a few new stories & traditions and then send them off on their merry way? Maybe 30 years ago when life was seemingly simpler…


Changing hearts and minds is a phrase that keeps coming up in conversations I’m having lately. This is what I believe to be a nicer way of saying “transformation”. I think people have a problem with the word transformation because it implies that there’s something wrong that needs fixing.


We’re already bombarded all day long with messages that tell us we need to change. We need to do better for the earth, we need to do better for our partners, we need to do better for our children, we need to do better for ourselves. Every post on social media has a way of whispering to our subconscious that something isn’t right and low & behold – this person has the remedy (comment BETTER LIFE for all the answers).


Combine this with our inherent drive to evolve, and life can feel like one big race to the finish line somedays. It doesn't matter where you fall on the socioeconomic scale - if you're human, the desire to grow is buried deep within you.


Choosing Comfort Over Happiness


But just because the desire is there, doesn’t mean the capacity is. Transformation can feel vague, heavy, challenging. And while we’re all programmed to evolve, we’re also programmed to seek comfort. As Brianna Wiest, author of The Mountain Is You, says “we are not wired to be happy, we are wired to be comfortable.”


Most people don't change their life until not changing is the more uncomfortable option. This means the majority of people are walking around on this planet putting up with a lot of crap that makes them miserable, but they won’t do what needs to be done because they fear the alternative is worse.


For example, you likely know the loneliness epidemic is one of the biggest problems in the world. 30% of people ages 18 to 34 report feeling lonely every day or several times a week. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), loneliness is a global public health concern that has health consequences similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.


There are a lot of people out there that don’t feel a sense of belonging. They are disconnected to their community, their family, and don’t have someone to call a close friend. This wreaks havoc on their life… but it’s familiar, and the alternative (putting themselves out there) is far more terrifying and uncomfortable. So, people of the world continue to hide away in their homes and put up walls to protect themselves from rejection.


People may not want the transformation process or may not want to change, but they want the end result (a better life). According to Brianna Wiest, we aren't held back in life because we are incapable of change. We are held back because we don't FEEL like making change, and so we don't. You can have a vision of what you want, know that it is undoubtedly right for you, and simply not feel like taking the action required to pursue that path.


Enter Transformational Travel Seekers


On the other end of the spectrum, you have people who have hit their rock bottom and are actively seeking transformation. In Design Hotel’s latest report, 63% of people are willing to invest money in transformational experiences. And the wellness & wellbeing tourism market is expected to surpass $1 trillion in spending this year, which tells us that people are looking to tourism & hospitality to solve their problems. (But we all know one massage or one yoga class likely isn’t transforming anyone.)

In addition, this is the most vulnerable society has ever been. People are shouting their fears and insecurities from the rooftop (and by rooftop, I mean Instagram & TikTok). You don’t have to go far to learn about the needs and desires of your guests, which means there is no excuse for turning a blind eye to people’s problems.


So what does all this have to do with you as a host?


Recognize there are two types of guests out there that you should be catering to: Guest A is aware and eager to evolve, while Guest B is fearful of it, but in need of it. So simply creating a comfortable and entertaining experience is doing both types of guests a disservice.


In the world of marketing, there is a saying: sell people what they want, give them what they need. People may want comfort, but what they really need may be feeling a sense of belonging, or finding/reconnecting to a sense of purpose, or maybe it’s something simpler than that. Maybe they need to stop being so hard on themselves, maybe they need to learn how to play again, maybe they need to learn how to slow down…


There are millions of people who are lonely who don't want to be lonely anymore.

There are millions of people who are lost who don't want to be lost anymore.

There are millions of people who are _____ who don’t want to be _____ anymore.


You can fill in the blank with so many things. But it’s important to acknowledge that you’re not here to solve all the world’s problems – just the ones you’re most passionate about. And even then, it’s not your responsibility to transform people. All you can do is create an experience with a specific intention and create the right environment to be the spark for evolution.


Being the Spark for Evolution


This means not shying away from challenging your guests and gently leading them outside of their comfort zone. This process involves presenting thought-provoking perspectives, cataclysmic moments. Remember – our hang-ups rarely take a vacation. Every new experience is an opportunity for guests to begin changing their own personal narrative and embrace new ways of being.


No, they won’t be walking out of your property or attraction totally transformed people. But when we take action in ways we’ve never done before, we’re able to experience outcomes we’ve never had before. Combine this with the fact that change is slightly easier in new environments, and you’ve got the perfect conditions for sparking evolution. And that is incredibly valuable no matter where your guests fall on the transformation spectrum.


So, zero in on one thing you’d like to help guests move through during their time with you. Spend time trying to understand what is getting in the way of their desires. Get creative with how you weave this purpose throughout your experience. And most importantly, don’t neglect fun & entertainment in the name of transformation! A little dash of play and amusement can help make stepping outside one’s comfort zone a lot more enjoyable.


Co-Creating Transformation


Conceptualizing transformative hospitality destinations and tourism attractions is at the core of our process here at TSE. By designing experiences with the higher-order needs of your guests in mind, we are able to create truly high-value journey. Click here to schedule time to discuss your project.


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