The boom in experiential travel is something every travel agency has to be aware of. Experiential tourism is a growing trend. Over the last few years it has been increasing in popularity. But this increase is becoming more pronounced, and is predicted to become almost exponential over the coming years. Experiential travel and tourism will be a key area of growth in 2019, and travel agencies would do well to be in a position to offer their customers experiential tours in line with this trend.
Italy is a top destination for experiential travel in 2019
The Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Tourism has been investing time and effort into the tourist sector in Italy over the last few years. The Ministry has focused on different tourist areas and has had a good deal of success – and the numbers show that. In 2016 the focus was on national paths. The year of villages followed in 2017, and the year just ending was the year of Italian food. There are a lot of experiential tours connected with food, cuisine, gourmet cooking, and exploring the local landscape and markets searching for ingredients, not to mention wine drinking, so it was a good year for food and wine tourism connected to experiential tourism. You can see some examples of food and wine experiential tours for your travel agency here and find out more about wine and food tourism in Italy here. What makes 2019 so interesting with regard to experiential tourism though, is that the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Tourism said that 2019 will be the year of “slow tourism,” and we are already seeing how this will impact travel trends in 2019
What is “slow tourism” and how it connects well with experiential tourism
“Slow tourism” is a relatively new concept that is predicted to become an important travel trend in 2019. Slow tourism has several different components. One of its aims is to promote tourism in lesser known areas and regions in Italy, particularly smaller villages and towns. This has the double goal of taking some pressure off over-burdened cities such as Venice which have too many tourists and are having difficulty coping with the large numbers of visitors. Indeed the overwhelming amount of tourists to certain cities and areas in Italy is actually damaging. So this approach should reduce damage caused by too many tourists in certain areas, and spread the wealth to other smaller areas. The idea of slow tourism is to promote sustainable tourism everywhere, and to bring tourists to less visited places. In this way the unique flair of each and every region can be exploited and brought to the tourist. What is key about slow tourism is that it is essentially experience based. They aim to create experiential tours and promote experiential tourism in the areas of art, culture and history. There will be many indoor experiential tours, experiential tours within local towns and villages, but also outdoor experiential tours which will include everything from hiking, to horseback riding, and more. So it is easy to see how experiential tourism will be very interesting next year as it is already a growing trend with an established and developed network within Italy, and will also be supported by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Tourism who have a proven track record of success over the last years.
Tourist versus traveler
With the development of experiential tourism moving into 2019 the idea or concept of the “tourist” is itself becoming outmoded. The experiential trend is moving towards, and actually already uses, the idea of the “traveler” rather than the “tourist”. However, this does not mean that “the traveler” has to undertake huge journeys, spending hours upon hours travelling over huge distances. On the contrary, because of the nature of experiential tourism, travelers do not have to go far at all. They can stay within their own regions and experience something completely new in a sustainable way. By going on an experiential tour the traveler can see something from a completely novel and fresh perspective, experiencing regions through living the lives of locals. The traveler can also “time travel” as it were, as there are many experiential tours which take the traveler on a trip through history. This provides the traveler with much more than simple click photographs, but with memories of a great, new, once in a lifetime experience. And at the same time, this new consumer approach offers a great opportunity for travel agents that can decide to focus on an even wider range of experiential tourism offers
Once in a lifetime and cultural experiences will lead the travel trend in 2019
According to Expedia there are three main drivers when it comes to travelers choosing a tour. These are: the activity that the traveler will do, the opportunity to have a once in a lifetime experience, and cultural experiences. Travelers want to DO something. This could be arts and crafts, dancing, outdoor sporting activities, cooking – the list is endless. And experiential tours geared towards this type of traveler are already well developed in Italy. Then of course, it goes without saying that Italy is top of every list when it comes to culture and history, and there are already pre-made experiential tours available for you as travel agents to sell to your customers right now. The importance of this experiential tour trend was underlined recently by the latest research carried out by Booking.com. According to this research 60% of travelers think that an experiential tour is more valuable than a regular tourist trip.
Experiential tourism is a trend that is continually developing and something every travel agent should be able to offer to their clients.