The Experience Equation

Our Editors spend over two thirds of the year on the road so we get to see a lot of emerging travel trends first hand. We think this is critical in helping us to craft the right TV shows and to ensure the content we create for our website and social media channels is always fresh and always up to date. Perhaps the most important change in travel behavior over the last few years is what we call the experience equation.

The experience equation is the calculation tourists make consciously or unconsciously when they plan their trips. It helps inform where they go, what they do, how they spend their money and why they travel in the first place.

Travelers quite simply would now rather purchase experiences over things. Skift Research’s 2018 U.S. Affluent traveler Survey ‘found that 67% of affluent travelers would rather spend their money on activities than on a nicer hotel, up 8% from last year.’ Choosing experiences is a travel trend that is shown across all generations and demographics. Luxury isn’t out, but authentic happenings are now more sought after than ever before.

We think this trends is a result of a combination of factors. Instagram and other social media platforms impact what people want to do when traveling. There’s no status in posting the breakfast buffet at a Holiday Inn Express in Poughkeepsie, but go shark diving off the coast of South Africa and your cred instantly grows. As well the ubiquity of mobile devices in travel also helps people to plan what they really want to do on vacation, so they don’t waste time and money on trips which they won’t really enjoy.

Google conducted a study with PhocusWright in 2018 to discover how mobile phones are used by potential travelers. The results confirm our observations.

Customers are comfortable researching, booking and planning their entire trip to a new travel destination on a mobile device. Top consumer markets displaying this trend include India who came out top with 87%, Brazil (67%), Japan (59%), South Korea (53%), US (48%), Australia & United Kingdom (45%) and France (44%). With knowledge comes better decision making and better decision making leads travelers to book more experience-rich journeys.

So what do people want in the way of experiences? A recent report by Trekk Soft showed the following:

 A request for unique experiences

Tour operators are now receiving requests for unique experiences from travelers who want to do something that is a once-in-a-lifetime. This is becoming more common amongst Millennials who want to explore the world and share their stories with others.

Ecological tours are in demand

Ecological tours are the most popular tours offered by many tour & activity operators. These are usually rare experiences that educate and share inside information on the area, and how to protect it for the future. Tours that use proceeds to fund ecological projects such as forest or animal habitat restoration are chosen above alternatives without a cause.

Local matters

Travelers are choosing to become more immersed in the local culture when visiting a destination. They want to do what the locals do and eat where locals eat. Airbnb Experiences are offering a solution where travelers can book a local experience with a destination native.

Adrenaline junkies are becoming mainstream

Adrenaline pumping activities continue to grow with two new generations who are keen to push their limits. Adventure destinations are at the top of many traveler’s lists.

History & culture is still hot

Walking tours are still one of the leading experiences for anyone visiting a new location. They are a great opportunity to find your bearing, meet other travelers and have all their questions answered by a destination expert.

The key takeaway from all of this is that the experience equation is increasingly driving people’s choices for travel and we think that’s a great thing. Our goal has always been to help tourists become travelers and so the trend to craving more authentic experiences is something we’re excited about.

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