Hotels Should Tap Demand for Experiential Travel

By Lorraine Abelow Founder & President, Abelow PR | February 19, 2017

With experience and adventure both being the greatest drivers today for all markets in choosing where they'll stay, it's imperative for hotels to adapt. A recent American Express survey illustrated that consumers demand more enriched lives, personal fulfillment, and learning. Hotels responding to this shift are answering this call with creative activities and rate packages that will attract this market. It's important to note that this cuts across a large swath from millennials to baby boomers to Gen X-ers. However, it's vital to get the message out through traditional and social media channels so your property rises to the top of Google when people are researching where to stay and what to do.

Savvy hotel marketers should pay attention to the highlights from this American Express survey and are wise to integrate these data points into their communication strategy:

  • Nearly 90% of respondents said that travel is the number one dream on their life's bucket list. Travel ranks higher than family or wealth.
  • People are looking for travel experiences that will allow them to interact with the local community. They want to visit private homes, schools, orphanages, and the village to see how people live.
  • A significant number of those polled want adventure travel tours, arts and cultural experiences, but they want to do it like a local.
  • Luxury has evolved to become increasingly bound up in experiences rather than things. According to the survey, "One key trend driving the future is the shift in values from the material to the experiential - rather than saving up to buy luxury possessions, people are choosing to spend their money on experiences."
  • Travelers are resisting offerings that they consider to be prepackaged and inauthentic. Today they are seeking one-off experiences that strike an emotional chord.
  • Middle class tourists from emerging markets are still looking to go shopping when they travel, however they want to do it in a market where the locals go.
  • When researching where to go and where to stay, the study showed that people visit as many as 25 different sites before they make a decision. If promoted well in the media, your hotel will make its way to the top of the stack to attract guests.

As these trends continue, those hotel brands that that have found a way to appeal to travelers beyond their material product will thrive, especially if your PR engine is working properly.

Hotels that are designing "non-Googleable" options are beating out the competition. Your PR agency should be garnering a steady stream of coverage on compelling offerings in top tier outlets, like Conde Nast Traveler and Travel and Leisure. It's interesting to note that Afar magazine has pulled ahead in the field of travel magazines offering its readers immersive experiences that can also be planned on their site. By the same token, publications geared to special interests like Outside, Wine Spectator, Modern Maturity, and The Daily Meal are examples of a wide range of outlets to choose from when pitching your packages to the press.

Here we gathered some examples of experience oriented packages to inspire you in mining this trend and getting widespread media coverage to capture the attention of those planning trips:

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.