What the Experience Economy Means for Hotels

Why do people travel? The answers are practically endless, but there is one common motivator that links together a wide variety of trips: the desire to experience something new. This has become a relevant factor in recent years, as more and more people are looking to add something new and exciting to what would otherwise be a conventional travel experience. 

The term “experience economy” has popped up in many different spheres, from extreme sports to escape rooms. However, the concept of consumers spending money on experiences rather than material possessions is particularly relevant to the travel and tourism industry since some life-altering experiences are destination-specific. Whether it’s a spiritual awakening in India, a culinary exploration in France, or a wildlife excursion in Kenya, some things can only be properly experienced in certain locations. This means that hotels located in these destinations have the opportunity to link their guest experience with the destination’s biggest attractions.

Offering a Unique Travel Experience

With more and more travelers looking for a one-of-a-kind experience when they book a trip, hotels can connect with the providers of these experiences to spread brand awareness. For some hotels, this involves offering packages that include tours and tickets to shows. Cross-promotions with tour companies can be effective, but hotels can also attract guests by promoting their own ability to provide a unique experience.

There are many ways to offer an exceptional guest experience.  To attract travelers who expect more from their hotel than just a place to sleep, hoteliers can collaborate with local chefs, artists, and other creatives from the area to add local flavor to their guest experience. Doing this makes the hotel different, and lets travelers feel like they are getting a more complete picture of the destination. On top of that, there is the added bonus of establishing the hotel as a social hub, as curious locals may also frequent the hotel’s restaurant and bar if it stands out on the local scene.

Doing this also allows guests that are traveling for business reasons to get a taste of the local culture, even if they are on a tight schedule. The concept of offering a unique, locally-inspired guest experience might seem contradictory for large hotel chains that offer a consistent service at every location, but there are many reasons why this idea is worth exploring.

travel experience

Travel Experiences Worth Sharing

One major factor in the rise of the experience economy is shareability. Social media can give hotel brands insight into what kinds of experiences potential travelers are interested in, and this information is proving to be valuable. Millennials have generally shown an interest in sharing memorable experiences on social media, and this trend has a few significant benefits for hotels. Investing in guest experience pays dividends when travelers with large social media followings visit and give the hotel free advertising through their Instagram posts, potentially inspiring their followers to visit as well.

The majority of millennials say that their travel plans have been influenced by what they see on social media, and 52% of Facebook users say their friends’ photos inspire them to plan a trip. The rise of social media influence has led some hotels to encourage their guests to share photos of them at the hotel and reward the guests who do. Some brands have even formed partnerships with online influencers since a picture or post from a popular social media user legitimizes the hotel in the eyes of their followers.

With the immense popularity of travel-themed social media accounts, providing free accommodations to popular online personalities has turned out to be a profitable endeavor. However, this is not always the case, partly because some destinations are inherently more Instagrammable than others. Also, partnering with the right kinds of influencers is essential to an effective campaign. Hotels that decide to pursue this opportunity must ensure that the influencer’s followers would potentially be interested in staying at their property before they start advertising to them. 

The Search For Authenticity

Modern travelers are craving bold, experiential vacations, but authenticity has also become an important factor in a traveler’s decision-making process. While some vacationers want the same kind of guest experience no matter what destination they choose, the growing demand for authenticity shows that many travelers want to be immersed in the place they are visiting.

Through local food, entertainment and culture, travelers can gain a better understanding of what it’s like to actually live there. Travelers who choose to stay at an Airbnb take this idea even further. While Airbnb is appealing in part because of its affordability, staying in an apartment also gives visitors a different perspective on their trip, allowing them to live like a local.

travel experience

But how can hotels provide a similar feeling without being accused of manufacturing authenticity? While it may be easier to feel close to a destination when living like a local, what matters most is that guests form a genuine connection with the place they are visiting. There are many ways to form this bond, including self-guided walking tours. These tours allow travelers to see the best the destination has to offer and learn a bit about its history without having to hop on a tour bus.

A travel experience can also go beyond just seeing the sights, as hands-on, locally-inspired experiences can give travelers an authentic vacation. From making pasta in Italy to rolling cigars in Cuba, these activities can help travelers get a feel for the culture of the place they are visiting, something that well-known landmarks might not do. Hotels that make it easy for travelers to discover and book experiences like this will in turn position themselves as ambassadors of their destination.

With many travelers choosing their travel activities after they arrive at their destination, hotels have the opportunity to provide travelers with some direction. Of course, this is not a new concept, as concierges have been helping guests find things to do in the place they are visiting for many years. However, modern technology has made it even easier for guests to access information about their destination of choice, so it is essential for hotels to ensure that guests get an accurate impression of what activities are available.

As guest expectations evolve, hotels have more opportunities to provide exceptional service. The rise of the experience economy is one of many emerging trends in the industry that hospitality professionals can capitalize on.

Find out how hotel brands are adapting to exceed guest expectations in The Strategic Guide To: New Tech & Traveler Trends.