This article is part of our August series on travel and hospitality. Click here for more.
Cookie-cutter tourism packages have no place in the hearts and minds of APAC travelers. Consumer preference continues to shift to more bespoke, experience-based travel, and operators in the region are taking notice.
“Seemingly every company operating in the hospitality and tourism sector is marketing itself as an experience versus a product based on rising demand from consumers for more authentic and engaging travel experiences,” according to “The Rise in Experiential Travel” report by travel group Peak + Skiff.
As a result, experiential travel is heating up, which comes as no surprise to Juliana Nguyen, Airbnb’s regional brand marketing director, APAC.
“In 2016, there were 14.6 million tourists traveling to the region and using Airbnb services,” she told CMO.com. “Asia-Pacific is our fastest-growing region in terms of inbound travel year over year–167% including Australia/New Zealand and 177% for Asia alone.”
That these experiential travelers want to immerse themselves in what the locals have to offer is no secret.
“We have paid a lot of attention to the evolving priorities and adapted our offering to cater accordingly. That’s why we launched our new ‘Trips’ service, based on the research of people wanting to create a truly meaningful, connective experience,” Nguyen said.
Airbnb Trips offers travelers a genuine taste of local life, typically with a local, in more than 30 cities around the world. Ten are in Asia Pacific, including Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney, and Bangkok.
“We’ve seen a spike recently in guests trying experiences in APAC, where numbers of bookings have grown more than 14 times just since January this year,” Nguyen said.
Moments Of Discovery
Consumer preference for experiential travel has put some providers on high alert, ready to offer what the traveler wants at any given moment. Intrepid Travel, for example, has found its niche tailoring adventure-styled travel to individuals or small groups.
“We’re constantly developing our trip range based on emerging trends and travelers’ expectations,” explained Intrepid Travel CEO James Thornton.
In addition, the influx of domestic and international APAC travelers means experiential operators such as Intrepid Travel are well-positioned for growth.
“Asian tourist numbers to Australia are growing well above other source markets, and we’re confident this will only continue over the next decade,” Thornton told CMO.com. “We expect to see substantial growth from China, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea.”
But participation rather than observation is the aim of the experiential game, which Thornton admitted is a never-ending challenge for industry marketers and digital professionals.
“We definitely need to be ahead of the game and engage our travelers in the way that aligns with their values and resonates with what they are looking for from their travels,” he said.
Cultural Diversity And CX
Aligning with your customers’ values is as important as the experiential travel offering itself. The trick is to be authentic without needing to say it. A sound way to do this is by demonstrating your brand values in action.
For example, a portion of Airbnb’s services are what Nguyen calls “social impact experiences,” which are run by local nonprofits that collect 100% of Airbnb’s transaction fees.
“Our social impact experiences are built on the inherent good of Airbnb travel, from economic impact to communities and neighbourhoods, to the environmental impact of sustainable travel, to the social impact of bringing people from different cultures together,” Nguyen says.
Such initiatives are made possible when the needs of the customer are combined with technological ability.
“It’s an exciting time, and the travel industry is in the middle of it all. Today’s travelers are [digitally] connected and well-informed, and they want to travel in ever more immersive ways,” Nguyen added.