Experiential Travel Trends: It Isn’t Just ‘Time Off’ Anymore

By Amira Saleh

Sales Development Associate

Consumers seeking experiences over things when they travel is a well-established trend. 71% of U.S. consumers who have vacationed in the last year agree that their travel experiences have helped shape them as a person.

Experiential Travel Trends

Experiential travelers often seek to immerse themselves in the local culture and seek authentic and meaningful experiences, whether through lodging, dining, or activities. As Mintel puts it, “Experiential travelers are vital to the travel industry, as they seek more than just an escape, they want to be transformed.”

Companies are listening to these travel preferences.

Intrepid Group, a travel company with the motto “Purpose Beyond Profit,” recently launched a new line of tours designed for Millennial travelers looking for sustainable and socially conscious activities.

The travel search site, Skyscanner, is rebranding and looking to redefine its purpose. In one of their largest marketing investments to date, they are looking to connect with a new era of consumers who expect more from travel companies. Their focus will be on modern and sustainable travel, inspiring their users to opt for new ways to travel and more environmentally conscious decisions.

Airbnb has been a standout in the experiential travel space and continues to expand upon its meaningful travel offerings by connecting travelers with locals through Airbnb Experiences. As part of their experiences platform, they have released a new animal welfare policy to include ethically conscious experiences that appreciate and protect animal's wellbeing. This excludes controversial animal tourism, such as riding elephants or kissing dolphins.

The Meaningful Traveler

What do these meaningful travel-seekers look like? It turns out, the idea of purposeful travel is different for everyone.

  • Purposeful travel can look like pushing past your comfort zone to learn about new cultures, traditions, and cuisine.
  • Meaningful travel can look like a focus on exploring responsibly—awareness of where your tourism dollars are going and how that’s reverberating in the spaces you travel to.
  • It can mean choosing travel experiences that will bond you with friends and family in a unique and unforgettable way, such as a destination wedding.

How Are Consumers Making Travel More Meaningful?

In 2018, Capital One conducted a poll of 2,192 Americans about their travel attitudes. Survey results showed an increased interest in travel that provides a sense of discovery and #MeaningfulMoments. Following this survey, Capital One launched the Purpose Project, to showcase how people are re-examining the role of travel in their lives.

Capital One asked survey respondents what meaningful travel looked like to them. The responses included traveling with people they love, learning something new about themselves, connecting with different cultures, feeling fulfilled, and giving back to local communities.

92% of survey respondents have specifically taken trips to reconnect and spend quality time with friends and family members.

Nearly 80% of surveyed travelers plan to take a trip that “allows them to connect with local culture.” For some travelers, this looks like eating in local restaurants, choosing homestays, and learning a new language.

Travelers also expressed a desire to minimize their footprint. These travel decisions could look like taking the local bus, choosing eco-resorts, and shopping at locally owned businesses.

Travel 2

Philanthropy is a large segment of the purposeful travel sector. Also known as “voluntourism,” many travelers sighted seeking out opportunities to give back to the local communities they visit.

The Versatility in Vacationers

Meaningful travel often goes along with themes of self-growth, challenge, discovery, and adventure purpose, but it doesn’t look the same for everyone. These different interpretations weave together into a transformative travel experience. It’s flexible and allows travelers to choose their own meaning of fulfilling travel, and that could be the very reason it thrives.