Do You Know What an Authentic Experience Is?

Explore Bali | Written By, Alistair G. Speirs |

Hello and welcome to Bali. I’m sorry about the technical question above but it will become relevant to you as you explore this marvellous island.

There is a fascination – no, an obsession – of governments around the world to drive increasing numbers of tourists to their best destinations to increase their economic benefit and balance of payments. But there is a price to pay as I discovered in this excellent analysis by “Responsible Travel” an online travel blog. Here is the transcript which requires no explanation from me.

Personal Perspective

“Responsible Travel questions the authenticity of today’s travel experiences

There is a worry that popular and picturesque destinations, like many in Europe, are being overrun by tourists. The fear has grown more so in recent years thanks to new technologies and platforms like Airbnb, Uber, and other internet-enabled travel conveniences. These, coupled with larger cruise ships, cheaper flights, and the impact of social media sharing, have driven an increase of travellers flooding to Europe.

Justin Francis, chief executive of Responsible Travel, worries that the image of a trip is becoming more important: “It’s a level of tourism which is degrading the enjoyment that residents have – but it’s also degrading the tourist experience, because the tourist who is endlessly queuing behind backpacks of hundreds of other tourists is not discovering the real or the authentic place.

“You can’t talk about over tourism without mentioning Instagram and Facebook – 75 years ago, tourism was about experience seeking. Now it’s about using photography and social media to build a personal brand. In a sense, for a lot of people, the photos you take on a trip become more important than the experience.”

So there are two distinct and very worrying trends in travel today: one, that increasing numbers decrease the enjoyment for all by literally blocking access to the destination’s main assets. Two, that even when they have access, today’s travellers are so fascinated by taking pictures and videos they miss the experience itself. So true.

My online research this month also brought me these two quotes.

One of which to me is marvellous nonsense, but the second actually has a good angle. Here they are.

“Hotels should focus on driving memorable experiences”

Joe Pine, management advisor to Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurial startups, says these moments need to become the focus: “Businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product.”

Here’s the second which makes much more sense:
Millennials are the fastest-growing travel segment accounting for 70% of all hotel guests in the world. And an increasing number of them are looking for memorable moments during their travel adventures.

Ram Gupta, an independent hotel consultant for BCG Global, reminds hotels to think beyond free wifi: “When you offer sun hats or complimentary cold drinks to guests as they lounge by the poolside, they’re far more likely to appreciate that gesture than a selection of pillows to choose from. Other things you can consider are: giving away passes to a play, a concert, or a game happening in the city. Or, you could make the hotel car available to them as they go shopping. Such amenities not only enhance their travel experience but also make for a much better tale to swap with their friends than wifi, pots of coffee, and exquisite bedding.”

Yes this is a sensible idea. Don’t worry about pillow choice, get people out into the destination to a concert, a museum, a sporting activity or even shopping. Agreed. Well done Ram.

Joe, please think again. My memory is not a product and anyway I’ve got the pictures on my phone!

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Alistair G. Speirs

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