Magazine article Communication World

The Travel Channels: The Tourism and Hospitality Industries Are Changing to Meet the Demands of Experience-Hungry Travelers

Magazine article Communication World

The Travel Channels: The Tourism and Hospitality Industries Are Changing to Meet the Demands of Experience-Hungry Travelers

Article excerpt

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Consumers today are in constant pursuit of new experiences. They want an escape from a busy, demanding life, to be moved and inspired emotionally and spiritually. They respond to messages that evoke feelings and fantasy rather than those that outline a function. In short, they are dream chasers.

In the travel, tourism and hospitality industry in particular, companies that want to stay competitive must therefore define their unique value proposition--the "experience" only they can provide. The experience must be authentic, not contrived, and built on strong values. This means building an emotional connection with consumers, something that's never been so easy and so difficult at the same time.

Says Iris Brouwer, founder of Barcelona, Spain-based Silk Marketing: "Customers are more informed, more traveled and experienced than in the past. Not only have they become independent, demanding and self-sufficient, they are also more savvy. They know how to enjoy life; they are looking for experiences, feelings, pampering--and they know where to find it. Innovation in communication is key to keeping up with the market. This means working with the latest and most effective media."

One example of packaging a feeling is a new campaign for tourism in Slovenia, which is actively promoting itself as a hot new destination. Seizing on opportunities offered by its entry into the European Union and its position as EU chair from January to June 2008, it launched a new marketing campaign called "I Feel sLOVEnia." The campaign invites travelers to "feel" and experience the many wonders of the country.

"We are proud that our country has the word love in its name, and we can use this to communicate stories, a love story, about Slovenia, our unique cultural heritage and the pristine nature of our country," says Rok Klancnik, director of the Slovenia Tourist Office based in Brussels, Belgium.

Yet Slovenia is realistic and doesn't try to compete on the level of mature destinations such as France and Spain (respectively the world's top destinations in terms of international tourist arrivals, according to the U.N. World Tourism Organization's "Tourism Highlights, 2007 Edition"). Instead, Slovenia is committed to being the "best-kept secret in Europe" and to preserving the authenticity of the experience. Says Klancnik: "Slovenia should and will stay on the path of sustainable tourism development. If we ruin the beauty of our nature, old traditions and culture, we'll lose tourism as well, not only our national identity. It's not about quantity [of tourists]. Tourism of tomorrow is about quality and emotions, both for visitors and for the locals who work and live in tourism."

Delivering on the promise

"Traveling today is not always easy, between security checks and long waits in transit," says Marco Ferrari, vice president and director of external communication at Starwood Hotels & Resorts for Europe, Africa and Middle East. "When guests arrive at their destination, we must deliver on our promise. We are lucky enough to sell dreams, experiences, emotions and sensations. We must represent the dream, and we must surpass expectations and stand for the promise of our brands."

Starwood Hotels & Resorts has been creative in using a mix of offline and online communication tools to engage with their guests before, during and after their experience. For example, Starwood Preferred Guest TV (SPG TV) is a "new means of communicating directly with guests in 300-plus hotels in Europe, Middle East and Africa," Ferrari explains. It features compelling reports of off-the-beaten-track experiences, such as the best restaurants, secret discoveries, romantic rendezvous, art exhibits and secluded beaches. Produced entirely by Starwood, SPG TV also features interviews with guests, who share their personal stories and tips. "SPG TV has now obtained 86 percent viewership of guests," says Ferrari. …

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