Regardless of why visitors have chosen your destination for their next trip — whether for business, leisure or bleisure travel — tourism experts agree that there are fundamental expectations your destination must meet in order for visitors to recommend their experience to others and to return with friends or family. These key elements are known as the 5 A’s: Access, Accommodation, Attractions, Activities, and Amenities. In the first three articles of this series, we examined how Access, Accommodations and Attractions contribute to your destination’s brand. Now we’re moving on to the fourth A — Activities.
Key Element: Activities
In the Attractions blog, we touched on the increasing popularity of experiential travel. As your DMO assesses what Activities it has to offer visitors, strategize within the framework of what they can expect to experience—not just what they can do while visiting your city. Some internal questions you should consider are: What experiences are they going to walk away with and share with friends and family back home? What emotions will these experiences elicit? And how will these experiences shape overall visitor perceptions of your destination?
Starting with some broad activity categories available in nearly every city, let’s drill down to how your DMO can promote these activities as experiences worth traveling for.
Culinary travel isn’t a new concept, but its popularity has continued to grow. In 2017 alone, food tours and cooking classes were ranked as one of the fastest-growing experience categories, with a 57 percent increase year-over-year. In an increasingly globalized world, local food and libations are emerging as integral components of a destination’s story. For more and more travelers, food is a way of understanding and experiencing the identity and character of a new place.
Spaghetti bolognese becomes more than just a pasta dish when the sauce is from a family recipe that dates back generations. A sandwich becomes far more interesting when the bread comes from the local bakery down the street. Food is such an important part of your destination’s narrative, and creating experiences around local cuisine is a great way to entice travelers to plan a visit (and return again!) to your city.
Partner with local restaurants, cafes, diners, and bakeries to curate unique culinary experiences that you can promote on your website and social channels. Offering cooking, baking or sushi-making classes is another angle to consider. Featuring dishes that are local to your town or city (or that you could learn how to make) on social media is often enough to pique the interest of your followers and generate curiosity about what activities foodies can enjoy in your town. Pop-up dinners, food truck festivals or food-specific festivals (like Birmingham’s Mac & Cheese Festival, Atlanta’s annual Grilled Cheese Festival, or Memphis’ BBQ Fest) have become huge draws for food lovers looking to experience something fun and new.
Right Question: What culinary experiences can we curate to attract visitors?
In recent years, Wellness Tourism has blossomed into a lucrative tourism category, with the Global Wellness Institute estimating that it grew into a $639 billion market in 2017. As Americans become more health-conscious, wellness activities are in high demand among travelers seeking a reprieve from their otherwise stressful lives.
Drawing again on the theme of experiential travel, wellness activities should not be viewed as just “another thing to do” in your destination. They should be marketed as a welcome break from the norm—a chance to focus on one’s self and return home refreshed and renewed. Something to keep in mind when crafting your message is that there are two types of wellness travelers: primary and secondary. Primary wellness travelers structure their trip around self-care activities, whereas secondary wellness travelers may visit a spa or yoga class at some point during their stay.
Partner with local stakeholders to curate appealing wellness experiences and itineraries for both of these types of wellness travelers (and market them appropriately to each type). For some, this might mean offering an all-inclusive hotel spa experience. For others, it could mean packaging an instructional meditation class with a healthy lunch prepared by a local chef. But for both, always remember to follow an experience-based framework and—when possible—package options together to curate appealing wellness experiences.
Right Question: What wellness experiences can we leverage to attract health-conscious travelers?
According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, adventure tourism is typically defined by at least two of the following activities: physical activity, natural environment and cultural immersion—and it’s something visitors are willing to travel great distances to experience. Adventure travelers spend an average of $947 per trip—and that’s not including airfare! Transformative experiences are very important to them, and they’re often willing to invest in the gear and accessories necessary to make those experiences a reality.
The typical adventure traveler is around 35 years old, values social media as a means of staying connected and will spend as many as 10 days experiencing one destination. Note that tour operators are in increasing demand among adventure travelers, with 45 percent intending to utilize tour services on their next trip. With this in mind, what activities can your destination offer to adventure-seeking travelers, and can they be packaged together to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience?
For example, your DMO could curate an adventure package that includes rock-climbing, whitewater rafting, skydiving, and spelunking activities over a 5-day period, with lunch and dinners at popular local restaurants. This satisfies all three of adventure tourism’s typical activities—physical activity, natural environment and cultural immersion.
Create a highly-targeted campaign that promotes these activities as can't-miss experiences for adventure travel junkies. Leverage targeted social media, magazines and narrowly-focused FAM tours to generate PR to position your destination on every adventure traveler’s bucket list.
Right Question: What activities can we package to create one-of-a-kind adventure travel experiences?
Even if your destination doesn’t have activities that fit the definition of adventure travel, you can still take advantage of your beautiful surroundings by appealing to nature lovers. Outdoor recreation may not entice travelers who live a great distance away, but it will appeal to drive-in travelers who may be looking for a one-day or weekend getaway. Arboretums, biking and hiking trails, wildlife observation points, bird-watching expeditions, or simply floating down the river are great examples of experiences your DMO can leverage to draw nature-loving travelers.
Promote these offerings on social media, and consider cultivating community events that could attract visitors within a reasonable driving distance of your destination. These experiences can be curated to suit the interests of your target markets—whether they be families, young mothers, retirees or multi-generational groups. Refer back to your Marketing Action Plan when strategizing how to most effectively leverage outdoor recreational experiences that will attract visitors.
Right Question: How can we leverage nature-based experiences to increase the likelihood of overnight stays?
Whatever activities your destination has to offer, always think in terms of how they will influence a visitor’s overall travel experience. Market them in a way that not only supports your brand identity but appeals to the desires of your target markets to experience something new, fresh and different. If you’re unsure how to go about doing this or would like some help identifying the experiences your destination has to offer, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.