By Dr. Reza Etemad-Sajadi and Marie Schöpfer
For more and more travelers nowadays, vacations are less about the “fly and flop” and more about living an outstanding experience and finding meaning and purpose in their busy lives. Some travelers seek authenticity and want to really dive into the culture or destination they are exploring; some want to dedicate a portion of their trip to a charity, besides taking time for themselves and get involved in volunteering projects.
People are traveling for new reasons
As explained by Jean-François de Clermont-Tonnerre – Executive Producer of “Going Home to the Stars”, a documentary that looks into these new travel trends – who happens to be a business traveler with millions of miles under his soles:
People are looking for immersive experiences and socially-conscious travelers are on the rise. For these reasons, professionals have to identify the driving force behind the trip of travelers and adapt their offer.
More and more resorts and hotels have set up new activities.
For example, the Sandos Mexico Resorts established different eco-friendly initiatives and programs in which the resort’s guests can get involved. They can participate in planting groves to harvest tropical fruit, work for the protection of the sea turtles or take part in several beach-cleaning programs with the Sandos Foundation volunteers. The Sandos Mexico Resorts also provide social initiatives such as “supporting the local indigenous communities who sell their handicrafts at Sandos resorts”.
Websites and platforms are also getting on the bandwagon.
For example, the website Travel2change offers fun and impactful activities in Hawaii. They “believe that by exploring the world, we can better it.” They propose a set of activities involving local communities, giving travelers’ vacations a meaningful purpose. As an example, people can go on a trek into the forest of Kualoa, while helping communities restore the flora. The purpose behind those trips is helping and sharing with communities, while living an immersion experience. In this way, travelers create a positive impact, while enjoying a stay abroad. The word “Voluntourism” – combination of volunteering and tourism – encapsulates this new trend: it means traveling to “contribute to sustainable development while exploring a new country and culture”.Furthermore, travelers are also looking for a social connection with others.
The platform Withlocals connects travelers with local people “through food and experience”. For example, they can try a Thai homemade dinner or take a unique Flamenco dance lesson in Seville.
The same goes with Eatwith, where people can book an “exceptional culinary experience worldwide” with local hosts. In the same vein, senior-friendly vacations are more and more popular. Agencies such as Walking the World or Adventures abroad propose itineraries designed for seniors’ needs. And for the more adventurous of them, the platform Road Scholar offers learning adventures all around the world like special trips and activities to do with grandchildren.
New trend: extreme immersion vacations
As reported by Forbes magazine, modern travelers crave adventure. Nowadays, people can go on expeditions to the North Pole, join a team to climb Mount Everest or even go on a trip to encounter polar bears or dive with sharks or crocodiles.
In “Going Home to the Stars”, we also try to understand the difficulties for a hotel to operate in an extreme situation such as the ESO Hotel, commonly known as the Residencia.
Perched on the Cerro Paranal, it accommodates staff of the Paranal Observatory in the Atacama desert in Chile. It is mainly used for the ESO scientists and engineers and not open to the public, however there mode of operation is exactly that of a conventional hotel. We can therefore learn a lot from their way of organizing their daily activities and creating a unique guest experience. How to manage the employees? How to increase the socialization with their guests, but also between the guests themselves? How to “educate” their guests before and during the visit? For example, clients of this hotel will have some important restrictions such as the use of water.
The challenge is to assure that the experience will fit with the expectations of travelers. Therefore, it’s a real challenge to put in place a consistent communication with them before the trip.
Documentary: Going Home to the Stars
This documentary film – set in the Atacama Desert (Chile) at the Residencia, the VLT's (Very Large Telescope) lodging facility – sets out to understand what moves people to endure the difficulties of traveling to hostile environments, and what must be put in place to cater to their needs and meet their expectations.