Experiential travel: the new mantra of the globe-trotting

This year ‘experiential tourism’ is the main theme of Arabian Travel Market (ATM), Dubai that is being held from April 24 to 27, 2017. The selection of this theme underlines the growing relevance and popularity of experiential tourism.

Experiential travel is a new mantra in travel and tourism industry. It is emerging as one of the most inspirational reasons to travel these days. “Intense global demand for travel experiences that resonate on a deeper emotional level is driving travel brands to develop product that is more adventurous, more personalized, and more attuned to local culture, inspiring consumers toward a path of self discovery,” says a report titled as’ The Rise of Experiential Travel’, published by a Melbourne based destination management company , PEAK DMC.

Experiential travel is having offbeat experiences such as living with local community to understand their culture. The report states that the demand for ‘experiential travel’ today is the most significant, systemic trend in worldwide tourism. Experiential tourism is a kind of tourism where experience and memories matter more than mere excursion activities and indulgence. It is about how deeply travelers experience destinations that they visit and how lasting memories they return with. Experiential travel reflects a concept of tourism that is more immersive, local, authentic, active, adventurous and participative. Experiential travel can be defined any tourism activities other than traditional sightseeing and conventional indulgence.

Experiential travel is gradually becoming a key element of mainstream tourism. Now people want to travel better, on a deeper emotional and more personal level. Travelers in increasing numbers are opting for customized and bespoke travel package rather than prepackaged. They look for more engaging socio-culture experience. They want to interact with local community and share their culture. Even the options of experiential travel are growing significantly.

According to Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, Arabian Travel Market (ATM), travelers are increasingly looking beyond conventional leisure programmes and itineraries to actively seek out atypical experiences that deliver a true taste of local culture. “Today tourism industry stakeholders are offering their guests intangible and emotional experiences, immersing them in local culture, and traditional ways of life. It’s an ap- peal that can be successfully transferred to backpackers and billionaires alike,” said Press. He added that this growing trend is now on the radar of the region’s tourism chiefs. The Middle East has an abundance of authentic local experiences to offer from overnight stays in a stone house in remote Omani villages to Old Dubai walking tours that search out the best street food. At ATM 2017, there will be a focus on converting these concepts into viable commercial realities to broaden the appeal of Middle East destinations and increase their visitor numbers and revenues, which can support sustainable economic development.

One form of experiential travel is volunteerism for a noble cause in a destination. It could be spending some time with underprepared children or at farm and integrating with farmers. These very simple moments some time can turn out to be your greatest memories and experiences. Cooking, photography classes, playing with local village kids etc are be some of other examples of the experiential travel. It is the long-lasting memories of experiences that make experiential travel highly unique and worthwhile. In the world of experiential travel experiences matter more than amenities, comforts, attractions, recreations etc.

Hanneli Slabber, India Country Head – South African Tourism said that travel has gone beyond the passé stay in a beach-side resort followed by local city tours. “The modern traveler is hungry for more – he wants to explore, experience and head back home with a bag pack full of thrilling memories. Travel is now increasingly being driven by a need to have varied experiences like explore local culture, indulge in art and history of the place and meet new people and the same has been true for us at South African Tourism.” Talking about Indian market, she said that from their annual India roadshows and from our observations of the last few years, “we have learned that the Indian market is definitely moving towards experiential travel i.e. there has been a marked shift from seeing to experiencing.”

Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2017, which takes place in Dubai World Trade Centre from April 24-27, is set to be the biggest in the event’s 24-year history. More than 30,000 visitors are expected to attend the four-day show, with over 2,800 exhibiting companies, forcing organizer Reed Travel Exhibitions to open up an additional hall this year to cope with the increased demand.

Simon Press informed that the show has experienced phenomenal growth of over 70% since 2012 and this year already looks like it’s going to break all previous records. “We have more than 100 new exhibitors signed up and 65 country pavilions, while we expect representation from 140 countries over the course of the event, said Press, adding, “Clearly Expo2020 is driving growth in Dubai as the emirate aims to complete 160,000 hotel rooms in time to welcome an additional five million visitors over the course of the event. However, the GCC countries as a whole are looking towards tourism as a way of diversifying their economies away from their reliance on hydrocarbon receipts.” The opening session of this year’s event will look at the role Expo2020 plays in delivering the UAE Government’s long-term vision for economic diversification. Now just three years away, high level stakeholders, including Marjan Faraidooni, VP Legacy, Impact & Development, Expo2020; Issam Kazim, CEO of DTCM; Anita Mehra, SVP Communications and Reputation, Dubai Airports; and Deidre Wells OBE, CEO, UK inbound, will take part in a panel discussion about the upcoming event. ATM has witnessed a year-on-year visitor attendance increase of 9% to over 28,500 in 2016, with 2,785 exhibiting companies, signing business deals worth more than US$ 2.5 billion over four days.

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