This article has been adapted from the original German post by Franziska Klein.
"How was your holiday?“
"Great! We met amazing locals who gave us some insider tips where to eat and go out! It felt like we were a part of the community.“
Lately, you've probably had more conversations like this with friends. Ones where a lot of the favorite travel moments involve direct contact with locals, adventures off the beaten track, and getting to know the real life of local people instead of feeling like a tourist.
Hype around these authentic experiences have been building as couch-surfing and services like Airbnb become more popular. But what does that have to do with you as a tour and activity provider?
What does authentic mean?
According to Tirol Webung GmbH, in a touristic context "authenticity means the originality of touristic places, scenarios, objects and folkloric performances as well as the interaction between tourists and the local population itself"
Calling something genuine, natural, pure, original or credible is often done in this context as well. All these ideas can mean something different to everyone. Whether a traveler experiences something as authentic or inauthentic depends on his subjective way of looking at it.
Authentic offers allow tourists to experience a city from a local perspective and get to know their everyday life. This "live like a local" feeling gives tourists a non-traditional vibe, helping them stay off the beaten track. Authenticity in tourism refers also to the trend of solo travel. It is becoming more common to uncouple from groups and consciously travel alone.
"Today authentic offers are more requested than ever before, especially in city trips. People [would] like to discover the true face of a city and experience as much as possible from a local's life." -FRANCEGUIDE 2012
In recent years, a number of networks have been set up to address the growing interest in authentic experiences in direct contact with locals.
Some offer city tours guided by locals, others focus on culinary experiences. Here some examples:
- The Global Greeter Network: Guests receive an individual tour by a local that's tailored to their needs and interests. It's like going out for coffee with a new friend!
- Like a local guide: On this platform, locals can subscribe and provide their personal tips as an insider.
- Spotted by locals: Spend your trip in all the hotspots only locals know about.
- Vayable: Promotes unique and authentic experiences, recommended by locals.
- Party with a local: This is a free app to find people who want to have a party.
How to create authentic offers
Simple rule: Be yourself! And show that to your guests. They will thank you.
Live your tours & activities
People will notice your outdoor company as real and authentic if you offer fun, adventure and enthusiasm - qualities that your target group expect when booking a rafting tour or paraglide with you.
At a cultural tour it is important that the tour guide has deep knowledge, knows the city by heart, and has insider tips for guests that express local culture. Additionally, the selection of the city tour spots is extremely important - they should reflect the city and its local culture. You cannot imagine visiting Paris without the Eiffel Tower and the creative and artistic flair of Montmartre. The same is true in Hamburg with its fish market and a Elbe boat trip.
Employees who share your philosophy
Your staff is your company's flagship because they go on tour with your guests. According to this, the selection of your tour guides is equally important when it comes to show the company's authentic part. Do they identify themselves with the company and its activities and are they advocates of your company?
When working with city tour guides mentioning the local aspect is extremely important. The one who guides the tour should be a local person giving tips and showing hidden corners. Another sign for authenticity is people who do not hide their origins; they speak in dialect and represent their place and region.
For instance, at TrekkSoft we're fans of outdoor activities and discovering new things. This is reflected in our company's philosophy as well as our employees. Take a look at the TrekkSoft Teamweek video.
Use real images
Images are extremely important for outward presentation and marketing purposes. Images create emotions. With images, you convince potential customers to go to your website, follow you on social media and, finally, book with you.
Create an authentic brand
Your brand should reflect your offers and associate certain feelings. A brand is always emotional and your customer should feel connected to it and remember the feeling he had while he was on a tour with you.
Switzerland Tourism is using the slogan "get natural". But everyone who has been on holiday in Switzerland knows this feeling because nature is a dominant aspect in Swiss tourism and omnipresent.
Authenticity also has to do with proximity. When I visit a country, how well do I get to know the local population? As a tourist I want to identify with the activities and people who offer this great experience for me. Personal relationships play a crucial role as it generates word-of-mouth and attracts repeat visitors. It also draws in new ones.
Pre- and Post-Trip-emails and the communication via social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are essential to keep in touch with your customers.
If one of your guests leaves a critical rating on TripAdvisor, do not fret, reach out to them instead. Ask what bothered them and learn about what you can improve. Sometimes it's just a misunderstanding that can be solved with personal contact. How you communicate with your customers not only during the activity, but also during pre- and post- support service builds authenticity.
Tell about yourself
Authenticity is important to give your customers an insight into your company's everyday life. You can achieve this by making sure your "About us" page show's who is working in the company. TrekkSoft's customer La Bicicleta Verde knows how to do this!
Storytelling is a good way to talk about your company. You can share about enthusiastic customers and show potential customers how authentic you are.
New Zealand is using the page "stories about". This is a very good example of how you can tell stories about local people. Just as you read it, it feels like I would be on site.
Choose the right partners
The partners you choose to work with should have the same attitude as you and the deals are designed to suit you. Make sure that the partners' offers complete your own offers.
Our TrekkSoft customer Vietnam's Backpackers Hostel shows on Facebook that they work together with local companies that offer a traditional cooking class and though giving an insight in the Vietnamese cuisine.
Recently Franziska spent a weekend in an organic hotel, close to the Bavarian Alps. The organic concept and acting in harmony with nature was played all over the hotel (rooms, food, etc.). Even the staff were fully convinced of this concept.
Additionally the hotel belongs to a community that are specialized on values such as "regionality", "biological production", etc. These companies have partnered to offer an allover travel experience inspired by the same values.
Be aware of staging
Finally, make sure that your company remains true to yourselves. Don't start to stage your offers because people can always tell when a business is faking something with them. It will make your customers feel like something is ingenuine or even dishonest. Naturally, tours and activities are always staged to a certain extent, but if it's done too much you risk that your experiences become inauthentic.
You want to know how TrekkSoft can help you to boost your company to a successful 2017?
Written by Sara Napier Burkhard
Sara is a writer from the American West Coast. In recent years, she's written for companies like Hipmunk, iTourMobile and Mylikes. She now resides in Zurich, Switzerland where she finds new adventures and attempts to speak German with minimal success.