As we’ve noted in our Travel Trend Report 2017, it is becoming increasingly important for today's traveler to have an authentic experience during their travels. Today’s travelers simply do not want to be perceived as typical tourists.
When we think of authentic travel experiences, we think of keywords like meeting locals, experiencing the everyday lives of locals, storytelling, and also creative tourism.
We talked to Elena Paschinger, a travel blogger, tourism consultant and creative traveler to understand the different approaches to creative tourism and what it means for you as a tour and activity provider.
How would you describe creative tourism?
Creative tourism, or creative travel, is connected with openness, curiosity and willingness for a real learning experience. It is necessary to get to know the culture of a region/ city/ country in an interactive and entertaining way – directly from locals.
My recent travels to the "creative island" a.k.a. Salt Spring Island near Vancouver, Canada, is a nice example of this. Here, I constantly met locals thanks to the wide range of diverse and immersive travel experiences offered around the island.
When did you start your blog and what was your intention?
I started my blog Creative Elena in October 2012, but have been blogging and reporting about my travels since my youth, mainly to keep my family and friends updated.
A few years ago, when I became self-employed, I wanted to grow the website to report on projects, ideas, networking events,conferences and travel reports. To sum it up, I wanted to have a professional and personal website. After 1,000 entries on the blog (in German and English language!) I think I’ve succeeded!
What’s the difference between visiting a destination as a conventional traveler and visiting a destination as a creative traveler?
Conventional travelers do not bother to spend hours attending a workshop, a course or an interactive cultural event. Classical sightseeing and beach holidays are enough for most of them.
As a creative traveler, I want to experience everything from a local’s perspective, understand, smell and taste Barcelona, Thailand, New Zealand or Nepal. I'm more involved in my travel experience, by asking or trying things out by myself, and, like the subtitle of my book "The Creative Traveler's Handbook" says, "life-seeing instead of sightseeing,".
For me personally, this is a much more enriching, exciting, and sustainable form of travel.
How important is sustainability for you when traveling? What are some sustainable practices you follow while on your journeys?
For me it’s important how the company is run.
I want to know how resources are used on site. How do the owners manage their staff? Do I feel a sense of unity and harmony from the staff? How does the community, the company and individual employees contribute to the environment? And, how can I contribute to this as a guest?
How much each individual can contribute depends also on the country and travel situation. For me, I believe that there is always something I can improve when I travel.
What’s the role of storytelling when it comes to tourism development and how can it be implemented by activity providers?
Storytelling has existed since the time of human thought and is an integral part of the modern age of global communication. Because even today, or just in the age of millions of travel videos, blogs and breathtaking photos from all over the world, the question must be asked:
If today, everyone can publish great stories in different formats, why should someone invest time reading your message?
The answer should be: "Great content will always be shared"
That means, good content will always find its way to the target audience. As a storyteller it’s crucial to think about the channels you can use to reach your target group.
It’s not about simply being on any channel, but rather to use a targeted approach to develop your tour or activity company.
Where does my target audience discuss the offer I would like to market, and how? What kind of storytelling is the best way to reach these people? These are important issues that activity providers must face.
How important is social media for you (which channels do you (frequently) use?) and what advice do you have for suppliers?
For me social media is an essential way to present my thoughts, ideas and projects to the market. I value the two-way communication it offers: the opinions of my readers, customers and partners influence and inspire my own development, creativity and network. It is great to see the collaboration that has already resulted from a supposedly volatile contact via Instagram, Facebook or the blog itself!
Personally, I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, Pinterest and of course, the blog, very intensively. I publish multiple messages every day, respond to and contribute to various discussions on the web. This has become daily routine, as I do not differentiate between private and professional conversations.
What advice can you give suppliers to offer their tours and activities in a creative way?
Creative offers refer to another approach of providing regional activities for guests.
First of all, ask yourself what the strengths of your region and your activity are. What is your region’s unique selling point? How is it different from other regions and how can you provide this unique experience in a personal manner to your guest?
Once you have uncovered certain characteristics of your region, think about the best way your guests can experience them in an original, true and authentic way. This refers to creativity as well.
Curate a creative way for travelers experience your unique destination.
Locals are a major part of this approach because they reflect the region’s characteristics and origins. Let people experience regional activities on their own so they are not just neutral spectators. Give them opportunities to get actively and deeply involved in what they are doing in-destination, for example joining a cooking classes to learn about Vietnamese cuisine or carve wooden sculptures in traditional Balinese style.
What challenges do you see in the tourism industry for the upcoming years?
It’s out of question: tourism will continue to grow. What we should deal with is the depth and quality of travel experiences.
It is tempting to travel to a list of destinations all over the world but if these experiences remain superficial, in my opinion, one has missed the beauty of travel. You miss the chance to experience different cultures and be inspired, and that's a pity!
I really hope that tour and activity operators continue to focus more on delivering quality tourism that focuses on creating a network of global citizens who will contribute to an intelligent 21st century society.
Learn more about other travel trends taking over the industry in 2017 with a free copy of our Travel Trend Report!
Written by Franziska Klein
Franziska studied tourism and geography and loves to travel mainly across Europe to discover beautiful hiking spots.