GO DEEP WITH REGIONAL TRAVEL! Who isn’t seeking a more depth destination experience for immersion and adventure?
Sponsored by Down Under Answers
Where once travelers sought to pack as many of a country’s sites as possible into a whirlwind visit, the trends of local immersion and authentic experiences are encouraging visitors to explore new destinations in a deeper way. Instead of hopping quickly from major highlight to major highlight, some clients are slowing their travel experiences, preferring to focus on a single region where they can leisurely mingle with locals and discover a true insider’s experience. And travel agents are uniquely poised to add value to this kind of travel with destination expertise and contacts that travelers can’t easily access on their own.
Lynda Schumacher, president of Let’s Talk Australia and Let’s Talk Travel & Cruises, LLC, based in Portland, Oregon, has found that taking the time to truly get to know a destination is a priority for many travelers—and a regional trip can be a great way to accomplish those goals. Among the benefits of regional travel, she lists the “slower pace” at “the top of the list,” as it gives travelers the chance to really “be present” and feel like they are experiencing the activity or destination, not merely seeing it at a glance. “The experience becomes 3D, if not 4D. A spiritual level is added in,” Schumacher adds.
Matt Knowles, CTC/DS, owner of Sea Escape Travel in Folsom, California, agrees with Schumacher that one of regional travel’s top appeals is the ability “to slow things down, immersing travelers more deeply in the culture and the ways of life for that particular area.” He adds, “When in a local region with more time to be immersed, we can meet people and get to know them better. We can feel things that otherwise would not have been felt, and see and do things that would not have been possible. Sometimes clients are in such a rush on a ‘time-starved limited vacation’ that they can’t take the time to stop and enjoy the smaller things.”
Encouraging a Deeper Look
Regional travel offers a variety of unique opportunities that are currently of great interest to travelers, according to recent research.
In Virtuoso’s 2018 Luxe Report, “Top Travel Motivations” include exploring new destinations, seeking authentic experiences and personal enrichment. Virtuoso advisors go on to say that one of the “must-take trips for 2018” is to “be a traveler rather than a tourist,” stating that “immersive experiences not found in a guidebook or brochure, opportunities to meet locals, wandering neighborhoods and making spontaneous discoveries are the best ways to experience a destination.”
Other travel pros are seeing similar trends. “Travelers are focusing more on immersing themselves in their vacations, thus booking regional trips that allow them to truly explore the nooks and crannies of destinations” confirms MMGY Global’s executive vice president of business strategy, Craig Compagnone. “We know that there are several benefits of this type of immersive travel that have grown in interest among U.S. travelers,” he continues, pointing to statistics from MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers 2017-18, which found that “the motivation among travelers to seek exploration on their vacation has increased from 62 percent in 2014 to 78 percent in 2017,” and “the desire to experience different cultures on vacation has increased from 57 percent of all travelers in 2014 to 72 percent in 2017.”
In addition to being ideal for immersion and exploration, regional travel is a prime option for adventure-seeking clients, as many of the goals of these two travel trends overlap. In fact, The Adventure Travel Trade Association’s (ATTA) 20 Adventure Travel Trends to Watch in 2018 lists “being local as the ultimate adventure”—and one of the main benefits of taking a regional travel approach is the opportunity to feel like a local.
As Christina Beckmann, director of education and research at The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), puts it, “Adventure travel is very well linked to regional travel. From our research, we know adventure travelers are seeking mental and physical wellness, novel and unique experiences, challenge—whether physical or cultural—and ultimately, transformation. They want to have a meaningful experience, a unique experience and one that is emotionally powerful. When you focus on a specific region and take the whole experience approach instead of the ‘bucket list’ approach, the trip is more impactful.”
Casey Hanisko, president of Adventure 360, ATTA, has found a similar overlap between these two industry trends. “Travelers are interested in experiencing destinations like a temporary local, seeking out personal connections and spending more time in an area. Regional travel, which focuses on one particular area, allows adventure travelers to experience a variety of activities and stay in a smaller area, giving a slower sense of pace and opening up the opportunities for creating relationships and engaging in local activities.”
As an example of how a single region can offer a diverse mix of adventure activities and local opportunities, Hanisko offers up New Zealand’s Central North Island. “New Zealand offers many of the top activities adventure travelers participate in and will continue to seek, like hiking, and the Central North Island region is unique in that it also offers stand-up paddle boarding, visiting historical sites and getting to know the locals, which round out the top activities adventure travelers are looking to participate in.”
Opportunities to discover attractions in both planned and spontaneous ways is a big reason why self-drive vacations are the choice for “most of these immersed regional travel experiences,” according to Knowles. For example, in the Central North Island of New Zealand, he often sends his clients on a self-driven itinerary along the Pacific Coast Highway as a way to way to experience immersive regional travel. The scenic route passes through diverse attractions such as beaches, wineries, an active volcano, friendly towns and Maori historical sites.
Regardless of how clients want to get around, agents’ knowledge of a destination is key to crafting top-notch regional travel.
Knowledge of the destination can become even more critical when a destination suddenly appears on travelers’ radar. This winter, for example, New Zealand’s Rotorua, in the Central North Island region, was featured as one of “52 Places to Visit in 2018” by The New York Times.
While the piece highlighted geysers, mineral-rich hot springs, mud games and massages, as well as the Redwood Treewalk, clients wouldn’t know about the many other interesting experiences nearby without the advice of a travel advisor or tour operator specializing in the region.
Rotorua is the center of the Central North Island and the Central North Island is an amazing collective of quintessential New Zealand experiences.” Among the region’s many “immersive local experiences,” are opportunities like “cycling through the vineyards of Hawkes Bay while gaining insights from the locals. Advisors can recommend a slew of unique adventure activities in the region, including taking a “float plane over the emerald green countryside and landing on Lake Rotoiti, where after kayaking you slip into thermal pools while a barbecue is cooked nearby.”
Down Under Answers: Regional Travel at its Finest
The company offers products that include FIT components, escorted tours and adventure travel, so that each trip can be personalized to fit the specific client. “The benefit of a wholesaler like Down Under Answers is that we have our finger on the pulse, with an array of local touring companies,” says Adam. “Depending on clients’ interests, we can customize select escorted vacations to suit them. We can also do FITs, or we can do a combination of both. People can self-drive and can also use local coaches and guides on the ground.” And when it comes to New Zealand’s Central North Island in particular, the company’s vast knowledge and connections make it the perfect partner for regional travel in the area.
Whatever travelers’ interests, Down Under Answers’ destination specialists work side-by-side with agents to plan the ideal trip for clients. They will even set up a three-way call with agents and their clients to customize itineraries.
Down Under Answers also supports agents by offering regularly scheduled webinars, including one dedicated to the Central North Island region on May 11, 2018Special destination training days are also offered by the company. Down Under Answers works with agents to help them visit the destinations, with special pricing on hotels and touring through people they know in places such as the Central North Island.
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