World Tourism Conference 2010 - Changing travel plans
People are looking for meaning in their lives, says Daniel Levine, the executive director of the Avant-Guide Institute in New York.
“They’re looking at experiences that can’t be taken away whether their bank balances go up or down.”
Speaking at the World Tourism Conference 2010 (WTC 2010) recently at the Magellan Sutera, Sutera Harbour in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Levine believes that tourists are no longer content with passive watching; they now want to “do” things.
In the three-day Tourism Success Stories and Rising Stars conference jointly organised by the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Sabah Tourism Board, over 490 participants from 44 countries converged to uncover the secrets of leading destinations and organisations.
Levine, one of the 12 speakers, is the head of an international team of “trend hunters” who scour the globe for the latest products, ideas and experiences. He helps travel brands and destinations become more relevant, innovative and profitable.
Levine has authored over 20 best-selling books and is a frequent guest on international television and radio shows, having even been hailed a “genius” by Elle magazine and “the ultimate guru of cool” by CNN.
While some countries may have long-standing attractions of historical and cultural value, places that are less well endowed are slowly creating their own unique “brand” of experiences to draw in the crowd.
Among the examples given by Levine is the Hotel Kakslauttanen in Lapland, Finland which boasts one-of-a-kind igloo hotel rooms. You stay in a futuristic glass igloo in the middle of winter. And while you lie back in bed, you can see the northern lights in full view — what’s not to love about this hotel?
“This is the kind of experience people are looking for right now. They don’t just want luxury; they want a meaningful experience. In this case, it’s all about learning something,” says Levine. “It’s all about the ‘cool’ factor these days; tourists want to tell their friends about their unforgettable experience. Plus, it’s great content for Facebook and personal blogs.’’
Another interesting example is the sensorial blindfolded walking tours in Portugal led by blind tour guides.
“Instead of saying, ‘Hey look at that’, they are saying: Smell what’s coming from that bread shop; hear the sounds that are around that corner; feel the cloth that’s being sold by this store,” says Levine.
This is a powerful concept. It sheds new light on the senses that one is so accustomed to, drawing a link between emotions and memories to create a unique experience.
Levine points out that the product itself hasn’t changed (bakeries give off an almost universal aroma) — it’s the way products are being marketed that has changed. The tourism industry cannot be stagnant; it has to constantly find new ways to redefine its worth.
Even our neighbour Singapore has decided to build a 12m high jumbo twister slide in Changi Airport. For every $22 (RM52.16) spent in the airport, you get tokens for two rides on the super slide. No reason really to have a slide in the airport but people love the idea — the possibility of having something fun to experience if ever your flight is delayed.
While it may not be the main pull in attracting tourists, it is an added value nonetheless.
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