Traveling for self transformation.
By Scott Karambis
Many travel brands—from destinations to tours to properties–still market their offerings as a relaxing break. Not long ago that’s all we asked from our holidays. A chance to relax and refresh, maybe bond with family and friends, before we returned to work. But those days have passed. Holiday travel has increasingly become an opportunity—if not the opportunity–to expand our skills, change our perspectives and enrich our lives. “Escape” increasingly sounds like retreat—becoming less ourselves. And we want more.
This trend was predicted 20 years ago by Pine and Gilmore in the Harvard Business Review. In an article prophetically entitled, “Welcome to the Experience Economy.” Pine and Gilmore claimed that the next stage growth would be captured by service businesses that offered ways to make us better in some way: smarter, faster, stronger, wiser and yes, even more creative or productive.
The ensuing years have proved out their forecast, from the explosion of fitness trainers and life coaches to the increasing number of brands (William Sonoma, Apple, Nike, among so many others) offering classes as a core component of their brand experience, it’s clear self-transformation is good business.
Within the travel industry, the trend has increasingly influenced how travelers spend their travel dollars. The first experiments were additions of educational experiences as a luxury hotel amenity—the chance to take painting or wine tasting lessons with an expert right in the hotel. Then adventure travel entered the market, combining exotic locations with the development of equally exotic skills.
Now entire vacations are being planned around the development of new skills, enriching knowledge or just a finding a new perspective. Viking Cruises have thrived by offering cultural education as a central component of their river cruises. Praying and loving might not be part of everyone’s itinerary, but eating certainly is. food tours, combining cooking classes with explorations of local cuisines are expected to grow 20% next year. And take the Four Seasons Tented Camp in Golden Triangle Thailand for example. A unique chance to escape, ride elephants, eat l local cuisine and sleep high above the jungle in amazing luxury tents.
The dream of travel lives on but the stakes are raised. It’s no longer just about being somewhere new, but becoming someone new. We want to return from our trips with fresh skills, stories and perspectives, renewed, reborn.