The tourism industry—one of the world’s fastest growing industries, slated to double by 2031, is remarkably poorly understood. Unlike other market industries, which have segmented their service offerings, carved out niches and competitive positions, tourism has been poorly defined. The tourism industry is lumped together whether we’re referring to all inclusive travel in the Caribbean, a cruise in the Mediterranean or a trek in the Gobi desert.
The challenge, however is that there is a vast space that separates each of these experiences, not to mention the customer segments that best appeals to each of these experiences. Yet each is treated as one industry in marketing and channel executions. Interestingly, most demographic segmentation—age, income and education and the like, relied upon for decades across all marketing provide us very few clues as to the kind of traveller that might pursue one of those travel experiences over the other.
And most importantly, demographics provide us no information on WHY a traveller might pursue one travel experience over another. It turns out, the ‘Why’ of travel is most important. The pursuit of learning, bragging rights, cultural immersion, or total relaxation are very different notions and appeal to different kinds of travellers. Figuring out how your destination or experience answers the why of travel will help define your best customer and from there your marketing strategy to compel and inspire a traveller or tourist to choose your destination or experience. Imagine trying to reach a free spirit in pursuit of enlightenment on a generic coach tour and you’ll get the picture.
Travellers and tourists are not the same. Tourists want nothing in their experience left to chance whose motivation for travel is getting away from routine, while travellers seek authenticity and discovery all on their own and often use travel not so much as a getaway but as an enlightening jolt in their lives. Neither types of travellers are better or worse, but those destinations and experiences that will thrive in the future will have to understand both, and which kind of tourism offers the greatest opportunity and then eventually, how to position and market their destination to reflect this opportunity.