Experiential travel takes off

It used to be most tourists were content to take pictures of the top 10 sights, lay on a beach and do a little shopping. But increasingly, a lot of travelers, especially those with some money to spend, are seeking out something a bit more exciting and out of the ordinary – in other words, an experience.

Experiential travel is taking off. In fact, since 2014, the amount spent on tours, activities and attractions has grown 21% to US$159 billion a year – on adventures like mountain biking, glacier hiking, scuba diving, cooking, painting, textile weaving and more. Websites like Airbnb, once just for booking apartments, have branched off into this lucrative market and offer connections to a variety of local travel experiences.

And what kinds of experiences are on the rise? According the Skift, a news and research company specializing in the travel industry, there are five big ways travelers are getting the most out of their trips:

Culinary travel: Blame it on Instagram but many of us have become all-out foodies, whether we’re at home or traveling, and are just ask likely to post a beautiful pic of dinner as a selfie. Adventurous eaters who travel are seeking out activities like wine tasting (and stomping) in Italy or discovering the best tacos in Mexico City.

Authenticity: The days of rolling around in an open air tour bus getting a canned speech of a city’s sites are over. Today’s experiential travelers want insider tours where they can discover local culture and people. An increasing number of websites and travel agencies offer off-the-beaten path tours that offer a glimpse of what locals love.

Mobile adventures: From Google Maps to universal translators, our smartphones have made travel infinitely easier and less stressful. Now, new augmented reality and virtual reality technologies enable travelers to immerse themselves in locales even before their plane lands – as well as supplement walking tours with input from local experts.

Are you planning an exciting experiential tour – or did you just get back from one? We want to hear all about it! Share your adventures in the Shop Talk blog community forum.

Did you know? Business and pleasure

More than 60% of business trips were extended to include leisure time in 2017, up 40% in one year. (Source)

40 thoughts on “Experiential travel takes off

  1. I have always said that I would try anything once. I would happily go skydiving, hot air ballooning, ziplining, and really want to do white water rafting. Life is short and is not a spectator sport – get out there and enjoy!

  2. I enjoy attending NASCAR race weekends at various race tracks. The sights, smells and action are terrific. I am not content to just watch on television.

  3. Not for me. When I vacation I want to relax. I work 7 days per week and 12 hours per day. I do not need exercise and if I want to do something special I will do it when I have the time.

  4. Just took a trip to the north west to attend Marshall vs Boise state in football. We spent a week around Boise area rented Dakar style motorcycles and road over 400 miles. Half highway and half dirt roads. Road along Boise river swimming occasionally, and through part of the sawtooth mountains. Don’t ride a tour bu, do what you like to do, life is short enjoy it!

  5. I was inspired by the food channel Iron Chef & Anthony Bordain on the travel channel. If I ever do take a trip I want to eat with the locals & enjoy my trip instead of having to plan every second like I used to.

  6. For my own curiosity – I, from time to time, go back to a town in which I had most of my best fun adventures, when I was in my twenties (the 1970’s)…I have a friend who I had met then, who still lives in that town. He tells me what has changed and why. I also “check it out” for myself. Almost all of the scenes where I had the best of times are gone now.
    So, I simply have fun at the “old places” that the ‘powers that be’ haven’t ruined;they think their “almightly dollar” is more important than the priceless historic places that were ‘happening’ back then. My last thought on this is:odd that they didn’t pull down and destroy those ‘scenes’ from the (1870’s) – A HUNDRED YEARS AGO!! “ain’t it”???

  7. Love to travel, my biggest complaint about traveling is that I don’t like to be rushed. Enjoy the moment!

  8. Went on my first river boat cruise where the immersed us in local culture. It was fun! Experiences on trip are what it’s all about!

  9. 2 me Experiential Travel can include:

    Mock War Games
    Scavanger Hunts by theme
    007 Experience.
    Costume plays?
    Theme events.
    Drive Exotic cars.
    Drive Muscle cars, 60s-80s.
    Las Vegas trips.
    Snorkel tours.
    Scuba safaris.
    Use VR & AR goggles to expand Experience.
    Adults Only experiences ( Virgin Voyages).
    Omaze.com site.
    NASCAR experience.
    Karaoke Music band?
    & more

  10. Getting a little old for skydiving or mountain climbing prefer the culinary trips and the experience they afford.

  11. Experiential Travel does not include me; going off the beaten tourist path in a city is the closest I come to that. My husband and I have always tried to go where the locals go when we travel to include entertainment, food and just seeing the locales.

  12. I love camping the outdoors and fishing going to different states and camping ain different places and seeing all the different attractions.

  13. I’ve been enjoying experiential travel since a young boy…I’ll be 70 in December. Back in the day we used AAA travel guides and maps, travel and special events brochures that were available in the motel lobby, etc. Visiting historical sites, civil war reenactments, state and county fairs, national parks, great surfing and scuba diving locations, and more. Lots to see and do here in the USA!! Now with smartphones and the internet, easy to find a new experience on the fly.

    1. I’m with you on skydiving & hot air ballooning!! I really enjoy horseback riding, hiking & even a light rock climbing excursion. What I’ve recently gotten back into, is riding a bike & as the saying goes; “it’s just like riding a bicycle!!” I love every minute I get riding, even when it seems hard.

    2. I have traveled extensively in the past. I’ve been to many Countries. Mostly, my husband and I traveled with 2 friends, and I would say, at a quick guess, we’ve been to about 15 different Countries. Mostly we traveled with Grand Circle Tours, and also one with was a Bus tour to Ireland, but through another Tour Company. We, besides this, have taken a few Cruises too.

      I prefer a different type of survey…………….those that ask the questions and require people like myself to answer them with a yes or no or to comment on a particular store or travel tour, etc.

    3. I love to go fishing out on the ocean. im the type that loves to fish and swim and water ski. camping out with mother nature. I love being up north in the woods. enjoy the pure life we don’t get in the big city

    4. No traveling plans, I just switch jobs in August. I won’t be able to take vacation for another 11 months.

    5. We are from Minnesota and just got back from a drive “out West”. We seen the Mt. Rushmore, Crazy horse, Deadwood, devil’s tower, and Sundance. Took our sweet time, and no night driving! What a blast!

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