SkiftX recently published The Rise of Transformative Travel in partnership with Singapore Tourism Board. The trend report takes a close look at how travelers are shifting toward meaning, purpose, and personal fulfillment. For more insights, explore the full report here.
Travelers today are increasingly looking for travel experiences that help set the stage for self-actualization and personal transformation and growth. This idea of “transformative travel” –– or a travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their lives, whether big or small –– is taking hold across all segments of the industry and catching the imagination of travelers of all stripes.
Skift identified travel focused on personal fulfillment as one of its 2018 Megatrends, “Personal Fulfillment Is the New Ultimate Luxury.” According to the Megatrend, the wants and needs of travelers in the luxury sector are undergoing a tangible shift. While curated experiences are still important to these travelers, they’re no longer enough. The personal fulfillment and self-improvement one gains from an experience now takes precedence for luxury travelers. And lately, the focus on personal fulfillment has also gained wider traction beyond the luxury consumer base, among travelers in general.
Skift conducted a survey in 2017 to find out if transformative travel experiences were something travelers were actually looking for, or if the term was simply marketing hype. The survey did in fact find that this was a growing trend among travelers. In the survey of 1,350 travelers, 54 percent of respondents ranked the importance of transformative travel as 7 out of 10 or higher, while 52 percent said they place increasing value on this type of travel. As Beth McGroarty, director of research and public relations at Global Wellness Institute put it: “People are desperate to alter their minds.”
A follow-up survey conducted in 2018 by Skift in partnership with Singapore Tourism Board took a deeper look at how travelers consider these experiences. The survey found that 32 percent of consumers have had an experience while traveling that has transformed them in a positive way, while another 24 percent of consumers have not had such an experience, but would like to. Knowing that one out of four individuals desire these type of experiences means that brands should focus on reaching to these potential customers by creating experiences to help drive such moments.
There are a number of reasons why a travel experience transforms someone. In the survey, travelers who have had such an experience were most likely to say that gaining a new perspective and learning something new took the experience to the next level, at 52 percent and 44 percent, respectively. Reflective moments played a large role as well, with 30 percent of travelers saying these led to a personal shift. Millennials were twice as likely as travelers overall to say discovering their passion contributed to a transformative travel experience –– which makes sense, given their propensity to prioritize passion and authenticity in their overall lives –– while female travelers skewed high for having a reflective moment.
There were a number of factors that led to that transformational moment. Nearly 40 percent of overall respondents said that the people on the trip influenced the experience, while more than one-third said that a spontaneous, unexpected adventure, and food, arts, culture, or entertainment contributed in this way. Food, arts, culture, and entertainment ranked much higher for millennials, with nearly half of 18- to 34-year-olds saying one of these elements led to a transformative experience. The draw of food, arts, culture, and entertainment among millennials aligns with the fact that these travelers were among the first to be skeptical of packaged travel and generic destinations and shift toward experiential travel.
At the same time, women were slightly more likely than men to say that a spiritual or wellness activity influenced the moment. Female consumers dominate the global wellness industry, so their skew toward these types of activities shouldn’t be particularly surprising –– especially as global wellness tourism continues to show strong growth.
This shift toward self-actualization and personal transformation is a reflection of a broader movement within the global economy, and certain sectors are particularly well-positioned to take advantage of the global trend toward self-actualization. The industry is in an opportune place to engage with this new reality, especially considering that travel is already a prime source of life-altering experiences.
Download the Skift Trend Report, The Rise of Transformative Travel, to learn more about how you can engage the travelers who are seeking out deeper experiences, through case studies from some of the world’s most progressive brands.