Travelers today are increasingly seeking out activities rooted in a destination’s unique culture when they go on vacation. This trend is known as authentic travel, and it is a phrase that has been buzzing around the vacation industry more and more lately. Although the name might be relatively new, the fundamentals of authentic travel have long been found in vacation ownership.
“I actually think timeshare has been really good for authentic travel,” says Howard Nusbaum, president and CEO of the American Resort Development Association (ARDA).
“At a resort, everyone is on vacation and there is a shared purpose, to learn about the area. I spoke with a lavender farmer on Maui who said that timeshare owners are the best customers because they feel a connection to the destination. They return year after year to cook in their rooms with local ingredients.”
One key to optimizing experiences for owners is understanding why travelers find authentic activities so engaging. Dr. Amit Kumar may have the answer. Kumar coauthored a 2015 study, We’ll Always Have Paris, in which he detailed why people derive greater and longer-lasting joy from experiential purchases, like travel, than from material purchases, like clothing. It turns out that experiences are more likely to contribute to our sense of self, to help create relationships and to give us stories we keep telling once that experience has ended. The more successful an experience in any of those three fields can be, the more happiness we derive from it.
“Trying new things with other people while you travel helps shape your identity, prompts social interaction and makes for a good story to tell and retell after,” Kumar says. “We also found that experiences are more rewarding than possessions when it comes to anticipation. Retailers can take advantage of this anticipatory period by getting people to plan their trips well in advance.”
Resorts looking for a starting point can contact their chamber of commerce or visitors bureau to discover what the defining cultural touchstones in the area are. Examples may range from hiking on protected land to taking a class in a local craft. “Find out what allows your guests to experience something outside the norm with the people they love,” Nusbaum says. “Those are the vacation memories that live on long after the experience.”
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