How Experiential Travel Affects Vacation Rentals

Sari EichenblattLeave a Comment

These days, people aren’t just traveling for the sake of traveling. They’re traveling to have authentic, local experiences when they reach their destinations – a phenomenon known as experiential travel.

But what is “experiential travel”?

A 2014 report by Skift and Peak made the bold claim that ‘experiential travel’ was going to create a wave of change across the global tourism industry.

As defined by Skift, experiential travel is “typically meant to convey the idea of more immersive, local, authentic, adventurous and/or active travel.” As it turns out, their 2014 prediction was right on the money: this brand of travel is taking the hospitality industry by storm.

Earlier in 2014, Airbnb began testing out a new “Experiences” feature that advertises unique activities to guests who have a desire to do more with their vacations. Initially, these experiences were as simple as home cooked meals provided by the host, but they have now evolved into something much greater:

You can learn to fly a plane over Los Angeles, take a tattooing class in Bangkok, or try your hand at calligraphy in Tokyo.

Airbnb Experiential Travel

What at first seemed like an unconventional idea has officially taken hold as the new standard in travel – especially in the vacation rental world. Websites like Peek and Vayable connect travelers with experiences near and far, feeding their desire to live like a local and contributing to the growth of the experiential travel economy.

The Travel Industry As We Know It Is (Still) Changing

Vacations have always been synonymous with rest and relaxation – but as the travel industry moves toward experiences, they’re becoming more focused on adventure, education, and personal growth.

Experiences offer to help turn guests into locals, novices into pros, and make the unknown familiar.

But what do you need to know about these experiences as homeowners? Why are they so popular – and what exactly does this growing focus on experiences mean for you and your vacation rental business?

Let’s dive into these new trends impacting the vacation rental industry, and what you can do to ride the wave.

Experiences Turn Guests Into Locals

There are many reasons why people are beginning to choose to stay in vacation rentals over hotels:

  • More space
  • More privacy
  • Longer stays
  • More of a ‘locals only’ experience

A report published by Airbnb in 2016 cited that, “Over 80% of millennials surveyed in each country say they are always looking for a unique travel experience and adventure when they travel, and say that the best way to learn about a place is to live like the locals do.”

When travelers book rentals, they want more than just a roof over their heads. Guests are looking for a place to cook their meals, make their memories, and find a home away from home.

That’s why this flourishing relationship between vacation rentals and experiential travel makes so much sense. Rental properties provide guests with a place to (momentarily) call their own, while local experiences give visitors a taste and feel for what it would be like to actually live there.

Homeowners can capitalize on these blooming relationships by partnering with local tour guides, or even just keeping a list of fun, local experiences that are nearby.

Experiences Are the New Souvenirs

Several years ago, you could find travelers spending more money on souvenir t-shirts and refrigerator magnets than classes on tattooing. But things have changed when it comes to how people spend their money while they’re exploring the world.

A study done by Harris Group revealed that 72% of millennials prefer to spend money on experiences rather than on material items. This finding is more than just a passing trend with today’s youth – it rings true for everyone.

After conducting four studies over multiple decades, Thomas Gilovich from Cornell University found that happiness comes from experiences, not material objects. The anticipation and excitement that comes with purchasing an experience – such as a vacation and the local adventures that come with it – bring more short- and long-term happiness than physical goods do.

As a vacation rental owner, it’s time to start thinking about the experiences that guests want to have when they stay in your community and figure out how to connect them with those special activities. How can you enhance their vacation by providing them with the tools they need to have one-of-a-kind experiences in your rental and the town that surrounds it?

People Want A Unique and Personalized Vacation

The same Airbnb report found that “75% or more of millennials surveyed in each country say they prefer to create their own itinerary​, rather than leaving it up to a packaged tour.”

The takeaway here is that today’s travelers want unique, personalized, and one-of-a-kind travel experiences that are hard to find, and even harder to replicate.

These desires rival some of the biggest selling points of hotels, where your accommodation, location, and amenities are identical to that of the guests staying in the room next door.

On the other hand, this drift in the direction of personalization highlights why vacation rentals have become so popular. Each property is unique and gives travelers the freedom to create their own individual experiences.

Vacation rentals seem to be the antidote to the tired, antiquated days of cookie-cutter vacations, and an answer to the modern traveler’s desires. They’re owned, managed, and decorated by individuals, which gives them each a special charm and personality. It’s unlikely that two vacation rentals will ever be exactly alike. A unique place to call home while on vacation contributes greatly to the exact type of guest experience that makes travelers feel like locals.

Homeowners can use this to their advantage in many ways, particularly when creating your property listing. Highlight the unique aspects of your home with high-quality photos and use your description to describe why staying at your vacation rental will make them feel like a local.

Experiential Travel Is Not Really New

While the buzzword “experiential travel” has only recently become popular in the public eye, experience-driven vacations have been around since the dawn of the hospitality industry. You may remember:

  • Concierge connecting guests with local activities
  • Resorts offering games and local entertainment
  • Hotels partnering with nearby offsite tour providers and attractions

The difference between then and now is that people are drawn to experiential travel so that they can feel like a local, not just a visitor.

More and more, we’re seeing that travelers don’t want a run-of-the-mill vacation or impersonal experience. They want something special, something exclusive, and ultimately, something that aligns with their interests and passions.

The good news is that vacation rental owners can deliver these kinds of experiences by sharing the local charm of their communities:

For example, Peek offers haunted pub crawls around Savannah and a glassblowing class in Boston. Vayable hosts a photography workshop in Salt Lake City, and a private sail around the bay in San Francisco.

Get involved and capitalize on this trend by turning guests’ stays into the ultimate local experience. Doing so does not mean you have to become an expert in sushi-making or sky diving or horseback riding, it just means partnering with the right type of local guides or putting in the right amount of effort so that your guests can truly feel like locals. Provide them with lists of your favorite locals spots in a welcome book, or present them with a basket of local favors upon their arrival. The more you can do to make them feel like locals, the better their experience will be.

Evolve helps homeowners all over North America increase their income, book their calendar, and save their time. By creating a professional property listing, managing traveler inquiries 7-days a week, and connecting homeowners with vetted and verified service providers, we are able to help homeowners achieve the rental success they’ve always wanted. Find out more about us by clicking here.