Earlier this year, Travel Manitoba made a strategic decision to invest in experiential tourism product development. This development will help build the visitor experience through the sharing of the Manitoba story, as we explored at this year’s tourism conference. The concept of storytelling lends itself to this new trend in tourism that moves us away from the “look see” tourism of yesteryear.
Experiential tourism focuses on engaging the visitor in a series on memorable travel activities revealed over time that are inherently personal, engage the senses, and make connections on a physical, emotional, spiritual, social or intellectual level
For operators it means that they can build on the tourism products they currently offer, by adding layers with local people, places and the provinces many cultures. Using a long-term approach to sustainable tourism, experiences are added slowly and regularly, building capacity within communities.
Why experiential tourism now?
Through research, we can see that there is a global shift towards experiential learning, where people create meaning through the feelings invoked by the experience itself. Canada’s Minister’s Roundtable on Parks Canada has provided insights into definitions of experiential tourism.
Experiential tourism is...
- tied to the evolution of “mass customization”. Companies are moving beyond services, to experiences. For the tourist, the experience includes the people one meets, they places visited, accommodations used, activities they participated in and the associated memories that were created
- encouraging visitors to actively participate in the experience, and promotes activities that draw people into cultures, communities and the outdoors
- the opposite of mass tourism that traditionally focused on package tours and vacations with low levels of personal involvement
- showing, rather than describing
- evoking a quality experience where memorable visitor experiences are a shared outcome between the visitor and the provider
- a significant shift for the tourism industry, from active holidays to holidays as an experience. With a desired outcome to achieve a complete participatory experience that provides new knowledge and authentic experiences.
Also pointed out by the roundtable was that to remain relevant in this new reality, it is essential to focus on the visitor experience. To further entwine these elements the visitor experience was a key focus at this year’s Manitoba tourism conference as well.
Partnership and Experiential Tourism
Dr. Nancy Arsenault has coined the phrase “Do what you do best, partner for the rest!” There needs to be a collective shift from me to we by identifying traditional and non-traditional partners, and working together to engage and retain the guest as well as sharing the wealth.
The people and activities in Manitoba’s communities are part of our province’s hidden gems, even if they don’t necessarily see themselves as part of the tourism industry. Experiential tourism brings the genuine and authentic individuals that can tell Manitoba’s story to the visitor’s stage, creating a memorable and sincere travel experience. Businesses need to take a look at what makes them, their product and their community unique, tap into those elements or individuals and build a theme-based itinerary that tells that story.
What about traditional market segments?
Segments such as adventure, culture, Aboriginal or nature travel can and will certainly be in the mix. Experiential products can provide additional appeal to existing markets and new markets alike.
Travel Manitoba is offering a specialized multi-day product development training program called The Cutting Edge. This program will be delivered October 17 – 21 at the Elkhorn Resort in Riding Mountain National Park, and again from January 16-20 in Winnipeg. Modelled after a similar program that was pioneered in Atlantic Canada through the Gros Morne Institute for Sustainable Tourism (GMIST), The Cutting Edge is a collaborative effort with GMIST and their instructors from The Tourism Cafe and Earth Rhythms. This program is also being made possible through support from Parks Canada. The program is open to tourism suppliers and people working to enable tourism development in Manitoba. For complete details and registration forms, please visit the TI Web here or contact Karla Pratt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What happens after the training program?
Ongoing coaching on experience development will also be a feature of The Cutting Edge program. The Experience Development Team of Laurenda Madill, Mark Clarke and Karla Pratt will be available for ongoing support in seeing experiences come to fruition. Participants in the program who carry on to create new experiences will also be eligible for select marketing support through Travel Manitoba at no additional cost for a defined period of time.