Experiential travelers — also known as geotravelers, apparently — are those with a desire to escape outdoors without the pressure of an unexpected interruption due to a connected device.
So says a report by travel and outdoor marketing specialists MERCURYcsc in a new quarterly called the Pulse, which queries its Think T+O Forum, a panel of "more than 1,000 experience seekers."
The survey asked:
Does technology and the ability to stay connected almost everywhere inhibit or enhance their leisure time? Is it a blessing or a curse, and have we come to peace with its role in our outdoor adventures and vacations? And, what does vacation mean in today’s connected world?
The experiential/geotravelers in question take, on average, five leisure trips per year and are well-educated risk takers who avoid homogenized experiences at all costs.
Those surveyed in the report are also much more likely to take all of their vacation days: while 40% of Americans had unused vacation days last year, 72% of the customers of travel and adventure brands managed to take all of their days. This also led to the entertaining statistic of how boss-averse these travelers are during escapes to the outdoors:
The folks that this survey are concerned with are far less likely to allow those vacation days to go expired, and are extremely committed to using these vacation days for outdoor adventures. The report points to this as the primary reason for travel marketers to target this cohort.
In addition, those surveyed in this panel were far more likely to fully disconnect to enjoy the outdoor experience, with 75% planning to step away from those commitments to enjoy vacation time. Regardless of intent, these outdoor adventure seekers still end up seeking out connectivity in order to stay afloat at work and avoid that dreaded mountain of catch-up upon return.
There's also a clear difference in responses from the panel when considering connectivity in the outdoors versus while traveling.
Travel marketers looking to appeal to the needs of this group should consider this mixed message on connectivity and determine an approach that both excites the guest to get away while comforting them with the safety fall-back of connectivity if needed.
The conclusion is that those targeting this demographic must make their own strategies to appeal to this outdoor demographic's love/hate relationship with technology and connectivity while also promoting what makes a destination, tour or adventure so memorable for a vacation getaway. The report recommends:
Travel and Outdoor brands should provide this audience with the emotional and tangible breaks they need to succeed— helping them stay connected while providing constraints to that connectivity, and letting them feel safe turning off their devices knowing they can connect when truly needed. These consumers are willing to turn to outside entities to help them balance immersive experiences with connectivity.
One approach is to choose one side for your brand to champion— acting as either the proverbial angel or devil upon the consumer’s shoulder as they struggle with decisions related to connectivity.
A travel brand might adopt the position that "You’re too connected. Here’s how we’re going to help you decide to unplug," while an outdoor brand might say "Screw unplugging. Be 100% connected and leave your anxiety at home." Success could lie at either of the strong points of view, but is unlikely to come from a soft position in the middle.
The full report is available for download (email required) here.
NB: Image from Trey Ratcliff in the above report.