Throughout the history of tourism, there have been many phrases travel companies have co-opted to sell to consumers and explain the need for what the brands provide. Experience marketing is nothing unique, but probably none have been as effective as “experience travel.”

These two words are the answer to travelers demands for fewer generic products and more immersive encounters. And, they’re what major players, and those who wish to take over the marketplace, are using to win the race for travel industry domination.

Right now and into the foreseeable future, the contest is being played out digitally, with global hotel chain Marriott in a lead position.

What is Experience Marketing for Travel?

Travel purchasers have shown us over the past few years that they’re tired of predictable and boring big-box tours and hotel experiences. Instead, they crave authentic and engaging activities and adventures, and they’re seeking out the companies that offer them. Even business travelers are looking for travel experiences on corporate trips, coining the phrase “bliesure” to describe the blend between traveling for business and traveling for pleasure.

Consumers want to feel a part of the various cultures they visit, or at least learn more deeply about them. Those who demand experience travel trips and vacations hope to walk away from a week, or even a day, in a destination with a new-found understanding of the people and the way of life there.

How are these travelers’ wants satisfied by experience marketing?

By travel brands that sell a trip, tour or vacation as an experience over a product. Top travel companies today, including Marriott, Expedia, and even Google and Facebook (yes, these digital giants are pushing hard to win the experience travel game) are meeting demand by evolving into online travel agencies (OTAs) focused on experiential travel.

Marriott’s Move into the Experience Marketplace

Marriott isn’t the first hotel group to invest in the experience marketplace along with the digital economy that will support it. But, it’s one of the biggest entrants. The international chain recently bought PlacePass, a startup in the activities and tours space.

PlacePass launched last year, declaring itself “in the business of fun.” Its co-founders have travel and hospitality backgrounds, which provide a solid foundation for creating experiences that will attract the new consumer. Marriott is already using PlacePass’ metasearch to offer customers “100,000 plus authentic local experiences in 800 destinations worldwide.” PlacePass powers excursion and experience suggestions for Marriott’s mobile app and websites.

Stephanie Linnartz, Marriott CCO, said in a press conference that “This experience market is exploding…We are using it to bring more to our consumers.” She also mentioned that the experience marketplace is a “hundreds-of-millions if not a billion dollar industry.” Both are good reasons for travel brands to jump into the experience travel waters now.

Selling Experiences Digitally

A shift in consumerism that pays more attention to living a designed life is a force driving the experience travel marketplace. But, technology that allows us to see people in our social networks trekking all over globe doing one amazing thing after another also fuels the fires for more personal experiences.

It seems as if social feeds are filled with photos of friends and family engaging in activities like creating local cuisine with villagers in Laos or something equally incredible. As consumers are immersed in the “Instagram effect,” as its been called, they no longer feel complete with their vacation if its canned or lacking any personalization.

Digital is the perfect place to sell experience marketing for travel, because it allows us to meet consumers where they’re looking for adventures and to be their guide getting them to where they want to be. Through targeted business decisions and strategies, like those Marriott is using to become the premier provider for all things related to experience travel, a travel brand can build a bigger customer base by creating more value.

Galileo Tech Media offers Managed Travel SEO Solutions to brands big and small. To find out you can create a strategy that includes the ability to offer experience travel to your customers, contact Galileo Tech Media.