In today’s competitive tourism industry, it’s the tourism experience that has come to be at the heart of every destination’s brand. A tourism experience differs from a tourism product because it goes beyond simply visiting a place or trying an activity; it’s about providing a unique experience capable of evoking emotions that will inspire a personal connection to a destination.
But what is ‘experiential travel’, really? According to the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), experiential travel “ represents a new layer of opportunity beyond delivering traditional tourism products based on goods and services”. It “engages visitors in a series of memorable travel activities, that are inherently personal. It involves all senses, and makes connections on a physical, emotional, spiritual, social or intellectual level.”
So the question becomes, how are we doing this in Ontario’s Highlands and how can we be doing it better? Just seeing the sights is no longer enough. Experiential travellers want to become integrated into authentic local culture and venture beyond the beaten tourist paths. The CTC has built their brand marketing strategy around the concept of experiential travel because research found that travellers want more out of life and their time away, and now the CTC is encouraging tourism businesses across Canada to do the same with the release of ‘Experiences: A toolkit for partners of the CTC’.
Here in Ontario’s Highlands, the Drum Nation Festival is a good example of an event that draws visitors into the nucleus of a community, and connects travellers to the destination on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. As their tag line says “Drum Nation Festival is much more than a multi-cultural festival. It’s a festival about creative expression and family interaction.”
Another great example of a unique experience that can be had here in Ontario’s Highlands is the Ottawa Valley’s Rural Ramble. The free self-guided driving tour offers visitors the chance to delve deep into the world of rural living at its best. City dwellers flock to the region every year to become immersed in local culture through attending various events and sites highlighted by the Rural Ramble website.
If you want to learn more about the popular topic of experiential travel, be sure to attend our second annual AGM & Tourism Conference in Bancroft, Ontario on Monday, October 29 to hear a keynote-lead workshop on the topic. Or, have a look through Experiences: A toolkit for partners of the CTC’ to find out how you can evolve your tourism product into the all-embracing tourism experience that today’s traveller seeks.
Yours in tourism,
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization