Technology is changing the way people travel. We research destinations online, book flights and hotels online, rent cars online, and search for directions on our smartphones while standing on busy city streets or rattling around in taxis. So it's interesting that one of the dominant trends in travel today has nothing to do with tech.
Modern travelers are seeking out unplugged, authentic, and human experiences that offer a rich perspective into the local way of life. They're willing to travel off the beaten path for up-close-and-personal experiences that are rooted in a specific location. The thirst for localized travel experiences is driven by a number of factors. Here's what's informing the localization trend.
Travelers are emphasizing cultural immersion.
This is true for all travelers, but especially millennials. The desire to experience a new culture is now one of the largest motivations to travel. Travelers want to eat local cuisine, drink at local watering holes, take local transportation, explore local hotspots instead of over-hyped attractions, shop for local handicrafts, interact with local people, and fully immerse themselves in an alternate way of life. Many travelers forego hotels entirely for home stays with local families.
Travelers want to be present.
Over the past five years there's been a lot of handwringing about the loss of vacation time. Americans have been taking less vacation and working more even when they're on vacation. But travelers' thirst for a sense of place may be changing that. Increasingly, travelers want to unplug during their vacations. They don't want to work during their travels. They want to be present with the locality where they are. They want to have the time, energy, and presence of mind to make an emotional connection with authentic aspects of their destination.
Travelers value authenticity.
Gone are the days when travelers were content to shop for tacky souvenirs and eat at the nearest international McDonald's. Tourist traps and hyper commercialized spaces just don't cut it. Instead, travelers crave authenticity. And they're willing to travel beyond traditional destinations to find it. This might mean avoiding tourist spots in popular cities such as Berlin and London and seeking out more unique experiences--such as enjoying a meal in a local's home--instead. Or it might mean avoiding popular cities entirely and traveling to lesser-known destinations such as Riga, Latvia or El Bolsón, Argentina. The point is that travelers aren't content to do what every traveler before them has done. They want an experience that is unique and authentic to the place where they're traveling.
Travelers want to connect with human beings.
This might seem counterintuitive. More travelers than ever before are foregoing travel agents in exchange for mobile booking sites. And smartphones have made it easy to travel without interacting with other people. In spite of these developments, travelers still thirst for human connection. They want to interact with locals who reside in the area in which they're traveling and can add to the authentic feel of a trip. In fact, interactions with locals are a critical element of the cultural immersion modern travelers are seeking. Travelers also expect human service during their travels. They don't want to interact with an app if they need help. They want to connect with people. This helps explain the rise of city-based concierge services such as City CoPilot in New York City or One Concierge in LA. These companies provide a human connection and personal service informed by in-depth knowledge of the location in question. Sure, mobile tech is changing the way people travel. But so are human beings. The quest for genuine connections with people and place is at the forefront of the localization trend in travel.