The Siffleur River bridge
We can all agree about the importance of experiences in the visitor economy. Travellers want to connect with the people and places they visit.
Update – April 2021: We’ve been working for a while now on defining what makes an adventure ours. We’ve finally put those thoughts in writing. Find out more about The Pursuit Adventures Experience here.
As we continue to add value and move away from traditional tourism products, there are two different ways to craft experiences we often come across, each of these approaches appealing to different types of operators and guests.
The most common approach to experience development, made popular by Pine and Gilmore’s The Experience Economy, is to add an experiential layer to existing tourism products. Implementing this method is familiar, making it appealing for large established operators and destinations with experience delivering traditional tourism products.
Another approach is to first consider the purpose behind the experience. Why would guests be interested? Why would the experience providers be excited to offer it? This method requires more work upfront but focusing on the shared values between guests and operators allows us to go deeper in creating experiences that connect our guests to the people and places they visit.
The views of Wilson Glacier driving west on highway 11, past Abraham Lake near the Banff National Park boundary.
Two Ways to Craft Experiences
On the surface, the two approaches appear quite similar but asking the questions in a different order leads to a change of paradigm rather than sliding the box to include new experiential elements.
1. The retail or layer-on Approach
This is the conventional method most will be familiar with. It builds on existing product development methods, making it fairly straightforward to implement.
- What are the key trends we want to capitalize on?
- What is the target market we want to reach?
Then take a look at:
- Which products can we adapt to cater to this tend or market?
- What new products can we create to cater to this trend or market?
- How can we incorporate experience elements (stories, engaging the senses, take-aways, etc)?
- How can we add value to increase the mark-up on costs?
2. Purpose First Experiences
This method requires a different approach, looking first at why we should offer a new experience before considering what the experience might be.
- Why do we want to share this experience? Does it align with our purpose as a company?
- Why would our ideal guest be interested in this adventure?
Then take a look at:
- How can we deliver this experience? Location, time of day and year, logistics, etc all play an important role in the guest experience.
- How can we help create memories? Sense of place, engagement, enjoyment zone, guiding style and more will shape the way guests remember their experience.
- What is the adventure offered that matches the purpose?
- What is a fair price for this adventure considering comparables, value to guests, regional conditions and costs?
- What trends or new markets could we leverage with this experience?
Country road in east Central Alberta
Highway 11 near Abraham Lake
The Cline River Canyon
Shifting the Paradigm
The retail method does offer better value for visitors than traditional products and works great for infrastructure or activity-based operators. It allows experience providers to capitalize on trends without changing the core of their operations. However, it is a mass tourism approach with the usual pitfalls still present. Experiences built this way often focus on novelty and exclusivity to drive sales, requiring constant investments as trends come and go.
Shifting the paradigm to one that starts with purpose takes a lot more effort upfront but the result is a process that simplifies developing new experiences in the long run. This method skips the process of transforming traditional products into experiences, building experiences from scratch instead. This is a more intuitive approach for operators without a background in conventional product development.
Ask why your ideal guest would be interested in the experience rather than what experience can we stage for them.
These are the elements we bring together to create the adventure. This is our framework to determine which options will best work together.
The difference between the retail and purpose based approaches to experiences is one of mindset: a focus on the short versus the long term.
Authenticity, desirability, feasibility and viability need to be addressed at every step of the experience development process.
All of these activities have the power to transform participants. The difference is on what they aim to change.
The need to explain the difference between a travel package, an itinerary, a destination experience and a product experience is one that we come across often when working with others on new opportunities.
Transparency is about more than just PR. It’s about raising the bar for all of us to create better guest experiences and grow our local visitor economy.