The magic of the ice bubbles on Abraham Lake.
Once we’ve established how to make our new experience authentic by looking at the alignment of the organization’s purpose, the guide’s motivations, the sense of place and sustainable practices it’s time to take a look at what makes this an experience. This is done by taking the time develop a vision for the tour that is authentic and aligned with the shared interests and motivations of the ideal guests.
Keep in mind that experiences are highly personal and that what one guest may see as truly experiential, another may not connect with at all. That’s why we find that it works best to start by looking at who the ideal guest is, the one we’re building the experience for.
Smoky skies and wildflowers on the Kootenay Plains, near Two O’Clock Creek Campground in David Thompson Country.
The Ideal Guest
The ideal guest, the one we are building the experience for, might be part of an existing market or a new segment we are looking to enter. The objective at this point is to get a clear picture of who they are, including their values, interests and motivations for heading out on an adventure.
Destination Canada and Travel Alberta have a great resource through the Explorer Quotient to help you learn more about what your ideal guests look for when they travel. You can find out more about the Explorer Quotient on the Travel Alberta Industry Hub. Travel Alberta also has more detailed profiles specific to our province that you can obtain from your Experience Development Manager.
When we think about our guests at Pursuit Adventures we know that they love to explore and immerse themselves in the places they visit. They are curious and love doing things that are new and different, a little challenging and a whole lot of fun. They’re always up for an adventure.
Our guests are what Destination Canada and Travel Alberta refer to as Cultural Explorers traveller type. Cultural Explorers make up 12% of the global travel market, are always planning for their next trip and love to travel with friends and family.
Adventures off the beaten path where they get to take their time getting a sense of place is why they join our tours. Like us, they believe that the journey is the destination and best enjoyed with like-minded people.
Our guests agree that breathtaking landscapes and amazing people are worth the effort to get there. The raw beauty of nature allows them to escape from the day to day and enjoy the moment.
Our secondary traveller type are Authentic Experiencers who are looking to discover an area where venturing on their own is challenging. Free Spirits who are attracted to iconic locations like the ice bubbles of Abraham Lake and the appeal of amazing local food typically join friends on a tour rather than booking on their own.
Building Your Ideal Guest Profile
Using the information about the Explorer Quotient as our starting point we can now look more specifically at the values and interests we share with our ideal guests and the reasons why they travel. Having already defined our purpose and destination’s sense of place makes this easier.
Once you’ve established those connections it’s time to start thinking about other aspects of your target market. Think about their context (do they already participate in the activities you offer and what brings them to your destination) and some of the demographic information you have about them (how old are they, do they travel as families, where do they live, etc).
This information will be useful later on when you start planning the details of the adventure, looking at how your guests will get to your destination and how much time they may have to spend with you.
A quiet snowshoe along Thompson Creek.
Enjoying the frest snow in Waskasoo Park.
A family snowshoe snow fight in Barrett Park.
It’s time to start combining the elements we identified that would make our product authentic with our ideal guest’s interests to create an authentic experience.
There are two main approaches we’ve found that work great for this. First, take a look at gaps in your existing line up or within your destination. What are your current guests asking for? Which existing tour could be modified to share a different story or offered in a different location? Second, take a look at trends and what is done elsewhere for inspiration. A great idea in another location can often be adapted for your context. Keep in mind that trying to copy how the experience is delivered will rarely work. Instead, think about why this experience appeals to you and the feelings it creates in the guests.
A word of caution when looking at trends. It’s easy to get carried away trying to stay at the forefront of what’s new and shiny but that doesn’t usually lead to great results if you forget to ask why you should be offering it here or why your guests would be interested.
The Engagement Level
We now have a good understanding of what is needed for the new tour to be authentic, why it will appeal to our ideal guest and the general vision for the experience. Before we jump it to start building this new adventure there’s one more thing we need to take into consideration, the engagement level.
What is the best way for us to meet the need of our guests? Are they best served with gear rentals so that they can enjoy the experience on a self guided tour, a short orientation tour with a guide so that they can gain the confidence to explore on their own or with a fully immersive tour?
It’s easy to jump to the fully immersive tour as the best option since it typically will have the highest price point. Matching the experience with the guest expectations will result in a better guest experience, which in the long term will provide better results than pushing them toward the more expensive product.
Guests enjoying the winter wonderland scenery at Crescent Falls in David Thompson Country.
Putting This Into Practice
We’ve now added to autenticity the main elements that will create the experience: a vision and engagement level that matches the guest’s values and interests.
Who is our idea guest will change somewhat from time to time, as we enter new markets or evolve our experiences. That being said, this should not change for each new product you create. Having consistency in your target market makes marketing, experience development and guide training easier. It also create helps to set the proper expectations through referrals from your existing guests, knowing that they are also likely to enjoy the other tours you offer.
The next step is to start building the actual experience, look at the right activity, choosing the stories that will create the connections, ensuring a safe environment and taking care of the details needed to create a positive guest experience.
A package is about savings for the guests, a collection is about added value and an experience is about the feelings it creates.
A look at two different ways to craft experiences we often come across, each of them appealing to a different type of operators and guests.