Early mornings along Abraham Lake
A package is about savings for the guests, a collection is about added value and an experience is about the feelings it creates.
Some days it seems that as an industry we need to find better words to define what we do. It’s not that there isn’t already a long list of options but rather that we keep reusing the same words to mean different things (here are some of the definitions we use), depending on our context and how we look at experience development. We talked about the retail or layer-on approach compared to the purpose-based approach earlier but this applies regardless of the approach that works best for you.
The difference between a travel package, a destination experience and a tour experience is one that we come across often when working with others on new opportunities.
A clown at the Museum of Fear and Wonder, part of a tour we collaborated on with the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery
Destination or Product Experience?
Let’s start with the difference between a destination and a tour experience. This one comes up quite often when building something that involves a partnership between multiple operators or when working with a destination organization.
A product experience is a single experience (i.e. one activity) or multiple experiences delivered by one lead operator, sometimes with partners playing a supporting role. A guided hike, an evening snowshoe under the stars or when a bike shop works with a brewery to offer a bike and brewery tour are all examples of product experiences. They offer a unified guest experience.
A destination experience is multiple product experiences combined into an itinerary built around a theme and delivered by multiple operators, with a looser partnership between those operators. These are sometimes coordinated by the operators themselves or by a destination organization.
Package, Collection or Destination Experience?
Looking at destination experiences more specifically, there are quite a few ways that these are organized.
The classic approach is the travel package, where an operator or a destination organization puts together a variety of activities, meals or lodging options into something that requires a single booking by the visitor. These are most often sold at a discount compared to the total price of each component of the package. These may have a theme but pricing is the main lever used to attract visitors.
A collection goes beyond a package by focusing on a stronger theme to bring together a series of activities. A collection brings experiential elements to those activities, linking them together around the theme and requiring coordination between the operators. A collection can often be sold at a premium compared to the price of the individual component. This is what we usually build using the retail approach.
A destination experience goes beyond the collection by focusing on what makes is authentic and why the ideal guest would be interested. While the activities included may be similar to the package or collection, the destination experience brings it together in a seamless fashion around the shared interests between the operators and the guests. Destination experiences take a lot of effort to coordinate between the partners but the resulting experience can be priced based on its overall value rather than by looking at the price of each component.
Destination experiences take a lot of work to plan and require strong partnerships to keep them going. When they’re done well they become powerful experiences that can transform the guests.
I’m not quite sold on the word collection, it doesn’t fully cover the option between packages and destination experiences. If you have a better option please let me know.
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.
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.