‘Experiential Travel’ – How Long Until We Can Start Just Calling It ‘Travel’?

  • Alex Narracott
  • 20 July 2012
Photo of the Week (21 August 2011) - Big Induna Mountain Bike Race, Western Kruger, South Africa

The annual Big Induna Mountain Bike Race – hosted in Hazyview, Mpumalanga, on the edge of South Africa’s Kruger National Park – is a great way to engage in 'travel done properly.' Photo courtesy of Andre and Erna Meintjies

Experiential travel, local travel, responsible travel, ethical travel, ecotourism. Can you spot the difference?

When you boil down such expressions to their essence, they all really mean one thing, which can loosely be described as ‘travel done properly.’ So do we really need any more terms? Many websites and blogs out there love to elaborate on that notion in various ways. I myself could argue a good case to have ‘adventure travel’ added to the list, and if I had it my way I’d also add ‘much better travel.’ But that would be a bit facetious of me.

Whatever you want to call ‘it,’ I feel very proud to be part of a travel sector that seems to be fast transitioning from a ‘niche’ to an enterprise with a seat at the top table. It is quickly gaining strength in all corners of the travel world, from cruising and business to package tours and backpacking. I guess it is only natural that as ‘it’ spreads its wings, new ways of expressing ‘it’ keep cropping up.

Perhaps one day we will reach a golden moment when we can quit naming it ‘experiential travel’ or anything else, and simply go back to calling it ‘travel.’ At that instant, finally, a global understanding of what is truly great about going on holiday will be embodied in a single word. We will look back on the era of mass travel and laugh at how naïve we were. We will revel in how enlightened we have become and give ourselves good slaps on the back. We may even amuse ourselves by watching near-extinct travel dinosaurs try to differentiate themselves by unveiling their exclusive new range of ‘non-experiential travel packages.’ Ah, that will be the day.

It’s not that I don’t like the current terms. It’s just that I keep finding myself wondering if anyone really cares. Of course, as someone who runs a travel website, I care, insofar as making sure I am using the right words to communicate effectively with prospective customers. But do any significant numbers of travellers have any preference between terms like experiential travel, local travel, responsible travel and the like? I don’t believe so. Other than a very discerning few, I doubt they even know what they might mean, let alone care.

If ever there was a time and place where actions speak louder than words, then surely this is it. The experiences, and the way they are delivered, are definitely more important than the labels we give them.

So until we can start just calling travel ‘travel ‘ again, shall we just get on with having a damn good time, and making sure the people and places we visit are the main beneficiaries of an industry that’s on the rise?

Alex Narracott is CEO of Much Better Adventures, a collection of local, independent and ethical adventure operators, trying to make travel ‘much better.’

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Much Better Adventures is a place where adventure seekers can find a wide range of fantastic locally owned and independent adventure travel choices from around the world. By putting travellers in direct contact with providers we cut time and costs for all involved. We love sustainability, so those companies who can show us their commitment to sustainable practice rise to the top!
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adventure travel, opinion, personal experience, responsible travel,

2 Responses to “‘Experiential Travel’ – How Long Until We Can Start Just Calling It ‘Travel’?”

  1. There’s a good bit of overlap between these various terms, true. I can understand Alex’ wish to eliminate any that seem redundant or confusing.

    But consider that the Inuit people have more than 30 different words for sea ice. It seems similarly appropriate that those who care most about travel — truly passionate and mindful travelers — should invent a multiplicity of ways to describe the nuanced approaches to exploring our world.

  2. We share a concern, Alex. I wrote something very similar not too long ago at http://travelllll.com/2012/05/23/does-anyone-care-about-niche-travel-adjectives/ .

    There is always a bit of fatigue with new ideas that are no longer fresh, but I still believe we need to stick with it. There will come that day when most travel is the right kind of travel and doesn’t need to be qualified. It won’t be just around the corner, but we have to keep up the good fight.

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