Marketing, Travel Trends

Communities Move Beyond Spectator Role for Travel’s Future

As tourism continues to focus on a “local first” approach, travel brands and travellers have been pushing communities to take centre stage. 

The post-pandemic world shed light on safety and environmental issues that were already tourism-related concerns. Consequently, communities are now a growing part of travel and their engagement has become vital to offering travellers the right trips. 

This article will explore how travel brands can cultivate these strict relationships and make the best of involved communities while building personalised travel experiences. 

What is a community? 

According to Google, a community is a group of people that share a common characteristic or live in the same place. 

Communities can represent small groups of people that share one or more unique trades. They are not necessarily built just by groups of people that live in a particular place. To perfectly adapt to communities, you need to understand how big they are and what kind of characteristics bind them. 

How can communities help travel brands? 

Engaged and involved communities are a valuable asset to any travel brand. Tourism-based communities are willing hosts that provide unique experiences, open new possibilities and resolve problems on-site. 

Communities are powerful allies that can help travel brands build better trips, offer personalised options, and provide solutions much more effectively. 

But besides the practical advantages of engaged locals, the tourism industry can significantly benefit from communities from a data point of view by: 

  • Measuring tourism’s impact 
  • Understanding traveller’s preferences 
  • Comparing prices and providers 
  • Creating new products and services

In a recent Skift article, John Fries, CEO of Hawaii Tourism Authority, projects the role of communities and the value they add to the industry as an all:

“Communities are not going to be spectators to their own future, communities are going to become extremely engaged, so shaping the future of tourism is a big component of that.”

Benefits to communities 

There’s a reason why communities tend to show little resistance to tourism: it greatly benefits locals from both the economic and cultural points of view. 

Communities quickly understand the significance of becoming a travel destination and how that can directly impact their lives through: 

  • Job creation 
  • Improved infrastructures
  • Cultural impact 
  • Improved relationships within the community
Ccaccaccollo weaving community, Sacred Valley of the Incas, near Cusco, Peru, South America

How can a travel brand partner with a community 

Now more than ever, travel brands need to connect with local communities and build solutions around them. It is essential to consider local infrastructures as customers, providing the best possible deals and understanding their primary needs. 

We know that the pandemic and global crisis that followed left residents feeling more suspicious and less engaging with outsiders. And even though the effects of these unpredictable times are less and less felt, catering to locals is a crucial task at this point. 

But how can travel brands become partners of communities? Following these simple steps: 

  • Connect: Understanding what makes every place special, the shared values of the population and the main challenges communities face is the first step to creating unique experiences. 
  • Training: By providing local residents with the tools and skills necessary, you can avoid a lot of trouble in the future. Make sure you are clear on the challenges ahead and how tourism can benefit all. 
  • Cooperation: Local products and services, as well as experiences, activities and hotels, have to be part of the trips you offer. Communities need to feel part of the overall experience and travellers tend to understand what is genuine or not. 
  • Partnerships: Choose partners you trust, help them grow and become even more efficient. Joining forces with local businesses can be a powerful tool, but choose partners that fit your tourism services and goals. 
  • Promote: Think of the place and community you are working with as a product you are selling. Customers choose trips to places they feel compelled to, so promoting destinations is as relevant as promoting travelling packages. 

Benefits to travel brands while working with communities

Providing unique and on-of-a-kind experiences is the biggest benefit travel brands can take from working together with local communities. It’s what makes any travel brand stand out from competitors and retain customers. 

Travel brands are able to understand what attracts travellers, what kind of activities they are looking for, their priorities and needs in a much more efficient way. And that makes it possible to personalise trips and resolve problems quicker. 

Communities & Sustainability in travel 

Sustainable development is one of the main motos of our time and age and the tourism industry has been adapting to this growing concern. 

Local communities are now at the centre stage and empowering them is crucial to guarantee sustainability in tourism.

To get a bigger scope of just how much tourism can help sustainable growth, we can explore 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This set of guidelines urges private and public organisations to work together to develop communities. 

As we explore just how much communities can benefit from tourism, we understand that respecting cultures and bringing local business to the table can impact health, and education, reduce inequality and boost economic growth. 

All of this while contributing to the climate change crisis and equipping communities with the means to preserve their natural assets.

What type of travellers are expected to engage with communities

We’ve already discussed how new kinds of travel are booming across the globe. People are changing their relationship with travelling and are now more willing to engage with local communities. 

Slow travellers, digital nomads and solo travellers are some of the groups we can expect the highest engagement rates. But they are not alone in this new mindset. 

People are eager for genuine moving experiences and are aware that local residents are the ones capable of proving it to them. 

If you’re planning community-based trips, make sure you understand that customers want to feel a part of the community they are discovering. According to a Responsible Travel report, 55% of travellers stated that they actively contributed to improving local wellbeing. Data clearly shows that commitment to communities is on the rise. 

How to market community-driven travel

Following this Crowd Riff article, it is possible to build a strong, simple strategy around community travelling. The same article clearly states that travel brands are the number one influencers when it comes to making travellers learn more about destinations. And that’s why a powerful marketing strategy is crucial. 

  • Regional markets can be the key: focusing on regional markets and rural destinations can be exactly what travellers are looking for and it makes it easy to build a “local first” approach.
  • Sustainability is the star: find sustainable options, provide customers with a sense of choice. Sustainable itineraries are an emerging trend in travelling, and local communities are a great engine to attract tourists. 
  • Invest in communities: focus on promoting the communities you build your itineraries around. This is the best investment when it comes to marketing your trips. 
  • Personalisation is the future: more and more travellers want personalised experiences and limitless choices. Platforms like TripBuilder help travel brands empower their customers in a simple effective way.

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