Contributed by Jesús Parrilla, Principal, Luxury Frontiers
We’ve all had travel experiences that exceeded our expectations to such a degree that they left a lasting mark on our lives. For some, maybe that experience involved a rare animal sighting or a spiritual activity that awakened the soul. For others, perhaps it was a nature excursion that inspired self-reflection, or an adventure so thrilling that it recalibrated the senses.
But for every one of those moments, many of us have had 10 or more experiences that were memorable for all the wrong reasons—whether because of bad guidance, poor trip-planning, negative encounters, or dull or mundane activities. And based on my recent conversations with fellow travelers, it seems these types of experiences are more the norm than the exception.
It’s for this reason that I’ve written many pieces, including this article, that stress the importance of designing impactful and unforgettable outdoor travel experiences when developing new tourism destinations, itineraries, and accommodations.
In the aforementioned article, I highlight the unfamiliarity toward and misconceptions about crafting outdoor activities. In writing it, I sought to bring light to some of the most important considerations that the team at Luxury Frontiers weighs when designing transformative activities.
Today, I’m going to identify the 7 “deadly sins” that hospitality companies fall prey to, leading to ordinary (not extraordinary) travel experiences.
1. The Copy-Paste Approach
This category refers to activities that draw inspiration from other destinations in a way that feels contextually irrelevant and inauthentic and fosters a spirit of sameness. In the process, a key element of crafting successful outdoor experiences—namely, the unearthing of a destination’s unique identity—is completely disregarded.
2. The Beaten Path Syndrome
The hallmark of this “sin” is sticking to popular sights that guests could easily discover on their own, as opposed to going off the beaten path to places that only experts know or have access to. This is especially accentuated in destinations that lend themselves to being explored in a more uncharted way.
3. The Act of Underwhelming
When a hotel or hospitality company offers a limited number of activities that are lazily crafted, it causes more harm than good—especially among discerning travelers who know there are far more and better options out there. Hospitality experts need to do the homework (or more accurately, footwork) required to craft experiences that are inspiring and unexpected. Anything that falls short will feel like time wasted.
4. The Chatty Guide
The main target here is the guide who is not respectful of the beauty of silence, and thus prevents guests from enjoying rare moments of quiet contemplation. But the category also includes guides who are not properly trained or prepared for challenging or unforeseen circumstances; guides who don’t let guests make discoveries of their own; and guides who point to the obvious or disclose too much information, ahead of discovery. Guides should be trained to anticipate the unexpressed wishes of the guests and address each person’s needs in real-time, recognizing and intuiting those who want service and attention versus those who desire privacy.
5. The Time-Filler Hour
By this we mean blah activities that add little or no value to the customer and exist purely to give the illusion of robust and meaningful guest programming. Ultimately, these activities, which are designed to keep guests busy and distracted, take away from the overall experience rather than add to it.
6. The Same Old Tricks
This category refers to the annoying quality of offering repetitious activities—whether on foot, by bike or horse, or any other means of transportation—that take place on the same route, deliver the same content, and feature the same attractions time and time again. These activities often start and finish in the same place instead of branching out to areas that are unexplored and offer more of a sense of adventure.
7. The Uninspiring
A great man once said, “The one unforgivable sin is to be boring”—and when it comes to travel, we have to agree. In our opinion, there’s nothing worse than activities that leave the traveler with the feeling of time wasted, whether because they failed to generate excitement, depth, or learning opportunities, or didn’t inspire any reflection, action, or thought. It’s a crime against wanderlust to create dull or boring programming in a place that is beautiful and ripe for discovery.
Following the above guidelines will ensure that guests won’t leave your destination feeling disappointed, wanting more, or worse, becoming your harshest critics.