Slow travel is not just a new way to travel, it’s a mindset. It’s when the overall quality of your travel experience is more important than the quantity of experiences. Huw Waters, head of marketing at Paragon DCX, says why travel brands need to serve content that matches consumer needs.
With the rise of slow travel, travel and leisure brands need to focus on producing content that doesn’t explain what people see, but makes them think that the presented location is a beautiful place to visit. It should invoke a sense of emotional longing and produce an arousal response that inspires the imagination, encouraging the idea of a life-changing experience.
The problem with travel content today
Travel brand content today is full of beautiful and informative pictures of destinations – white-sand beaches that stretch on for miles, vistas of the sun shining off the azure blue waters of a secluded coastal cove, vast cityscapes of a skyline that everyone immediately recognizes, local cuisines pictured invitingly on shiny white plates, and local people going about their daily job at the harbor, in the market or in a café.
These images, while lovely to look at and illustrative of the destination, don’t invoke a strong enough emotional response. They’re not relatable enough and they don’t reflect a real traveler’s experience.
Travel copy is the same. It’s informative and descriptive about the location – what you can visit and present the beauty of the place – but it lacks warmth and truth.
Travelers are continually seeking out travel blogs and travel articles from people who have actually been there; emotion-invoking prose that delves into their experiences; their interactions with local culture and local people; the taste of the local cuisine; and painting a picture of memories that last a lifetime.
Most travel brand content today isn’t fit for purpose, and it needs to change.
The rise of slow travel
Since the dawn of transportation, people have always sought to spend time in one location and throw themselves into an experience.
But this style of travel has risen exponentially lately – particularly with people wanting to return from trips with more than just their photos.
Travelers today want to discover moments that imprint on their soul, such as…
Getting up bright and early to grab a spicy morning snack from a street vendor hawking his wares on the steep slope up, passing people on horseback as the sun rises above the volcanic moonscape of Mount Agung in Bali.
Or playing boules with the old men of Reims under the shady trees in Parc de Champagne, France while your kids play football nearby, making friends with the locals, even picking up a few words of French.
Perhaps you’re tickling tastebuds with a sherry master in the ancient city of Jerez de la Frontera, exploring the savory and sweet treats of the region, learning to distinguish a Fino or a Oloroso.
Or spending a summer’s evening sampling the island delights of Malta at the Delicata Wine Festival in the beautiful, balmy Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valetta.
Travel content needs to provide an emotional response
Experiences invoke emotions and connections – excitement, sweaty, spicy, sensory; they’re stimulating and usually involve other people.
Experiences aren’t beautiful. They’re not building or locations. They’re not the view from your hotel balcony. They’re not a list of popular places to visit. And they’re not the 60-year-old, gray-haired market trader pulling his donkey and cart full of watermelons down the empty, dusty road – that is, unless you meet him, get talking, buy a big green one from him , and he imploringly invites you to dinner at his home that very evening to meet his family.
People want to be travelers, not tourists. They want to feel the experience. And your content should match these needs.
Travel content needs to follow the slow travel mindset by stimulating an emotional response, and driving a human connection to people, culture and place.
Travel content should show travelers how they can join the community they’re visiting – whether through interactions with local bakers or restaurant owners. They can reveal the foreign visitor haggling at the local bazaar for a scarf to take home, trying new sensations at the city food market. They can even flaunt cultural experiences that promise to immerse holidaymakers – whether a conversation with locals at a table or participation at a local festival or tradition.
Travel brands can describe how the home-grown fare tastes and how these sensations make holidaymakers feel. Writers should have visited the place in question and can weave in how they emotionally felt while at the location. The copy can invoke the freedom and wonder that comes from traveling and finding unknown gems to guide the trip.
The experience economy is growing; the allure and the benefit of taking time out from the daily grind is appealing.
Insta-worthy travelers will always exist, but travel brands need to keep up with the changing demands of the world and create content that speaks to true experiences.