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The Emergence of Experiential Travel

Alain St Ange, Candidate for Secretary General of the UNWTO & the Former Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine Republic of Seychelles

The travel industry has been gaining importance and today tourism & travel is seen as an important contributor to economic development of many a country.

Tourism Boards the world over will claim that there are few more beautiful places in the world than their own country. This is their mission, this is their work but each of these tourism destinations need to keep adapting to ensure that they are still on the list of holiday destinations for the would be travelers.

The sun, sea and sand era lasted and came with many an ‘All Inclusive’ option in resorts for package holidays. Today this brand of holiday option is seen largely as the mass market cheaper holidays but it will remain in vogue for selected destinations after that segment market only.

Many discerning holiday makers moved to look more deeply at the country they are visiting and brought about the cultural tourism option where people experiencing the country, its history and culture became more the choice. This tourism brought activities outside the hotels and resorts and ensure greater involvement of the people of country.

The greater benefit of such a tourism is the increase in yield for the country.  Activities, visits and excursions with lunches, cultural tours with authentic cuisine and shows, the art and crafts option are all gaining popularity in the new form of tourism that replays the ‘raison d’être  behind the development of tourism in the first place. Discover and appreciate the country being visited, meeting the people and forming bonds of friendship are today catch lines being heard more and more in the tourism and travel trade.

Countries are often caught in the tourism trap. Measuring the successes of their industry will be to spell out the visitor arrival numbers. This is what the Opposition Parties in Parliaments will also use as a barometer and accuse the Government of the day of failure when visitor arrival figures drop. The second compelling instigator is the fact that air connectivity requires numbers for air-access to be maintained and the numbers game is often seated in the economy section of aircraft.

‘The Emergence of Experiential Travel’ is changing the game and will require adaptation. Seychelles launched as an example the appeal for the Seychellois ‘to claim back their tourism industry’. This saw a rather large number of small entrepreneurs come forward to be counted as tourism businesses and they opened the game to make tourism an industry for all. The long-term benefits of such an initiative will be for the people to be involved in defending their industry and will assist the country to consolidate it for the long term. It will also kill for once and for all the ‘them and us factor’ between the large investors and the ordinary people of the country. Such an initiative should also in the long term bring out the spirit of innovation to offer visitors the off the beaten track option for discovering the country with authentic and personalised approaches to tourism experience.

A few years ago the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and UNESCO jointly called a meeting of Tourism and also of Culture Ministers in Cambodia. This meeting showed that through tourism the cultural assets of a country could be safeguarded and through culture the country’s tourism industry cold be consolidated. This is a back to basics approach that needs to be kept on the drawing board and the Seychelles experience of placing culture as the base of its tourism development studied because through culture one is placing its citizen’s at the very centre of their development.