Tourism Excellence: Flexibility


Be willing to do things differently. Recognize what’s not working and be willing to change your plan of action to achieve your community goals and vision.
By Nancy J. Reid & Lisa D. Smith

If I were going to rename any industry ‘Flexibility,’ it would be the Tourism Industry. Whether you are a traveler, visitor or a business within the tourism industry, you have to embrace flexibility and often be willing to do things differently…

Tourism is based on people who want to experience something different from their day-to-day existence. Each person has their own personality and expectations, and will experience travel in a way unique to themselves. That being said, as a former tour guide, I discovered at least five main types of group travelers:

1. The person with a must-see or must-do list of all landmarks in and around the destination. It could be anything from a list of animals to see in Africa, or a list of monuments in a state. This traveler wants to be part of a group and feel secure, and that their money is well spent based on the number of things seen and experienced. This is usually a group that is between 55-75 years of age.

2. The next largest group of travelers are social, looking to make new friends so they can exchange travel stories with them. They prefer themed trips with a guaranteed ambience that is memorable, and something they can share with friends and relatives later. They are not always, but usually around 40-55 or so years of age, and from all kinds of income brackets.

3. The third group is the somewhat nervous and excitable travelers who really appreciate security and somewhat familiar settings. They want the sites they see to be what is different for them, not necessarily the transportation, lodging, products and services they encounter on their travels.

4. The younger group traveler usually travels spending less money on transportation and lodging, using their money to pack more into each day and participating in more outdoor sports activities offered by the destination. They like a lot of free time to explore during the day, a festive atmosphere enroute, and a party or social scene at night where they can meet and interact with the locals of the destination.

5. The smallest group are those taking a group tour to experience something they would not be able to alone. They prefer smaller groups, originality in travel plans, and guides with exceptional knowledge and experience. They come from different income levels and ages, and love destinations that are unusual.

Solo Travelers
Another group of travelers, is the group that does not usually travel with a group tour. They may travel in small family/friend groups, or travel solo and join tours specific to their interests, once at their chosen destinations. Solo travelers come in all ages and from all income levels and they prefer to drive themselves, choosing their own time of day to travel and their own type of lodging. Some work their way around a country, regardless of their finances, to truly immerse themselves in the language and culture, collecting experience after experience.

The travel scene changes all the time. At one time chain hotels were what a lot of travelers wanted, now popularity sits with the boutique and chain hotels that know how to make sure the destination ambience is part of their hotel personality. The traveler attitude changes too.

The one constant that travel brings with it, is change – everything from weather, routes, guides, lodging, food, customs, transportation, and even government shutdowns. The key to dealing with the changes, whether you are a traveler or part of the service industry, is flexibility. If you are flexible as a traveler, you will probably enjoy most of your travels, and return home with great stories to share. If you are part of the tourism industry and are flexible, your guests and visitors will have good experiences which can lead to repeat business and positive reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Even at the community level, if your town or city benefits from tourism dollars and jobs, being flexible is a safety net. If a plan in place isn’t working, being flexible to new ways of thinking and making changes, is key to maintaining that safety net. This world changes fast, especially with the internet being so embedded in almost all cultures. Being flexible is the way to keep up!

This is an article in the Putting the I Back in Community tourism article series. 

International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association


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