A new culture in travel?

A blissed out traveller

In this brave new world of algorithmic behavioural analysis, fragmenting demographics, personalisation and hyper-individualist consumer trends, pinpointing exactly what the travelling public wants is the holy grail for any service provider. A new study from travel, media and entertainment startup Culture Trip offers some interesting insights into the changing mindsets of contemporary travellers, suggesting that their decisions are being driven by a new ‘culture economy’ influenced by cultural curiosity and social backgrounds.

“The current socio and geo-political environment is pushing people to engage with culture, and with the meaning of culture, in new and deeper ways,” said Dr Kris Naudts, Founder and CEO of Culture Trip. “This study came about from an ambition to better understand the world of modern experiences and travel from our unique perspective of cultural exploration. Culture Trip is an exchange of culture, creativity and places, both digitally and out in the world. This study establishes just how fundamental culture is to the way we tell stories about ourselves and our journeys, wherever we are or go.”

The study, which involved in-depth interviews with 150 consumers in the UK and the US – as well as a survey involving over 10,000 respondents – suggests that the modern travelling public can be broadly broken down into four different types of traveller. ‘Culturally Aware’ travellers are primarily motivated by the pursuit of pleasure – the study suggests that this group ‘seeks familiarity, and while they enjoy cultural contrast, they do it from a dispassionate distance’. The ‘Culturally Curious’, meanwhile, thirst for new experiences that break their established routines – this type of traveller is the sort to have an extensive bucket list – while the ‘Culturally Immersive’ sees travel as an opportunity for personal growth, exploring new places and seeking out new cultural experiences that can then be converted into social cache. Finally, the ‘Culturally Fluid’ are the most at ease with new cultures, feeling comfortable wherever they happen to end up, making new connections easily and ‘adopting a hybrid cultural identity’.

Interesting stuff, no doubt. But what benefits can the travel industry draw from this analysis? Culture Trip suggests that the results of the study can be used to build new strategies to attract millennial and Gen-Z travellers, providing experiences that combine cultural richness, immersion and tangibility with new sights and sounds – perhaps of the previously undiscovered variety. These experiences need to be authentic – ironically, perhaps, in this age where everything is filtered through Instagram filters and hashtags, ‘authenticity’ is a valuable currency – and shareable. They must also simultaneously offer something different to the everyday grind, while also being within grasp.

“The industry has a huge opportunity ahead,” said Natalie Malevsky, Culture Trip’s Vice-President of Product Marketing. “By appealing to our desire to explore our own cultural identity, every interaction with a diverse and wondrous world is a chance to create meaningful memories.”

Travel service providers should beware, though – the modern, very online demographic can spot insincerity a mile away, so any attempt to cater to them must in itself appear as authentic as possible. A transparently cynical approach will bear little fruit.