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A Hierarchy of Travel Needs - Page 5 of 6 - Jim Menge, Traveling Man

Level 4: The recreational need to travel

Level 4 RecreationalVacation. Vacation. Vacation. Retreat. Recharge. Reset. Re-experience your humanity by visiting a place where you can be free of obligation or stressful surroundings. At this level, people travel because they can; they want to and can afford to. People pick the time, the location, hotel, or resort, the cost, and who goes or doesn’t go.

It’s here that we fully enter the “leisure” category, where travelers tend to fully engage their surroundings and take the time to look for new sights, sounds, and smells without the pressure of deadlines or expense reports.

Tourism ministries, destination management, and marketing companies, travel trade shows (such as ITB in Germany, World Travel Mart in the UK and the US Travel Association’s IPW as examples) spend a great deal of time and effort on the personal and recreational tiers of travel (certainly, business travel is also important and has its specific trade shows).

The process for recreational travel is as broad as are the types of travel. From the do-it-yourselfers to the end-to-end fulfillment companies and almost everything in be-tween, each dollar spent on inbound travel multiplies severalfold with these discretionary travelers. Travel distributors can sell a product at cost and make higher margins on the ancillaries and tours. I worked with a company that offered free high-end cruises when the consumer purchased specific land packages.

Recreational travel is a category with high sophistication, spanning companies offering all-inclusive, airfare-included travel packages all the way down to tour-guides-for-hire in the Guatemalan rainforest. The complexity of the global travel apparatus comes in to play for the vacationer willing to pay for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Similar to the professional and personal tiers of travel need, most companies serving this market believe they’ve got it covered.

And there’s where they’re wrong. When you look at the hierarchy of travel needs, you can see that this framework relies on psychological patterns that carry over generations, and even epochs of human history. It’s far easier to ask your customers to change their plans to fit within the constraints of your technology or business model, but eventually, a disruptive player will dull your competitive edge. Especially if that disruptor is willing to put the customers’ desires first, and create loyalty through experiences, not “optimized logistics.”

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