Themed trips find fervour in ME

An emerging travel trend evolving in the Middle East region since even before the pandemic is people seeking unique and life changing experiences, termed as ‘themed trips’ or ‘experiential travel’ in the region. Let’s take a look at what the experts have to say about this trend.

Jamal Abdulnazar, Chief Executive Officer, Cozmo Travel
Experiential travel to our customers means engaging intimately with the local culture, environment, and people to create memorable and personal experiences that go beyond traditional sightseeing. Absolutely, experiential travel is a lasting trend, offering unique, immersive experiences that cater to modern travellers’ desire for authenticity and meaningful connections. Boosting the travel industry is super important. It helps keep it strong, encourages new ideas, and makes travellers happier, leading to more growth and better experiences for everyone.

Daniel Rosado, Director, Spain Tourism GCC
Travel in 2024 is all about experiences. When travelling, the aim is to get an immersive experience that allows the traveller to develop a personal and deep connection with the destination, ensuring an experience as authentic as possible, to be able to feel the place as a local rather than as a visitor. In Spain tourism we are looking at giving truly authentic experiences in more known places with immersive local experiences and discover new sides of the country which are less known in this region, such as ski experiences.

Amer Alazaiza, General Manager, Al Mulla Travels and Tourism
Experiential travel to our customers embodies immersive, authentic journeys that go beyond sightseeing. It’s about actively engaging with local cultures, traditions, and landscapes, creating meaningful connections, and crafting unforgettable memories that resonate long after the journey ends. Experiential travel is more than a trend; it’s a fundamental shift in how people seek fulfilment from their journeys. Its enduring appeal suggests it’s here to stay.

Aga Pytlik,M General Manager, Panworld Travel
With travel accessibility rising, the focus shifts to immersive, authentic experiences. Travellers crave for deep connections with local cultures, indulging in regional cuisines and community immersion. It’s vital for travel programmes to adapt, prioritising customised, authentic offerings over traditional sightseeing. Crafting experiences fostering genuine interactions and a sense of belonging is key.

Emily Jenkins, Senior Manager – Product Development, DW Travel
Experiential travel is about engaging in immersive, authentic experiences that connect our clients with the culture, people, and natural environment of a destination. It focuses on creating meaningful, transformative memories. Travellers are increasingly seeking personalised, enriching experiences that go beyond traditional tourism. A focus on experiential travel is crucial, as it ensures high-quality, sustainable, and inclusive travel experiences.

Ayman Al Qudwa, General Manager, Falcon Travel
Currently, observed in the behaviour of travellers, whether individuals or groups, is experiential tourism, encouraging meaningful engagement with history, people, culture, gastronomy, and environment. Experience-led tourism is slowly becoming the norm.

With visitors immersing in local culture for a longer period, it is expected to remain popular this year. Experience travel is a good trend in the travel industry.

Basel Atassi, Travel Counsellor, Travel Counsellors
Experiential travel for customers often entails immersive, authentic, and engaging experiences that go beyond mere sightseeing. It’s about connecting with a destination on a deeper level, experiencing its culture, traditions, and lifestyle firsthand. For some, it might involve participating in local activities, such as cultural workshops, or adventure sports. For others, it could mean staying in boutique hotels or homestays.

Enrique Espinel, Chief Operating Officer, Civitatis
The post-pandemic situation has brought with it new trends, and one of them is bleisure. At Civitatis, we do appreciate that this type of booking has increased. Our team, comprising over 300 individuals, takes pride in using our visits to the world’s major tourism fairs and events to engage in our own activities. The most popular activities always depend on the destination itself and the tastes of the traveller.

Divya Nanda, Travel Counsellor, Travel Counsellors
Customers are embracing experiential travel. Dive into culture, cuisine, and community for genuine memories. Beyond sightseeing, it fosters personal growth and meaningful connections, reshaping how we explore. This trend isn’t fleeting; it’s a transformative shift. It challenges destinations to prioritise authenticity, sustainability, and local involvement. Travel becomes more than a journey—it’s a force for positive change, enriching both travellers and communities.

Malith Chamika, Holidays Supervisor – Travels & Tours LLC, Muscat
Experiential tourism aims at creating a deeper connection with the place, its culture and people. Oman has embraced the tenets of modernisation while preserving its cultural tapestry. Adorned by its mesmerising landscapes, unique culture, architectural marvels, timeless traditions, culinary delights, adventures and the hospitality and kindness of the Omani people, it has indeed set the trend of experiential travel.

Rashida Ginwala, Director of Holidays, Bin Ham Travel, Abu Dhabi
Experiential travel to our customers is more than a vacation; it’s a journey of discovery. Nowadays, people crave for genuine interactions with diverse cultures, traditions, and landscapes. It’s all about forging connections. It appears to be more than a passing trend. The demand for immersive journeys is likely to endure, shaping the future of the tourism industry. It’s not just a fad; it’s a fundamental shift in how people explore the world.

Juana Muro, Chief Operating Officer, TourReview
In a recent analysis of tourism trends spanning from 2019 to 2023, it has been observed that while pre-pandemic levels have not yet been fully regained, promising signs indicate a steady recovery. Projections for 2024 suggest that the tourism industry may even surpass previous benchmarks, signalling optimism for the future. One notable trend is the burgeoning interest from Asian tourists in the Middle Eastern market.

Varsha Pherwani, Travel Counsellor Associate, Travel Counsellors
Experiential travel goes beyond what you will usually find in the guidebooks. This kind of travel is appreciated by customers who do not want an off the shelf itinerary and look for something unique that enriches their whole travel experience to another level. This kind of travel includes culturally immersive experiences like homestays, cookery lessons, and getting hands on with making traditional handicrafts that are truly unique to the destination.

Mohamed Al Rais, Executive Director, Al Rais Travel Group
Experiential travellers seek meaningful interactions and authentic experiences that allow them to connect with the destination on a deeper level. This involves activities such as staying in locally-owned accommodations, participating in cultural workshops, or volunteering with community projects. Essentially, it’s about creating memorable and personal experiences that go beyond the typical tourist itinerary.

Elmira Heshmati, Founder CEO, Elaxiom Travel and Tourism
Different concepts of ‘travelling’, such as exchanging minds, cultures and history, are showing that the meaning of experiential travel is more understandable when it’s about creating meaningful memories and gaining insights where it goes beyond the typical touristic experiences. Travellers increasingly seek authentic and new experiences.

Yamina Sofo, Director, Marketing & Sales Office, GNTO GCC
In Germany, experiential travel goes beyond famous landmarks. It’s about travellers immersing themselves in regional life, feeling the pulse of diverse landscapes, savouring authentic markets, discovering the rich cultural tapestry of the country, and finding true relaxation in nature.

Samir Mehta, Chief Operating Officer, Desert Adventures Tourism
Our clients crave for experiences that go beyond typical tourist fare. They seek a range of experiences, including cultural, adventure, nature, gastronomy, and spiritual encounters. We customise and curate experiences through deep engagement with our partners to leave a lasting impression on our diverse clients from Europe, CIS, the Americas, and Asia.

Kerry Healy, Chief Commercial Officer, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific – Premium, Midscale and Economy brands, Accor
Accor closely monitors travel patterns. The distinction between business and leisure travel continues to blur, with all guests increasingly seeking longer, more immersive experiences. From cultural exploration to indulging in amenities like spa treatment, Accor properties cater to diverse preferences.

Douglas Quinby, Co-founder & CEO, Arival
The typical traveller’s bucket list used to consist of places to go, countries to check off, passport stamps to collect. But in 2024 and beyond, it will be more about the who, what and why, than the where and when. Experiences are no longer just ‘things to do’, but the reason to go in the first place. They are increasingly driving the destination decision.

Sapna Aidasani, Director, Pluto Travel
There are three kinds of tourism trends for younger generation. They prefer experiential holidays as what really excites them is something out of the box. The next trend we see is purpose tourism. Lastly, the main trend is ‘detox holidays’ where travellers just want to kick back and relax.

Compiled by TT Bureau

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