Why Travel Agents & Tour Operators Need To Focus On Authentic Local Experiences To Stay Competitive

The major elements comprising the generic destination competitiveness model helps to identify the key success factors of destination marketing. Among the many approximate set of indicators used to determine destination competitiveness, local experiences is one of the key points. Elaborate empirical as well as conceptual research points out the relative strengths and weaknesses of different tourism destinations, which can then be used to study the impact of local experiences on the travelers and vice versa.

The discerning travelers of today’s world love exploring unique experiences each destination has to offer and go much beyond staying in the top suite of hotels. Choosing the best dining options and spas has otherwise become passe. No online portal can take you to the hidden nuggets of the destination except the native folks. So, to match up with the millennials’ definition of travel, you need to indulge with the locals which is way beyond any packaged holiday or cookie-cutter options.

Blurring the borders of traditional definition of travel
It’s important for Travel Agents to realize that selling travel is actually selling happiness. Imbuing travel goals based on interaction with local people makes travel more meaningful than ever. Authenticity, simplicity, and culture are the new watchwords driving the growth of the travel tourism sector internationally. The evolution of the whole new travel genre is based entirely on indulging in local experiences. It is not about the best luxury experience but the intrinsic local touch will definitely add magic to the holiday memory. Remember that the most valued luxury is experience.

Present-day culture travelers have moved beyond the familiar environs and revel in the experience in itself. Clearly enough, tourists that like to break the mold are more interactive with local residents. This paradigm shift has not however, completely caught up with everyone yet. The focus of investments still remains on the traditional tourism-related components.

To create a layered travel experience, the hospitality industry is gradually promoting themselves as the portals for the local community. Although that might not be a necessity but local experience will definitely give a competitive advantage.

Blending national culture and heritage into luxury travel tours need careful planning and is bound to enhance tourist’s experience. Getting certified from the government tourism policies which include inter-cultural education policy helps to makes the travel agents’ outset more impressive.

Counter homogenization of the travel experience is the new clause of the tourism authorities. Embracing local cultural tourism will have an impressive lasting impact on travelers with like-minded outlook. Traditional vertical distribution chains among the travel providers has given way to complex value chains and thus in this increasingly competitive marketplace, providers need to seize every opportunity for competitive advantage. Collaborative advantage through local and government partnership is thus a new norm. Local culture and society has become an essential part of tourism value chain. The integrated inter-relationships between travel and other socio-economic sectors are now conceived as a ‘value network’.

Promoting Local Cuisine
Sustainable tourism, which is tantamount to responsible tourism, has been a major concern in the travel industry for the past couple of years. Experiencing the local culture largely contours around the traditional gourmet industry. Trying traditional food completes the cultural experience of the place. Talking of the economic aspect, if you are eating at McDonald’s, instead of benefiting the local community, a major chunk of it leaves the local socio-economic circle. The international traveler’s gang consist majorly the Western tourists and without much doubt, the need for Western food is always higher than the local recipes.

While traveling for a single night’s stay, people might think it not important enough to connect to the local traditions. However, pennies in the pocket of the local cuisine industry help to uplift the local tourism industry on a larger picture. Walking into a McDonald’s or a KFC might fill your tummy but will neither add to the local tourism sector nor enhance your experience. For instance, Vietnamese pho is now a big pull for travelers in Vietnam and when in Costa Rica, do not miss gallo pinto. Building connections with the local folks is not always the only token you get in return but you actually help to build a perception about your nationality as a whole. A country’s heritage is strongly rooted within the memories of the local people and as the old folks say, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!

Experiential travel – creating a deeper connect
The demand for ‘experiential travel’ is arguably the most significant as well as systematic trend in worldwide tourism. The term typically defines immersive, authentic, local, and more active travel trend. While some travel enthusiasts would like to argue that travel is inherently ‘experiential’ by nature and that the term is overused, the idea is to make it more mainstream. Travel consumer attitude has varied wildly when it comes to local tourism and it is its degree of definition varies widely how the overall trend is approached.

On a deeper emotional and more personal level, people want to travel better at the end of the day. Growing numbers of travelers shying away from the traditional packaged travel brochure is definitely a valid evidence of how local experiences matter for the new age travelers.

Going Social
Relying on technology and global networks of small and individual travel providers, travel brands are offering more connected experiences. Almost infinite online matrix of social media networks keep us connected no matter where we travel. But ironically enough these social networks are gradually isolating people in real life than helping them make closer to human connections. The online sharing portal pair travelers with the local citizen network and offer experience to travel like local.

With packaged tourism losing its appeal among modern day travelers digs the question of what exactly is authentic travel. Consumer data might reveal a section of these answers but tracking social media will give an organic result. For travel brands targeting specific niches, evaluating and adapting to the changing travel behavior is much important.

Tech tools
Undoubtedly, the most influential and dependable tech tool for millennials is the smartphone. Mobile phone location technology has made connection right. On niche apps, review-stuffed maps by Google etc. have made planning for set-piece events easier than ever before. The transparency of peer-to-peer accommodation and transportation services like Airbnb and BlaBlaCar add to the authenticity of the travel experiences and their reviews. The underbelly of a place can only be offered by the natives of the place and thus creates difference in the authenticity of the travel experience.

Large industry players have also chosen to go down to local level. The Instagrammable ideas and images of the less explored destinations is fun in itself. With a series of themed guides and commissioned travel advice by savvy locals has found intense popularity amongst the new age travelers. The aim

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Travel Insurance – A Must-Have For International Travellers

Travelling is one activity that every individual must undertake at one time or the other; it does not matter what the purpose of travel is, or whether the travel is local or international. A lot of people actually look forward to travelling to other parts of the world for various reasons and purposes, including but not limited to business, tourism, vacation, pilgrimage, education and for medical attention.

The euphoria to travel outside of one’s domain usually comes with a lot of preparations, and more often than not, a great deal of resources are deployed to ensure that the travel is actually takes place; and these include acquisition of an international passport, medical tests (where applicable), expensive visa processing fees, flight booking and hotel reservation.

A lot of people will do anything and everything just to actualise their international travel ambition. And to be very candid here, international travel is actually fun and something to look forward to. Travelling, especially international travels, is a form of education for the travellers as they have an opportunity to see new environments, meet new people, and learn how things are done elsewhere.

International travel affords the traveller a lot of opportunities irrespective of their original purpose of travel. These include business opportunities, educational opportunities, employment opportunities and even marital opportunities. Unfortunately, however, it is only these and many other opportunities that these (would-be) travellers see. They seem to be ignorant or care less about risks that are embedded in international travels, so they don’t take any steps towards mitigating such risks.

At this juncture, you may be tempted to ask the question: “What are those risks that are associated with international travels?” Very good question. Just read on, as most of those risks are discussed in the following paragraphs.

Risks Associated with International Travels

As interesting, fun, enjoyable, profitable and educative as international travels may be, they also come with their own downsides – the risks – just as every other thing in life. And very fortunately for travellers, most of these risks can be transferred to professional travel insurance providers, by way of buying a travel insurance – also referred to as “travel health insurance” or “travel medical insurance”.

These international travel risks are many and varied, and they include, but not limited to:

Sudden illness in the country of destination requiring urgent medical attention and/or hospitalization.
Involvement in an accident leading to bodily injuries, temporary or permanent disability, or death
Loss of checked-in baggage
Loss of valuable items such as international passport, drivers’ licence, national identity card, etc.
Personal liabilities abroad
Emergency dental cases
Hijacking
Arrest by law enforcement agencies requiring bail and legal defence
Another question that may be asked at this juncture is: “Do travel insurance policies cover all the above-mentioned risks?” And the answer is a big YES, and so much more.
Covers and Benefits Provided by Major Travel Insurance Policies

Below is a list of most of the covers and benefits provided by travel insurance policies – depending on the providers. So the next time you buy a travel insurance policy, look out for these covers and benefits.

Medical Expenses and hospitalization abroad
Emergency Medical Evacuation
Repatriation after treatment
Emergency dental care
Repatriation of family member travelling with the insured
Travel of one Immediate Family Member
Emergency Return Home following Death of Close Relative
Repatriation of Mortal Remains
Medical Assistance
Legal Assistance
Pre-Departure Services
International General Assistance
Abroad Information Assistance about lost Luggage and Passport,
Delivery of Medicines
Legal Defence
Advance of Bail Bond
Hijacking in means of Public Transport
Loss of Passport, driving license, national identity card abroad
Compensation for in-flight loss of checked-in baggage
Compensation for delay in the arrival of luggage
Delayed Departure
Location and forwarding of baggage and personal effects.
Accidental Death
Permanent Disability
Personal Civil Liability
Trip Cancellation Expenses
Risks Not Covered By Travel Insurance Policies
Having talked about the covers and benefits afforded by travel insurance, it is also important to consider the risks that are not covered by most of these policies, as listed below:

Participation in criminal acts, or as a result of his/her fraudulent, seriously negligent or reckless actions including those actions of the Insured in a state of derangement or under psychiatric treatment costs for which are themselves excluded;
Natural phenomena such as floods, earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, atypical cyclonic storms, falling objects from space and aerolites, and in general any extraordinary atmospheric, meteorological, seismic or geological phenomenon any other type of natural disaster;
Events arising from terrorism, mutiny or crowd disturbances;
Events or actions of the Armed Forces or Security Forces in peacetime;
Wars, with or without prior declaration, and any conflicts or international interventions using force or duress or military operations of whatever type.
Participation in bets, challenges or brawls, save in the case of legitimate defence or necessity;
Pre-existing Illness or injuries
Participation in competitions, sports, and preparatory or training tests;
Motor racing or motorcycle racing, horse riding, climbing, pot holing, boxing, wrestling in any of its modes, martial arts, parachuting, hot air ballooning, free falling, gliding and, in general, any sport or recreational activity that is known to be dangerous;
Participation in competitions or tournaments organised by sporting federations or similar organisations.
Hazardous winter and/or summer sports such as skiing and/or similar sports.
Work-related accidents
Internationally and locally recognized epidemics.
Illnesses or injuries arising from chronic ailments or from those that existed prior to the inception date of the policy;
Death or injuries as a result of suicide or attempted suicide or any self-inflicted injuries.
Illness, injuries or pathological states caused by the consumption of alcohol, drugs, toxic substances, narcotics or medicines acquired without medical prescription, as well as any kind of mental illness or mental imbalance;
Illness or injuries caused by pregnancy and childbirth or any complication therefore or voluntary termination of pregnancy;
Where to Buy Travel Insurances
Travel insurances can be bought online – and there are many travel insurance providers to buy from. All you need to do is locate your preferred provider, and complete the online form or questionnaire, and make your payment, and policy is made available to you for immediate printing or sent to your email address.

You can also buy travel insurance offline from a local insurance company or travel agency. whatever method of purchase you choose, you can rest assured that you will be fully protected against insurable gravel insurance risks.

Using Your Travel Insurance

After you have bought your travel insurance policy, whether it is self-purchased using the provider’s online portal, at a travel agency or through a local insurance company, you should make sure that you do not forget to take the document with you while travelling. This is so important because you may be required to produce that document by relevant bodies.

You should take particular note of your policy number (if possible copy the number somewhere else) as it will be required by the service providers to property identify you when you call them for assistance.

Another thing you should take note of on your travel insurance certificate or policy document is the Assistance Company’s telephone numbers that you need to call when you need help. These numbers are always conspicuously written on the travel insurance document – so take note of them.

You should endeavour to read as much of the do

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