Authentic Experiences

Next up is authenticity, the foundation of memorable experiences. Being authentic was trendy in recent years but what we mean here is simpler. It’s about understanding our motivations and the region’s sense of place so that we can attract guests who will appreciate the experiences offered.

When we do this well, it feels natural and goes mostly unnoticed by the guests. When there’s a disconnect between the three the result is something that feels out of place or forced.

Who We Are – The Team

This starts with knowing our purpose and what we believe in as an organization. Once we are clear on this it becomes easier to find staff and experience delivery partners whose motivations align with ours so that the products offered feel cohesive.

Even when we offer a product on our own there are many other people indirectly involved. These can include land managers, planners, regulators, travel trade, destination organizations and many others. Taking the time to understand their motivations and the legislations to plans that influence the decisions they make is often key to creating a successful experience.

The Guests

The best experiences are built for a specific market segment: the people who will most enjoy it and are willing to pay for it. This allows us to create something focused and meaningful that can then be personalized for a wider audience. In most cases, the product will also appeal to several secondary markets with minor adjustments.

Each experience is built with the guests as the heroes of their adventures. To do this, we need to understand their needs, motivations and interests so that we can not only build a product that will appeal to them but so that we can more effectively market these experiences.

Our personas, Travel Alberta’s Ultimate Travellers and Destination Canada’s Explorer Quotient are great starting points to define the ideal guests for the experiences we offer.

The experiences we offer start long before the guests join us in person. That’s why we look at the entire journey for each product offered. The stages we use are:

  • Dreaming: The stories they come across inspire them to break from their ordinary world, planting the seed for adventure. This stage usually takes weeks or months and can even take years.
  • Planning: They want to travel but there are a lot of reasons why now is not the right time. At the same time, they are starting to build an itinerary in their mind and they are looking for people who can help them make the adventure happen.
  • Booking: There’s no turning back, the adventure is happening. The main reasons for backing out at this point are the lack of availability or a poor booking experience.
  • Anticipating: The adventure is almost here. They’re excited about what’s to come but also a little nervous. They want to know what to bring, what to expect weather-wise and any last-minute events or adventure ideas that they should add to their itinerary.
  • Experiencing: They here enjoying their visit and looking to immerse themselves in the moment.
  • Sharing: They enjoy some time to reflect and take in the moment before returning to reality.

Defining the journey requires empathy as we consider how the guests feel as well as what they think, say and do at each step. This provides us with an opportunity to solve the problems they face along the way and to define the value that our services provide.

The Region

The destination is not only our stage but also a key character in the experiences we create.

The first part is taking stock of the characteristics of the region, including the natural landscape, culture and people. The physical attributes will be the same for all of us but the meanings we assign to these will vary from one operator to another and from guest to guest. This provides us with another opportunity to differentiate what we offer from other operators.

The second aspect to consider is choosing the setting for the experience. That includes taking into account the location within the destination, the season and even the time of day that will elevate the moments we aim to create. For example, a waterfall that requires a short hike is often more rewarding than one you can drive to and seeing it during golden hour as the sun shines through the mist can take the experience from great to magical.

We then need to consider how the experience fits into the overall destination experience and seasonal themes. This includes how it aligns with our brand, David Thompson Country and Travel Alberta.

  • Our focus is on goosebump moments and connection moments between people and place.
  • David Thompson’s Country is focused on accomplishment and learning moments with the strongest brand recognition in the Edmonton and Central Alberta markets.
  • Travel Alberta’s brand is focused on goosebump moments and our connection to the province as Albertans.

Finally, alignment with the destination also requires us to consider how our experience will best fit within the existing destination experience. The destination experience pyramid we use is adapted from Travel Alberta:

Icons are the main reasons why visitors choose to come here. In a region like ours, where nature-based tourism is the main draw, the icons are typically related to the natural beauty of the landscape rather than a human-made product.

Signature experiences are the “must-do” products drawing out-of-province visitors to the region. They have a high level of refinement in their execution and allow guests to engage with the icons that drew them here.

Core experiences are the reasons visitors extend their stays and keep coming back. They are key to offering a well-rounded destination experience.

Supporting experiences may not be why visitors chose to come here but they’re what makes the difference between a good and a great destination experience.

Finally, creating experiences requires that the amenities, services and infrastructure needed are in place, or in some cases, that workarounds have been found for what’s missing.

Keep in mind that where a product falls on the pyramid is dependent on the target market. For example, photographers typically spend limited time at their hotel and, as a result, lodging is a supporting experience for them. A couple looking for a mountain getaway on the other hand is likely to consider a cabin stay a core, or even a signature, experience.