(This article was published in Today's Traveller Collector's Edition: June 2012)
Experimental travellers are of different shades. However, the two broad types are “Groupie” and “Savvy”.
The Groupie experiments, but only in his comfort zone. The comfort zone manifests in various ways. First, the Indian food. “Ghar ka khaana” is all important, no matter how far he/she may be from home. Second, a punishing schedule, even if it is on holiday, is not exhausting in the Groupie’s eyes; rather it is FPV (full paisa vasool). “I have seen all of America” the traveller may declare triumphantly on returning home.
But make no mistake! This traveller wants the very best five Star hotels, the best cars, all through his trip. The family can actually afford a Swiss chalet, but would rather holiday as a ‘big gang of family’ or ‘friends’. The Groupie may be shy of holidaying alone, but he is certainly not shy of spending. Buying 4 ipads, one for each of the kids, on a single afternoon is no big deal. A safari world show official group photo for 300 bhat? Of course! Sprawling with a Rolex or Omega, and eating chiwda from home is a relaxing moment.
Many such moments are photographed and enjoyably shared. The holiday doesn’t end in three weeks for a Groupie. The favourite holiday destinations are re-visited every now and then, as a group. So, finally, the comfort zone is defined by a certain type of destinations. Typically, the world-famous attractions include Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK, and the African Safari. The Groupie believes that travel is about excitement and “aha” moments.
The Savvy experiments, period. Holidays for him mean exposure, experience and trying out things ahead of the curve. And, the Savvy traveler is planned and customized. If the Groupie seeks comfort, the Savvy, in contrast, exudes it. The Savvy seeks uniqueness. A sort of “my way on the highway,” if you will. He/she is quite happy to book online, get the best deal (“under 100”), know the dollar rate, the best season…
In the Savvy traveller’s experience, the travel agent is at best an executor of his plans. This category of traveller has a like-minded circle of friends and family, and a voracious, eclectic media appetite, both of which keep him effortlessly abreast of the latest travel trends. So, visiting destinations for festivals, carnivals is right. Annual leaves are meticulously planned. And, the Savvy traveller heads out more often than not to more unique destinations, such as Brazil, Madagascar, Spain, France, Germany, Turkey and Africa.
The Savvy traveler takes photographs selectively. Only in an area of particular interest. He chooses to walk a lot to get a firsthand feel of the place. He eats; in fact revels in the local food. He enjoys conversing a bit in the local lingo. His holiday has a loose agenda with enough free and flexible time. Rather than try to do everything, he chooses a few good things. For him, travel is about personal satisfaction. That contented “hmmm” more than the novice-like “ahas.”
Within the savvy profile, there are three sub groups:
Luxury Savvy: Being at the very high end of the segment, he demands bespoke experiences of a very high quality. He would almost always book a suite. Even on holiday, he may have a private office from which he can run his empire for a few hours a day. He ‘does’ vacations at least twice a year—during summer and in winter (Christmas). A family holiday is a must for him. And, there might be just a couple holiday, too. Visiting a spa to detox is on for sure. Travel to him is part of his fabric of life.
Adventure Savvy: He lives life and travels at the cutting edge. It is all about the adrenalin rush, escaping to nature and some real life. He believes in being on the road less travelled. Off to Peru or Sikkim to be challenged by the mountains, or to a diving holiday. Or, even the Everest base camp. Physical activity to him is the most exciting and rejuvenating part of travel. Travel to him is a trip, of another kind.
Senior Savvy: He wants to see the world. Travel is a reward for a life well lived. It is a well-earned, well-deserved prize. Responsibilities over, he experiences a new freedom and couldn’t care for less. Whether it is about unique destinations like Egypt or about fulfilling a lifelong dream—say a cruise holiday—travel is a reward for him. So, everything about it must be special, carefully planned and well suited to his comfort levels and pace. He likes to holiday on his own terms. And, this includes the company of his lifelong friends.
And yet, the scene is evolving rapidly. Haven’t we all considered the rise of kids and teen travel? Kids below five years have passports more often than not, whereas a few years ago, it was a teen phenomenon. School trips are now hardly to the Campa Cola factory and more likely to NASA. Generational arguments on the fault lines of travel permission (“but the whole class is going river rafting in Rishikesh, or sightseeing in Egypt”) abound already. Kids are more adult-like about travel, and far more exposed to it from a younger age. Parents, too, are encouraging travel for their children. They believe it to be one of the finest forms of education without walls. As today’s children grow up and approach the age of independent travel, their experiments in travel as leisure, in travel as education, in travel as part of a career, and in travel as vacation will be of a much wider range than we can imagine. So, whatever you do, as travel brands keep a close watch on the confident and well-traveled kid.