If you own a rental shop, there’s a two-word combination that ought to elicit a Pavlovian response from your inner businessman. That magical expression is experiential travel.
This has actually been a catch phrase in the tourism industry for years – after all, at its most fundamental level, pretty much all travel is experiential, right? So what exactly are industry experts talking about when they refer to this trend, why is it so important, and how does it affect your bike rental business? Seeing as the answers to these questions could help you connect to a rich and potentially untapped travel market in your area, let’s put the bell down for a minute and dig in.
In its broadest sense, experiential travel refers to a consumer demand for more authentic and engaging travel experiences. Or, as industry insider Skift puts it:
“Arguably the most significant, systemic trend in worldwide tourism today is the demand for ‘experiential travel,’ typically meant to convey the idea of more immersive, local, authentic, adventurous and/or active travel. People want to travel better, on a deeper emotional and more personal level.”
As their follow-up survey in 2016 points out, technology has played a pivotal role in this cultural shift. Everything from social media to sharing, mapping and, yes, even dating apps have equipped travelers with the ability to connect locally, and in real time. What’s more, according to American Express, it applies to all age groups as well (not just those cherished Millennials).
So why is any of this meaningful? Well, consider the fact that, last November, tech giant Airbnb launched its highly-anticipated “Experiences” feature, allowing travelers to book things like thrift shopping tours and destination yoga classes – all with the help of local guides. Fortune.com billed the release as “the biggest move the company has made since establishing its home-sharing service in 2008.” And, as one would expect, the data backs up their decision.
Which brings us to you. Neighborhood bike shops. Literal key-holders to chariots of local exploration and adventure. What does this rising tide of tech-savvy experiential travelers portend for your business? Well, if you play your cards right, a lot.
Let’s start by breaking down the three components essential to the trend: authenticity, technology, and engagement. We’ll cover the first two in our current discussion, and then focus our attention on part three in an upcoming article.
In 2016, Skift performed an extensive research campaign to help profile experiential travelers, condensing this insight into a hierarchical list of values dubbed the 10 Maxims of the Supertraveler. Care to venture a guess as to what came out on top?
“1. We want authenticity and trust in our sources for inspiration and advice on where to go and stay.”
That’s right. Of all the myriad facets involved in taking a trip, most important to modern travelers is the sense that they’re getting the real deal: the local goods.
Anna Maria Wolf, co-owner of Sun And Air bike shop in Brooklyn, understands this phenomenon well. “We find that there are a lot of tourists…really looking for that Brooklyn experience,” she says. “They want to live the way people here live, and get around the way people here get around. And that’s on bikes.” Sun And Air capitalized on this interest in authenticity by partnering with Spinlister Pro, giving visitors easy cycling access to both Manhattan and Brooklyn via the nearby Williamsburg Bridge.
For rental businesses, it all boils down to highlighting your neighborhood connection. This can be as subtle as offering free local maps and riding advice, or as obvious as suggesting a group cycling adventure around the city. As Spinlister Pro partner Bespoke Cycles in San Francisco found out, sometimes even something as simple as the right building can make the most lasting impact.
#8 on Skift’s 10 Maxims of the Supertraveler states that “tech and connectivity are a great compliment to our travel experience, but don’t overload us.” For businesses hoping to tap into the contemporary travel market, this ought to highlight just how important a refined online presence can be. If you’re still using whiteboards and spreadsheets to track your rentals, chances are you’re not even showing up on the radar.
Spinlister Pro was developed for just this purpose: giving neighborhood bike shops unfettered access to their global network of cyclists. Not only does the platform highlight local shops on both website and smartphone searches, but with Spinlister Pro’s customer-facing kiosks they now have a powerful point-of-rental solution for all of their in-store needs as well.
“It’s been a big help for us,” says Justin Shannon who, alongside Local Hub co-owner Kristie Holt, is working on establishing the nation’s first grassroots public bikeshare in Dallas. “Getting out of paperwork and registration and payments is pretty huge, and the fact that we can have a kiosk set up somewhere and a customer can just walk up and access it is great.”
Of course, you don’t need to reinvent public transportation to make the most of your rental technology. Often the simple act of giving your customers an interface they’re already accustomed to using is enough. “It’s very simply laid out and straightforward,” says Kearstin Rew of Bird Legs Bicycles in Jacksonville. “I think the [Spinlister] app helps people feel comfortable when using it, and it gives us a more unique and efficient rental system.”
Given this continuing trend, and the fact that the ITB is expecting outbound world travel to jump between 5-6% in 2017, there’s plenty of reason for optimism in the rental sphere. We’ll pick up this topic in an upcoming article, when we look at the third characteristic of experiential travelers: engagement.