Features Travel industry trends

Educational travel: how can accommodations engage curious minds?

With more travelers looking to sharpen their skills abroad, how can accommodations cater to this appetite for knowledge?

Travelers are becoming increasingly inquisitive, with a global survey by Booking.com revealing that 68% of global travelers would consider participating in cultural exchanges to learn a new skill. And, with Gen Z identified as the generation most likely to enhance their skills by learning something new while traveling, the trend doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon.

The desire to upskill

“People have recognized the value and benefits of experiential education,” says Wendy Morrill, Head of Research and Education, WYSE Travel Confederation. “International travel is an opportunity for learning through experience, whether that is an activity or program organized by a provider, or the individual traveler navigating new cultural territory.”

As for hoteliers, the benefits of offering educational experiences are innumerable, believes Bryan Ruch, Resort Manager at Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An. “For the hotel, it’s about preserving cultural traditions, respecting, and empowering the local teams and community, and presenting authentic experiences.”

“I think the main advantage is building employee confidence and engagement. Over 98% of our staff come from the local area and … it’s a great source of pride and empowerment for employees to be able to share their traditions and passions directly with guests.”

What do travelers want to learn?

Many accommodations are choosing to combine learning with a localized experience, giving guests a chance to learn something that’s specific to a destination—such as cuisines, crafts, and cultural traditions—while providing properties with a unique selling point. “People naturally want to connect, and allowing them to do so through education is a great way to do so,” says Erik Warner, Principal of Eagle Point Hotel Partners. “The educational activities also bring awareness to visitors about local partners and expand community ties.”

“We are big believers in creating meaningful connections for our guests, and one of the best ways to do this is through learning,” continues Warner. “All Eagle Point properties have programming that allows our guests to meet and learn from locals who are the best in their field, whether it’s a winemaker at a local vineyard, a watercolor painter, or an oyster farmer.”

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Man reading
Many accommodations are choosing to combine learning with a localised experience. Photo: credit to Ben White, Unsplash

 

The same rings true for Simon Pestridge, CMO of the Indonesian lifestyle brand, Potato Head. “There is definitely more and more curiosity – and therefore requests for [educational] activities. People want to learn more about our culture and understand where our product comes from.”

More purposeful travel activities - such as practicing foreign language skills or acquiring knowledge relevant to career aspirations - are also gaining popularity among younger travelers, according to Morrill. “Purposeful trips combining experiential learning with vacations increased from 53% of international youth trips in 2012 to 62% in 2017,” she says. “For example, more than 20% of international youth travelers (ages 15-29) combined a vacation with language learning.”

Finding the right partnerships

When it comes to deciding which educational opportunities to offer, Morrill suggests that the key is partnerships, something the hostel sector has mastered. “Identify partners whose strengths represent the potential to complement your hospitality experience and brand identity,” she says. “Wellness and fitness activities, coding boot camp, tango lessons, community service – there are some interesting and fun educational opportunities being offered by hostels and other youth travel accommodation providers and their partners.”

Pestridge agrees collaborations are important but recommends taking time when selecting off-site partners. “Taking your brand and experience outside of the physical building is simply a way to extend your brand promise. But, just as within the hotel, if you don’t put the time and effort into the planning and partnerships, then it could reflect poorly. So, either commit or don’t take the leap.”

When deciding on potential partners, Warner adds, it’s crucial to seek out experts that are engaging, know their craft well, and represent the community. “The experiences need to be meaningful, not overly rote, and showcase authentic experiences that reflect the surrounding locale.”

While educational experiences present the opportunity to boost your bottom line, he warns against properties forcing them: “Let them happen naturally and as a response to guests’ needs.”

 

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Person using laptop
Photo: credit to Alexis Brown, Unsplash
Takeaway
  • Booking.com research reveals that 68% of global travelers would consider participating in cultural exchanges to learn a new skill
  • From cooking classes to educational excursions, accommodations are finding new ways to tap into this thirst for knowledge
  • Creating educational experiences around a skill that’s specific to your property’s destination can provide a unique selling point
  • Take the time to look for experienced partners who are engaging, know their craft well, and complement your brand

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