Could Mystery Trips Be the Next Big Travel Theme?
Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
Today, most of the conversations around travel focus on how technology has put the power in the hands of consumers. It’s possible to research every minute detail of your trip from hotel to food options, and search for deals, pre-book experiences, and much more. In many cases, using a travel agent is viewed as a luxury or at best something reserved for the most complex international trips. A few experts have noted that many people often pay the experts to figure out the best trip and save themselves the research time – because it’s easy to fall into information overwhelm. But a new trend is emerging that’s taking it to extremes: the mystery vacation.
The vendor provides travelers with a certain framework – for example, the trip is domestic or international, could include X or Y destinations, and falls within a specific budget range. The traveler gives the agent a general idea of their preferences: love the beach but get seasick, hoping for a tropical destination, and so forth. The agent then researches and books the trip based on their expertise and the information that the traveler provided. The guest is surprised with the trip details shortly before departure, at the airport, or while the trip is under way.
American Express, one of the top brands in travels, launched Nexpeditions in 2011. The idea behind the product line was simple. Interested travelers complete an online quiz that gives them an overview of their general desired type of travel. The results are used to put travelers into individual customer segments. Some of the categories include:
- Adrenalista – Outdoor adventurers that love to travel
- Tasteblazer – Foodies always out to explore new places and flavors
- Technologian – Travelers who explore the world with hi-tech toys
- Trengineer – Style gurus who seek inspiration from their travels
- Scenester – Underground influencers on the global music/fashion scene
Once the trip is booked, technology plays a key role in the logistics. Guests receive a pre-programmed smartphone that AmEx calls a Travel Console a few days before they depart. The device has the itinerary, related guidebook information, dining and attraction recommendations, and more.
A number of other players are coming on the scene such as specialized travel agencies like Magical Mystery Tours. The company takes your information and develops a trip based on your preferences. Guests are given a general guideline of when they need to arrive at their travel hub, and a weather report a few days before the trip dates. Shortly before departure, they receive an envelope with details of their trip. It’s recommended that travelers wait until they arrive at the airport to look at the information.
If you’re an obsessive planner, have very limited budget, or minimal vacation time, mystery travel may not be right for you. But there’s definitely a segment of the always-on, always connected and over researched public that’s hungry for a dash of spontaneity and mystery in their lives. While right now the trend is limited primarily to booking trips, it does raise an interesting opportunity for other forms of themed entertainment and travel providers. Consider the linkage between this and some of the horror experiences where guests are “kidnapped” and taken on an adventure. Adding more elements of mystery and crafting complete experiences that unfold for guests could open up whole new avenues for exploration in the years ahead.