As defined by Wikipedia, “Experiential travel, is a form of tourism in which people focus on experiencing a particular place by actively and meaningfully engaging with its history, people, culture, food, and environment.” Operators of these unique destinations offer creative programs in which their guests can make deep and lasting connections, and because Christmas is already a time when people yearn for magic and tradition, opportunities abound for exceeding guest expectations over the holidays. And for anyone who has had the pleasure of vacationing at an experiential property during this special time of year, they will tell you these moments rank among their very most cherished memories.
As the holidays near, and people prepare to come together to enjoy what is most important in their lives, these are some of our favorite experiential travel moments of the season:
Christmas Tree Hunts
All-inclusive properties have earned a reputation for creating a “home away from home” to which their guests can always come back. So it comes with no surprise many guests want a Christmas tree in their cabin. While many destinations have thought of this already, some of the more creative outfits (with the wherewithal to do so), have taken it one step further by giving their guests the opportunity to venture into the forest to cut it themselves. All it takes is desire, a saw, and perhaps some snowshoes and Yukon Jack. These are the next-level adventures people won’t forget and don’t be surprised if your guests insist on coming back to do it every year. Plus, when properties provide the lights and decorations to make trimming the tree a snap, members of the family who typically manage this chore, will love you forever.
Sleigh Ride Dinners
Talk about storybook memories, going over the river and through the woods in a horse-drawn sleigh evokes a winter wonderland scene almost too good to be true. However, at select locations around the mountain west, there are a handful of outfits that have brought this fairy tale to life. This experience will flip any would-be Scrooge into a jolly St. Nick, and even the grinchiest of folks will leap at the chance, to join in the singing of a carol, and carving the roast beast.
Shredding with Santa
No one celebrates winter better than people in a ski town. As those big puffy snowflakes start to pile up on Christmas eve, and Ma and Pa settle down for a long winter’s nap, with the children all snug in their beds, they all have visions of powder days dancing in their heads. Truly exceptional moments take place when unexpected and pleasurable experiences come together. Imagine the good feelings that manifest from the combination of opening presents in the morning followed by a proper shredding of the slopes Christmas afternoon. Several winter destinations have created enticing options for bespoke ski and snowboard experiences, curate these into your holiday package offerings and your destination will become legend in the mind of your guests.
Those who spend any time working in hospitality soon learn it is a supremely time-consuming vocation that requires great sacrifice and an obligation to work when it seems like “the rest of the world” is off. And this is never more true than on Christmas. The dedication of these hard-working professionals was recognized long ago in the United Kingdom, and the staff in the houses of the wealthy could look forward to celebrating Boxing Day on December 26, a day to enjoy Christmas with their friends and families. While this tradition unfortunately is not widespread in America, there are a handful of expert operators that have figured out how to set guest expectations, maintain exceptional levels of service, and also make the celebration of Boxing Day a reality for their hospitality teams. While this just makes good sense from a compassion perspective, there is also significant relief and enjoyment that comes to the guests who might otherwise be at odds with a feeling that while they are having the best of times, the very people making that possible, are faced with a lump of coal in their stocking. Fortunately, many experiential properties have figured out how everyone can rightfully celebrate the Christmas season, and this is yet just one more way this niche set has created unique and uplifting guest experiences, and continues to set itself apart from the relatively mundane world of corporate hospitality at-large.