What is transformational travel and how can DMOs get involved?

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<span>What is transformational travel and how can DMOs get involved?</span>
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Jillian Dickens, Transformational Travel Council Head of Destination Stewardship, shares a short and sweet description of what transformational travel is and how investing in it will support the economic, environmental and societal sustainability of destinations. 

What is transformational travel and why should DMOs care?

Transformational travel is an important concept for anyone in destination leadership and development to know well, because the transformation economy is the next evolution in economic value, graduating from the “experience economy” we are in now. Transformational travelers are high spenders, they are loyal and what’s more, they are conscientious and kind while visiting other places - these are all visitor behaviors that support the destination’s economic, environmental and societal sustainability. 

Transformational travel from the visitor perspective is intentionally traveling to improve in some way - for the traveler to become a better version of themself. From the industry perspective it is creating the conditions for your visitors and guests to harness the power of travel to positively impact their lives, and the lives travel touches, for the long-term. For DMOs, it is guiding visitors to help them get the most positive personal and societal impact from traveling to your destination as they can. As Joe Pine, the author of the Experience Economy says in a recent article in Travel Weekly about the topic, “The customers have to transform themselves. But you're the guide. And there are lots of guides in the travel industry." “Guides” can be thought of as traditional tour guides, as well as tour operators and travel planners who plan and create the experiences, destination marketing and management tools such as pledges and inspirational copy, and infrastructure such as signage and wayfinding. In each of these aspects, transformational travel is about answering the “why and how” of travel rather than just the “what and where.” 

Willamette Valley Visitor’s Association tourism stakeholders gather with TTC facilitators outside Oakridge, Oregon. 

The Transformational Travel Council, which provides transformational travel and regenerative development education and training for the tourism industry and destinations, is leading the Tourism Roundtable in the Stone Mantel Collaborative to do field research on the Transformation Economy and its potential for travel brands to create more monetary value. Last year the Collaborative quantified the transformational travel economy, determining it to be the fastest-growing segment of the industry, outpacing services and experiences, and now representing a $208 Billion market opportunity in the USA alone. 

One example of a destination investing in the transformation economy is Mato Grosso Do Sul, Brazil. This region, neighboring the Pantenal, is the first carbon-neutral destination in the world, and is now hosting Transcend ’24, an event for tourism thought leaders, change-makers, and advocates for sustainable destinations and transformational travel. Attendees will go through a transformational journey while learning ways to elevate their impact through transformational travel. 

How can you learn more and get involved

Transformational Travel Design Program: The Transformational Travel Design Program provides travel and tourism professionals with the understanding and resources they need to create more intentional, conscious and impactful experiences. The online course is packaged in both a three-day intensive or 5-week signature version, or can be customized. 

Transcend ‘24: Taking place is Mato Grosso do Sul, Brasil, the first carbon-neutral destination in the world, Transcend ‘24 is a gathering of experience designers, hoteliers, coaches, travel advisors, guides, tour operators, journalists, and destination stewards to dig into the transformation economy, personal development, and regenerative development for tourism, in support of positive impact through the tourism industry.  

The Flutuacao River in Moto Grosso du Sol, the host region for Transcend ’24 – an event dedicated to transformational travel. 

About the Author

Jillian Dickens

Head of Destination Stewardship, Transformational Travel Council

Jillian leads the Transformational Travel Council’s Destination Stewardship programs, is a regenerative tourism advocate, and is the co-founder of Bannikin, a boutique tourism consultancy. She believes regenerative development is the future for our industry, and within this she sees intentional experience development as the most effective tool we have to reach our potential. Jillian is from coastal British Columbia, Canada, and now lives in Valencia, Spain. 

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