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The Traveler’s Why

James Warren December 01, 2023
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Hey, travel marketers! I’ll get to the story behind the photo in a moment, but first I have three numbers for you — one you probably already know, and two you might not:

The first number: 55.4 million.

That’s how many people in the U.S. were expected to travel at least 50 miles from home for Thanksgiving this week, according to AAA. (This number doesn’t take into account the millions of people who traveled less than 50 miles, who gathered locally, or who hosted many of those travelers.) Okay, you probably already knew this number, but still, it’s impressive to think about all of those people traveling – seeking experiences and making memories – in such a condensed amount of time.

The second number: 6,200.

That’s the number of thoughts the average human has per day, according to a 2020 study by Queen’s University in Ontario. More precisely, 6,200 is the number of times our thinking changes during a day; which distinguishes this research from the widely-held belief based on the National Science Foundation’s 2005 study that says we have 50,000 to 80,000 individual thoughts per day. Whether it’s 6,000 or 60,000 – that’s a lot of thoughts!

The third number: 3.

That’s right, 3. That’s how many different types of memories can associated with a thought, according to Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist, audiologist, clinical and cognitive neuroscientist and an expert on memory formation. According to Dr. Leaf, thoughts are real physical things that occupy mental real estate in our brains and minds; they are built into our brains as we use our minds through the process of feeling, thinking and choosing. As Dr. Leaf puts it:

Inside the thought are the embedded memories—so a thought is made of memories, and there can be any number of memories, thousands even, in a thought, just as there are hundreds or even thousands of branches on a tree. For example, the thought could be that I am concerned about my family member. Within this thought, there will be hundreds or more memories related to this concern. The thought is therefore the big picture, and the details of the thought are the memories.

The fascinating thing to me is that we have three types of memories in a thought:

  1. Informational memories – details and data, which Dr. Leaf calls branches on a thought tree
  2. Emotional memories – the feelings associated with information memories; think of these as the leaves on a thought tree
  3. Physical memories – the sensations we experiences when the thought was built, which are connected to the informational and emotional memories; they are built into our cells and can be re-experienced when we recall the informational and emotional aspect of the memory

And according to Dr. Leaf, we use the thoughts and memories we have already built to guide and influence our next decisions.

So, if you want to understand how to deliver experiences that keep people yearning to come back and tell the whole world about you, the question you should be asking yourself right now is, what kind of thoughts and memories are people having about my destination or brand?

This is one of the reasons SEEQ App is such a powerful insights tool for marketers, especially in the travel industry – because SEEQ App enables you to answer this very question, through the stories people share about their experiences with you. And because travel is SO full of all three of these kinds of memories and thoughts, there are countless stories people can share with you, to help you understand their experiences.

As a destination or a travel brand, you might play a foundational role for those experiences, providing the platform for people to do, be, think, feel and choose what they want during their trip. Or you might play the role of a critical memory-maker, creating many of the emotional and physical memories of the experiences. Or maybe it’s a little of both. The roles you play, the experiences people have with your destination or brand, and whether you’re meeting their expectations all depend on the Main Thing.

What’s the Main Thing, you ask? It’s the Traveler’s Why.

Whether it’s to get away from the situations and events that stress people in their everyday environment, to get to a place they’ve never been and fuel their sense of wonder and discovery, to spend time connecting with family and friends and self, or to be in a place that makes them feel part of something bigger than themselves, the Traveler’s Why is what they’re trying to satisfy and you’re either helping them or hindering them.If you’re helping them, then you’re relevant – and that means loyalty, ambassadorship, growth. But if you’re hindering them, well, the negative word of mouth sure to come means you’ll have a hard time making it to the top of anyone’s “best of” lists anytime soon.

Figuring this out requires getting to know travelers in a deeper way so you can understand:

  • Why they travel (not the functional reason, but the emotional drivers which are often related to their values, needs and attitudes), and what matters most when they travel
  • Their travel experience overall and the role you’re playing in it – and how they feel about that experience

Armed with this kind of insight, you can identify your audience in a uniquely relevant way (based on emotions), you can determine which travel experiences you’re delivering well today (and which ones you’re not), you can prioritize experience improvement areas to increase attraction and relevance, and you can find out what kind of messaging is going to connect from an emotional way.

This is why Share More Stories created SEEQ App, so you can get this kind of rich, emotional, experience insight Through Stories, Not Surveys.

If you want to see how it works, check out this demo video.

If you’re ready for this kind of insight to help you grow your brand or destination, let’s talk. You can book a 30-minute conversation here.

And if you just can’t wait to get started learning from your visitors, guests and passengers, then sign up today and you’ll be collecting stories and insights in as little as three weeks!

Oh, and my Traveler’s Why story? Well, I’ll keep it short and sweet.

We have a blended family. My spouse grew up in Arizona and her parents still live there. For too many years, I let my own traumas, personal issues and past resentments get in the way of me participating fully with the people I love. This meant that holidays and vacations were fragmented. This meant that sometimes I didn’t take the trip. And this meant that I was missing out, and so was my family.

So, this year, I made it a point to focus on being emotionally available, to let go of the past and embrace what life had to offer each day. This meant taking the trip. With the family. The whole family. And that’s exactly what we did this time, whether it was taking in the breathtaking landscape, sitting in our parked car after arriving at our destination because the conversation wasn’t over (and these are the kind of parent-child conversations that seem to happen best during the “in between” moments during vacation), listening to a morning rain shower outside our Airbnb appropriately named Desert Rain, or discovering the joy of flying Breeze Airways (who knew a flight could be comfortable, fun, modern and inexpensive!?!).

Why did I travel to Tucson? To be with family. To make new memories with my kids. To learn more about my healing journey. And to watch the sun set in the desert mountains.

I’d love to hear your Traveler’s Why. Let me know in the comments below.

Want more proof? The Future of Travel, a groundbreaking insights collaboration between Share More Stories, JMI, Esra Calvert Consulting and The Culturist Group, utilized the SEEQ App to understand the emotional drivers of multicultural travelers, and develop actionable insights for destinations and brands seeking to engage this audience more effectively — especially through an inclusive and intersectional lens. The study was sponsored by Virginia Tourism Corporation, Richmond Region Tourism, and Miles Partnership, and following presentations at TTRA, ESTO, The Power of Partnership Summit, and VA-1 (Virginia’s annual tourism conference), the team is getting ready to launch the industry report in early December. Learn more and pre-order the report at https://sharemorestories.com/fot23/.

And let’s connect so we can explore the Traveler’s Why stories of your destination or brand together, with SEEQ App. Email us or book a meeting.


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