The Hid­den Power of Rit­ual

The price­less power of rit­u­als in travel ex­pe­ri­ences must be taken into ac­count in mar­ket­ing. By Anita Mendi­ratta.

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL -

Walk­ing down the busy street in Hanoi, a day of meet­ings over and a quiet night in the ho­tel ahead, he slowed his pace to be able to take in the here and now. The dis­tance be­tween the of­fice and ho­tel was too close for a taxi, and the streets too alive with that won­der­ful colour and chaos to sim­ply rush past. He also wanted to make sure that he did not leave without ful­fill­ing the one last thing he had on his per­sonal ‘to do' list. He had to find a lo­cal craft shop, he had to find a Bud­dha.

For as long as he had been trav­el­ling to Asia, wher­ever he went, he would take home a Bud­dha statue. For one of his col­leagues, it was cuff­links, that was the pre­ferred col­lectable. For him it was Bud­dhas, which was in­ter­est­ing as he wasn't even a for­mal fol­lower of the faith. His apart­ment back home had be­come home to a col­lec­tion of Bud­dhas – bronze, mar­ble, wood, jade, sand­stone, large and small, made of ma­te­ri­als from all across Asia. Each piece not only brought an artis­tic rich­ness to his home, it re­minded him of where he had been, even if just for a few days, mak­ing that time and place more real, giv­ing it per­sonal mean­ing and con­nec­tion.

It was his rit­ual, the one thing he did for him­self while he was busy do­ing busi­ness for his com­pany.

RIT­U­ALS

We all have them. We all per­form them in one way or an­other, whether we ac­tively rec­og­nize them or not. They are more than just habits - repet­i­tive ac­tions done in­stinc­tively and of­ten sub­con­sciously. In­stead, rit­u­als are mo­ments that add height­ened mean­ing and mem­ory to what could oth­er­wise be a se­ries of se­conds that pass un­ac­knowl­edged. For trav­ellers, peo­ple con­stantly on the move and con­stantly en­ter­ing places of change, rit­u­als pro­vide an im­por­tant rhythm to life in tran­sit. They cre­ate a sense of control, of bal­ance, or of con­nec­tion to a time and place. How­ever de­fined and how­ever per­formed, rit­u­als can be pow­er­ful in­flu­ences on who we are, where we are, and what be­comes im­por­tant to us.

A rit­ual may be as sim­ple as wait­ing un­til on the plane, glass of cham­pagne in hand, be­fore leav­ing an 'out of coun­try on busi­ness' voice­mail on one's mobile phone to let call­ers know to text or email in­stead of leav­ing a voice mes­sage. The rit­ual may sim­ply be plac­ing one's per­sonal read­ing by the bed­side table as soon as en­ter­ing a new ho­tel room so that a feel­ing of 'this is my place' can be cre­ated. Or it may be col­lect­ing arte­facts of a cer­tain theme while trav­el­ling. Rit­u­als en­cour­age us to pause, be still, mark the mo­ment, and em­bed the mem­ory. Im­por­tantly, they al­low us to con­nect with a time and place, es­pe­cially when the rit­ual is per­formed not just by us, but on us.

Rit­u­als are an­tic­i­pated, un­der­taken with care, and cel­e­brated with a sim­ple pri­vate smile when com­plete. They are a part of who we are. And of­ten, they add to the def­i­ni­tion of how we live our lives.

RIT­U­ALS IN TOURISM

Travel and tourism, while an in­dus­try re­liant on es­sen­tial hard­ware – build­ings, ho­tel rooms and fa­cil­i­ties, con­ven­tion cen­tres, air­ports, air­craft – has be­come in­creas­ingly de­pen­dent on the soft­ware for cus­tomer at­trac­tion, re­ten­tion, and am­bas­sador­ship. They

also be­come an el­e­ment of com­pet­i­tive dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion.

Rit­u­als em­bed­ded in the travel ex­pe­ri­ence of­fer brands – air­lines, ho­tels, at­trac­tions – the abil­ity to make a mean­ing­ful, per­sonal con­nec­tion with trav­ellers.

EM­BED­DING RIT­U­ALS WITHIN THE EX­PE­RI­ENCE

In­ter­est­ingly, rit­u­als, while an in­vest­ment in guest ex­pe­ri­ence and brand iden­tity, need not even cost a penny. Sim­ple cer­e­monies, in­spired mo­ments of pause, and even stim­u­la­tion of a sense, can be all that is re­quired to em­bed a rit­ual in the mind and heart of the trav­eller.

Ex­am­ples of such sim­ple yet im­pact­ful rit­u­als in­clude:

- Six Senses Sanc­tu­ary in Phuket: invit­ing guests to make a wish and strike a mas­sive, hang­ing Asian Gong on both ar­rival and de­par­ture from the is­land, feel­ing the deep sound and vi­bra­tions of the gong as they set the tone for the guest's well­ness visit, and its en­dur­ing im­pact.

- Air Tahiti Nui: dur­ing flights to Tahiti, the air­line dis­trib­utes tiny white Tiare flower buds, the is­land na­tion's na­tional flower, seed­ing the scent in the minds and mem­o­ries of trav­ellers, of­fer­ing a fra­grant em­brace of ‘wel­come' to first-time vis­i­tors and ‘wel­come home' to those re­turn­ing… and cre­at­ing an aro­matic con­nec­tion to Tahiti and her is­lands wher­ever in the world that trav­eller en­coun­ters that scent in the fu­ture.

- Dou­bletree Ho­tels: since the 1980s, Dou­bletree Choco­late Chip Cook­ies have be­come a sig­na­ture part of guest check-in, given to guests warm and de­li­ciously gooey. Of­fered in more than 200 ho­tels and re­sorts world­wide, at present 30,000 cook­ies are given to guests ev­ery day of the week - more than 10,950,000 ev­ery year. CRE­ATE YOUR OWN RIT­UAL

When seen as an in­vest­ment, the value of rit­u­als is price­less. Im­por­tantly, each and ev­ery des­ti­na­tion, property, and at­trac­tion in the world has the abil­ity to cre­ate a sin­gle, sig­na­ture rit­ual that can act as a pow­er­ful part of the brand's DNA and de­liv­ery. Tak­ing the time and care to iden­tify the right rit­ual, based on the:

- brand propo­si­tion;

- lo­cal cul­ture and con­science;

- unique­ness and ap­pro­pri­ate­ness;

- guest (mo­ti­va­tion for vis­i­ta­tion and mind­set dur­ing the visit, not

just demo/geo/psy­cho make-up);

- sit­u­a­tion dur­ing the vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence; and

- de­sired im­pact is, also, an in­vest­ment in the busi­ness.

That in­vest­ment, how­ever, must be main­tained for it to be em­bed­ded and owned by the brand. Re­mov­ing the rit­ual, or sim­ply miss­ing one oc­ca­sion, can make the trav­eller feel some­thing is wrong, some­thing is miss­ing, or worst – some­one is cost cut­ting.

What­ever the act, what­ever the item, rit­u­als make last­ing con­nec­tions to places vis­ited, for work or for play. It is not about the prod­uct, the price, or the per­for­mance – it is about the spirit of the mo­ment and its en­dur­ing mean­ing.

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