How to Create Memorable Tourism Experiences

Discover the art of crafting unforgettable travel experiences in the tourism sector. Explore the significance of experiential tourism and elevate the journey of every visitor

Two young women in black tops and jeans laughing together in front of a colorful mural on a sunny day.

What do travelers want? They want experiences! And not just any experiences: today’s travelers are seeking out meaningful, memorable tourism experiences that foster a sense of authentic connection. 

As Arival’s latest research on the U.S. traveler shows, Gen-Z and Millennial travelers in particular are looking for more than just sightseeing when they travel: they want tourism experiences that will enable them to feel, taste, touch and immerse themselves in the places they visit.

But what is the secret to designing a memorable tourist experience that draws in these travelers? How can one go about creating a tour, activity, or attraction that leaves a lasting impression on travelers? Today we’ll explore how to enhance visitor experience in tourism and what goes into creating unforgettable experiential travel moments that get talked about for many years to come. 

What Is Experiential Tourism?

Whereas traditional tourism has been primarily about sightseeing and learning about a destination & its history, experiential tourism focuses on the integration of immersion. It is interactive and more multi-sensory, going beyond just observing. This hands-on approach to tourism experiences has a profound impact because of its ability to evoke stronger emotions and foster meaningful connection between the tourist and the destination. 

And this type of tourism experience is what travelers are looking for: according to Arival’s 2024 U.S. Tour Taker report, Gen-Z and Millennial travelers are twice as likely (or more) as older travelers to book immersive, experiential tours such as culinary experiences, adventure and wellness activities, as well as special interest tours that relate to their areas of passion, a growing trend known as passion-based travel.

Adventure and wellness come together in this SUP Yoga activity by Endless Summer Paddle Company, which includes the very real possibility of getting literally immersed.

Strategies for Enhancing Visitor Experience

When you focus on creating touristic experiences that are more potent in the emotions department, aiming for higher levels of happiness and pleasure, you naturally create a more memorable experience. Intense emotions are at the core of memories (both good and bad). Some ways to go about evoking strong emotions for your tourists and therefore enhancing the visitor experience are: 

  • Bring in novelty: When people are engaging in familiar tasks and activities, they are more likely to be operating on autopilot and less likely to be experiencing strong emotions. Taking people off autopilot requires something surprising and new. This might be challenging them to engage in new ways of behaving, new ways of thinking, new stories, new sensory stimulation, etc. 
  • Get personal: Emotions tied to personal significance or meaning, such as achieving a long-term goal or sharing a special moment with loved ones, enhance memory retention. This will also allow you to label your tour or experience as truly ‘bespoke’ which can help draw in a more luxury tourist. 
  • Foster connection: Shared experiences can often amplify people’s emotions. Scientists have found that emotions are contagious, as we’ve seen in mob or crowd mentality. When you support people connecting more meaningfully (beyond surface-level small talk) you are naturally creating a more memorable experience. 
A group of five women laughing and hugging each other on a city street, displaying genuine joy and connection.
Emotions are contagious. Facilitating moments of laughter, joy, and even sadness can help your guests feel a deeper sense of connection. | Photo: Pexels / Nappy

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The Role of Technology in Experience Tourism

Technology integration has revolutionized the tourism industry, especially with the surge of travel distribution channels and AI in recent years. Both of these avenues can help you facilitate a smooth transaction process, grow your bookings and take more responsibilities off your plate so that you can focus on what’s really important. 

Chatbot integrations, for example, can help you save countless hours in back & forth conversations. And today, with the help of AI, you can find a way to infuse them with your own personality so that you can begin to create that emotional bond from the very beginning of the booking journey. Learn more in Arival’s Power of Chat report and the Arival Guide to AI in Experiences.

A smartphone displaying various AI applications for travel and hospitality, including ChatGPT, Claude, Gemini, and others.
A growing number of AI tools and applications are being developed specifically for the travel experiences sector, including some that focus on personalized guest communications and customer service. Learn more here. | Photo: Solen Feyissa / Unsplash

Utilizing Social Media for Enhanced Engagement

When looking to create a sustainable, memorable tourism experience, social media integration becomes essential. Your experience starts the moment someone discovers your tour, activity, or attraction. It sets the tone and expectation for the actual journey you take tourists on. When people watch an exciting Instagram reel or TikTok video, they’re already starting to form a bond with you and your tourism experience. Emotions are already being stirred up, and it’s important to continue to build off that momentum.

The key to a sustainable and highly engaging social media presence is consistency. The more you post, the more you create excitement and build trust with your prospective tourists. This way, by the time they arrive at your experience, they already feel like they know you and your team. This helps shorten the ‘warm up’ period that can be awkward and inhibit memory-making at the beginning of tours. 

To learn more about building a consistent, sustainable and engaging presence on social media, check out our Ultimate Social Media Guide for Tour Operators.

Designing Custom Tourism Experiences for Niche Markets 

The more relevant an experience is to tourists, the more memorable it becomes. This means there’s a huge opportunity to create niche tourism experiences. We’ve seen this with experiences that revolve around people’s favorite TV shows and passions.

Generalized tours and experiences are less likely to evoke the strong emotions that lead to memorable experiences. Niching allows you to go deeper into a topic or activity, resulting in the immersion that today’s modern tourist is seeking. There’s an endless way to niche today, but you could create experiences that center around: 

  • TV shows, movies, books — such as the ever-popular Harry Potter Studio Tours or this company taking on the latest Netflix craze with their Bridgerton Tour of Bath.
  • History and cultural movements – instead of generalized history of a destination, getting specific can be a great niche strategy.For example, Arival Spotlight Award winner, the Third Man Museum, caters to film fans interested in post-war history of Vienna.  
  • Musicians and venues — such as these Taylor Swift-themed tours in New York and London, and the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, which features interactive exhibits about famous musicians like Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix, and other pop culture themes like science fiction and horror.
  • Unique food & beverage items — such as the Underground Donut Tour, whose owner Jeff Woelker built a multi-location food tour company centered around donuts. See Jeff Woelker share his story on stage at Arival.
  • Animals and wildlife — from goat yoga to tea with naughty sheep, there are many ways to (in a non-exploitative way) involve animals in experiences to delight travelers.
  • Fashion trends and designers — travelers can immerse themselves in the world of style, like crafting a unique hat with Lady Gaga’s renowned hatmaker in the heart of Paris.
  • Religion & spiritual beliefs — from worshiped icons to general concepts, travelers on a spiritual journey can strengthen their faith through exploring temples, iconic sites, and hands-on experiences. Like learning about the core principles of Zen buddhism from a monk and experiencing a traditional tea ceremony.
  • Gender (i.e. LGBTQ+) — such as the Gaybourhood Tour by Beyond the Bell or Forbidden Vancouver’s Really Gay History Tour, discussed recently Arival’s Voice of Experiences podcast.
  • Ecological & sustainable practices — bringing tourists closer to nature is often key here, from learning about regenerative growing on farms to exploring the depths of the ocean – like taking a ride on a sustainably operated submarine and learning about the reef preservation efforts. 
  • Cultural wellness and healing — each culture has its unique approach to wellness, and honoring heritage is important — for example, travelers are often excited to explore a Moroccan Hamman for a day of relaxation. 
There are countless ways to get creative with designing niche tourism experiences, such as this experience having “tea with naughty sheep” offered on Airbnb Experiences.

You may be surprised by how specific you can get when exploring the topic of niching, but there are fans and enthusiasts for pretty much everything today. Spend some time brainstorming what brings your ideal visitors & guests the greatest levels of happiness to uncover new niches and memorable tour concepts! And for more niching ideas, be sure to check out our latest on tourism trends

Eco-Tourism: A Sustainable Approach

When people feel like they’re making a positive impact, that also helps strengthen the memorability factor. Ecotourism is projected to see exponential growth over the coming decade,  as travelers seek sustainable travel experiences that give them a sense of meaningful, authentic connection with places and people that leaves a positive impact..

Ideological pleasure is joy and gratification that is derived from partaking in experiences that emanate our own values. So, the more you can give tourists opportunities to help our world flourish, the more in turn they will feel like they’re flourishing. 


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Case Studies: Success Stories in Experience Tourism

When you ask someone why a tourism experience was memorable, they may have trouble putting it into words. As mentioned before, it usually comes down to how the experience made someone feel. Here are a few examples:

  1. On a tiny 15th century farm in the middle of Naxos, one family is sharing their Grecian slow cooking traditions. The contrast between this place and the modern-day kitchen is stark. During my own travels here, I felt completely transported to another time and place. We learned how to cook with fire, a novel experience for many. Our host spoke little to no English, so we were challenged to communicate in other ways. She took a strong liking to my husband, who is usually a clumsy cook in the kitchen. It filled me with joy to watch her celebrate his skills as he rolled out dough for flatbreads. Oftentimes the most memorable experiences come down to meaningful interpersonal interactions that come from genuine hosts. 
  1. Oftentimes putting tourists in the shoes of someone else can result in a truly memorable tourism experience. In The Falkirk Wheel’s Behind The Wheel tour, visitors are given hard hats and treated like engineers. Starting off the tour with a Lego challenge takes tourists into the more creative side of their brain, a novel reprieve from being involved in the more logical/analytic functions of everyday life. Throughout the tour, guests work together to climb the many levels of the wheel. Communicating key words to signal to each other who can ascend next. It made you feel a part of a mission, rather than feeling you were only touring through it. 
  1. How often does one get to communicate with ghosts? In this eerie experience, The Haunt Ghost Tour puts tourists in the shoes of an expert ghost hunter. Using tools like dowsing rods and spirit boxes, the interactive quality helps foster a more emotional connection with the experience. If the rise of scary movies and TV shows teaches us anything, it’s that people enjoy feeling intense emotions (like fear) in controlled settings. So when you’re looking to tap into people’s feelings, consider the full range of human emotion! 

Marketing Tips for Promoting Tourism Experiences

A successful marketing plan for promoting memorable tourism experiences will lean heavily on emotional connection, which means leveraging storytelling. The old marketing adage is “facts tell, stories sell”, so take some time to go through your website and sort all of your copy into two columns: copy that tells facts and copy that shares stories. Then try to find a way to weave all your facts into story. Experiences are an emotional purchase, so speaking to the logical and rational part of the brain is less likely to move someone to book. But this is just one strategy, click here to learn how to get more bookings

Leveraging Customer Feedback for Improvement

Tourism experiences can often be made more memorable by listening to customer feedback. Having feedback platform tool integrations within your system or working with a review aggregation platform like TourReview can make it seamless to learn more about your guests both before they arrive and after they’ve left. That’s right – customer feedback doesn’t just mean post-experience! You can ask for feedback before they’ve arrived to ensure that their experience goes smoothly. 

Getting good post-experience feedback requires asking really specific questions. Here are a few questions to key in on opportunities to improve:

  • What was your favorite part of the experience?
  • What was your least favorite part of the experience?
  • When did you feel most connected during this experience?
  • When did you feel most inspired during this experience?
  • What will you do differently at home because of this experience?
A presenter on stage at the Arival conference, with large screens displaying "Innovation Showcase" and a QR code for TourReview.
TourReview CEO Jose Arozarena presents an online review management and aggregation system for tour, activity, attraction and experience operators at the first Arival Experiences Innovation Showcase in Berlin. Watch the full presentation here.

Challenges and Solutions in Experience Tourism

While there are countless ways to make a tour more memorable, many tourism hosts and operators tend to shy away from untested ideas. Instead, they often replicate what has already been done, which can result in a lack of novelty. However, we’ve established that introducing new concepts and unique niches is crucial for creating truly memorable experiences. This is one of the biggest challenges in the experience tourism industry, and yet is growing in importance as travelers increasingly seek out more unique and novel experiences.

Even if you don’t have a direct competitor in your destination offering something similar,

today’s adventurous traveler has likely already done what you have to offer in a different destination. In fact, one third of activity travelers are passionate enthusiasts looking to do a favorite activity in a new destination, as Arival’s Outdoor Adventure and Activities Traveler report found. 

For example, if someone likes to go rafting on their vacations, this might be the 20th time they’ve gone rafting over the last few years. This may mean the novelty is starting to wear off, and it’s up to you to figure out how to differentiate to ensure it’s memorable.  

The best way to start to differentiate and create an experience with more emotional depth is to make small shifts in the journey you’ve created. If everyone starts their tour or activity the same way, how might you start yours differently and with more excitement? 

Rafting enthusiasts might try the activity in multiple locations. How do you differentiate yours to ensure it’s memorable? | Photo: Pexels / David Hadley

Overcoming Seasonal Fluctuations in Tourism

Shoulder seasons are changing with the weather, so it’s important to be prepared for an influx of guests no matter the time of year. In fact, more and more tourists are looking to visit during off-peak times to take advantage of more unique and less crowded experiences. Does your tour or attraction change with the seasons? How can you tweak your experience slightly in the fall, winter, spring, and summer to infuse it with a little more seasonal relevance and excitement?

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Learn More about Creating Memorable Tourism Experiences at Arival

Creating experience value in tourism relies on going big with emotions and impact. This often requires doing things a little differently to surprise and challenge the jaded tourist who thinks they’ve seen & done everything! When you create something that is driven by pleasure, you’re creating something that people want to tell stories about, and that is the greatest marketing tool of all. 

About the Author

Samantha Hardcastle is the Founder of The Storied Experience and Amore Social, where she focuses on creative strategy for the experiences industry. Formerly Arival’s social media manager, Samantha was also a speaker at Arival 360 | Las Vegas in 2022: Arival Insider Pro Access members can see that session on-demand here.  

To learn more about tour design, experiential tourism and the latest trends in the in-destination experiences sector, and connect with other operators and experience designers in person, join us at the next Arival event

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