What do you really mean?

March 11, 2016 - Amanda

Gatwick Airport just emailed to say that I can watch “craft gin” being distilled while waiting for my flight.  Has the trend for “authenticity” (and its close cousin “local produce”) just jumped the shark?

I had a series of authentic experiences this morning.  I woke up, had a shower, then drank a cup of tea.  Authentic? Yes. But hardly unique.

For those of us in tourism, “authentic” has become a bit of a mantra.  We all know what we mean by it: experiences that are not specially laid on for tourists, ideally ones that provide visitors with an emotional connection to place and that create positive memories.  It’s about offering something genuine, rather than artificial.  It’s a useful shorthand, and it’s a must-have for some segments.

What worries me is that some marketers (not the ones at Gatwick Airport, thankfully) have started using this word – which belongs behind the scenes – in their consumer communications.  And the same goes for “unique” – another important ingredient but an empty word when used to consumers.

If you tell me that your destination offers visitors “authentic and unique experiences” then you’ve lost valuable time to really interest and engage me.  Don’t tell me about your strategic approach – describe what I will see, do and feel.

So next time you find yourself promising authenticity and uniqueness – STOP!  Take a deep breath, reflect, and then tell people what you really mean.

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