Plan for the consumer, which may be different from the customer. I talked about this earlier with the couple who wanted a plan for their honeymoon trip. A girls’ trip and a family trip are very different trips even if they are to the same destination and the customer (whose interests and likes remain unchanged) is the same. For each trip, I have to incorporate the interests of all the consumers.
As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chioma Opeyemi.
Chioma Opeyemi is the chief experience designer at Cube Travel Design, where she curates personalized travel experience for travelers who wants to enjoy their dream trip without the stress of planning. From planning staycations to destination photoshoots, her goal is always to ensure that every person gets an experience that is as unique as them.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I fell in love with travelling while studying abroad in Marseille, France and became an avid traveler after that. Since I am also a planner by nature, I became the person planning not only my personal trips but also group trips with friends and family. With time, friends started turning to me for advice and help planning their personal trips, which I did happily. But the pivotal moment was when I was talking with a good friend and she told me she had been looking to pay someone to help her plan a couple’s trip with her partner. I was shocked! I couldn’t believe that someone could dislike planning a trip enough to pay someone else to do it. That was when I did some research and found many more people like my friend for whom planning is a hindrance to travelling. As someone who gets excited by planning, I saw this as an opportunity to step in and help more people discover the joys of travel.
On the other hand, I am a model and a creative so I incorporate those with my love for travel to plan and execute beautiful photoshoots while travelling. Because of that, my friends started calling me the “Queen of Destination Photoshoots.” So, I decided to incorporate that into travel curation as a way for people to create even more unique memories while travelling.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I was in Kenya with my cousin and planned two different photoshoots for us, which unexpectedly landed us in Eve Woman magazine and me on its cover. It still feels unreal.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
A couple came to me to help them plan their honeymoon trip. The wife completed the form to provide details on what they were looking for and had the initial consultation with me. However, once the plan was ready and I was on the phone with the couple reviewing it, it became clear to me that the interests of the husband were not fully reflected in the information I had received. So that call became a time to have a second sort of consultation to find out what the husband also wanted, which helped me make a second plan that satisfied each of them.
This experience taught me to always make sure I get to know the key stakeholders before diving into planning. For example, If the trip is a family trip, then the consultation needs to include the children too not just the (paying) parents who complete the initial form.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Definitely! Tolu Michaels is the personal brand strategist whose book “Show Up” helped me clarify how to best position my work and communicate the value I provide.
Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
The main thing is personalization, which sounds simple at first but for people who want to travel, how do they find the best place and activities for them? There are often a few popular destinations that people can find on their own on social media or through other resources, and there are certain “Instagram” activities at these destinations. With a personalized approach, each customer discovers activities that they may not have found on their own.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
People want something different. They don’t want to go only to the “Instagram-worthy” spots to waste time standing in line with hundreds of people for pictures. With Cube Travel Design, which is decidedly not a travel agency, I am giving people that “something different” — a trip that is catered to them, their wants, needs and likes.
I believe the demand for these individual experiences will continue to rise and we may start to see less relevance for the very popular “top destinations to visit in 2023” — type lists and corresponding list of top activities, as travelers actively avoid those places.
As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?
Post-COVID, consumers have a strong preference for refundable options and free changes. Travel and hospitality companies providing these options will be able to attract consumers. In the immediate aftermath of COVID, many people with travel booking through third-party agencies were out of money with fewer options. With people now turning more towards direct booking, third-party agencies, especially, need to address this consumer preference.
Travel insurance is more important than it was and travel and hospitality companies will have to offer this to consumers for the peace of mind it brings them.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
This is a tough one because there isn’t one description of my “perfect vacation experience” but it will be a balanced trip — where I am both doing the most on some days (walking, touring, exploring and so on) with some lazy days where I am reading by a beautiful infinity pool with great view and enjoying massages. Throw in a photoshoot or two into the experience and it’s even better!
Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.
Yes, that’s become more important to me recently. I try to build in rest and relaxation time when travelling now. In the past, I would try to see and do as much as possible on my trips but now I feel more comfortable taking things at a slower pace. I take long walks to take in the sights, go on walking tours to connect with other people, exercise, and truly listen to my body while traveling.
I am more conscious about supporting the local community of the places I visit. I try to eat local and support local businesses while shopping and planning tours. As a guest, I want to be respectful of my hosts and so try to listen to what the local community asks of tourists.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Plan for the consumer, which may be different from the customer. I talked about this earlier with the couple who wanted a plan for their honeymoon trip. A girls’ trip and a family trip are very different trips even if they are to the same destination and the customer (whose interests and likes remain unchanged) is the same. For each trip, I have to incorporate the interests of all the consumers.
- Find opportunities to delight. It’s easier to identify those opportunities when you truly listen to the consumer. For example, one of my clients mentioned during her consultation that she liked ice cream so in her trip plan, I included and called out the top ice cream spots in all the towns she was visiting. She really liked and appreciated this and went on to make a ranked list of how much she enjoyed each spot.
- Include the personal touches. I am a huge foodie and that comes across when I make a trip plan for places I’ve visited. My clients often tell me how much they enjoy the food and dining recommendations, especially when I add little details of my own experience.
- Go the extra mile. Whether is adding in GPS coordinates for a hard-to-find location or providing luggage storage options, people remember and appreciate the little things.
- Build in flexibility. With each trip plan, I provide additional options so that the client can swap or change their itinerary on the fly. The client can respond to real-time circumstances during the trip.
Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Helping someone plan a trip out of their home country for the first time is a beautiful thing. I consider it an honour to be entrusted as a guide to open the door to another’s discovery and growth.
On the personal front, I support a few non-profit organizations focused on education and food security with regular donations.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Food security is a huge one! How wonderful would it be for everyone in the world to have access to regular, nutritious food. Inflation is currently on the rise and many people are even more anxious than usual about their source of food and ability to get regular access to it. Food is a basic human need and universal access to it could help solve other societal problems.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
It’s @cubetraveldesign on Instagram!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!