Innovative travel booking options with a “human” touch — Travelers are seeing all sorts of buzzwords floating around in the industry these days — from transformative to meaningful to impactful. They are interested in what these expressions claim to offer but since definitions of these terms can be inconsistent, it is up to creative and informed travel designers to execute these experiences. Experienced travellers themselves such as travel coaches and even digital nomads are increasingly being hired or collaborated with to curate personal, life-changing experiences.
As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Claire Burt.
Claire Burt is a meaningful travel coach, project specialist and owner of Your Travel Analyst. With a focus on learning & development as well as research, Claire aims to bridge the gap between the logistics of travel and the human experience. Drawing upon concepts rooted in fields like psychology, Claire helps travel businesses elevate their products and services such as training programs, books and courses in a meaningful way.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always been drawn to helping and educating others, especially in areas I am passionate about. Up until I had the opportunity to travel to Europe in high school, I was certain I was going to be a teacher. When I recognized the curiosity, awe and euphoria that travel provided me with, all of those plans to pursue academia went out the window. Travel essentially brought out an aspect of my personality I didn’t even know I had within me: a desire to challenge convention. This was a big revelation for a lifelong people-pleasing, straight-A student!
After spending a couple of years traveling, I went back to school and graduated with a diploma in Tourism and Travel Services Management. While that left me with operational knowledge about the industry, I felt uninspired by the career opportunities that were available to me. Nothing seemed to resonate or quench my desire for flexibility, freedom and creativity. It all felt transactional, commercialized and so far removed from what travel had done for my life.
I knew many fellow tourism students and professionals felt this same way, so I decided to create an opportunity that would seek to infuse humanization into travel education. After meeting many industry disrupters and thought leaders who confirmed the need for this, Your Travel Analyst was born.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Being quoted in the Washington Post as my business’s first media win would definitely be the biggest highlight so far. It was unexpected but I was completely honoured to have my insights included. I had sent the journalist my pitch and he acknowledged my email with a brief thank you so I had no indication of whether or not I would be featured. A week later, I received another email from the journalist with the draft of the article which included some of the insights I had provided.
The article is about the benefits of hiring a travel coach. Different from a travel advisor, a travel coach has travel experience and knowledge within specific niches such as food allergies, disabilities and single parenting. Travel coaches work with clients to help them identify their life goals as they relate to travel, work on their mindset and help them overcome any fears they may encounter on their trip. Travel coaching has become a major part of my B2B business model.
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?
Prior to the launch of my business when I was freelancing, I advertised myself as a general virtual assistant. While there is nothing wrong with being a general virtual assistant, in promoting myself in that way I was being dishonest to both myself and prospective clients. I did not in fact have the experience and knowledge to execute tasks in all major areas virtual assistants are required to work within and nor was I passionate about this type of work.
Through this experience, I learned the importance of establishing myself in a niche or niches I am not only experienced and knowledgeable in but also passionate about. While it can be beneficial to add accompanying skills to your repertoire, ensure that you learn said skills and feel confident about your ability to demonstrate them before you promote them in your offerings.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?
There are a number of tips I would share with my colleagues that I’ve learned over the past couple of years. The first one would be: don’t think you can do this alone. You may have all of the willpower and determination and ambition in the world, but ultimately we are social creatures. Bouncing ideas off of others, venting about challenges or frustrations in your business and sharing wins are all so important in the evolution of your entrepreneurial journey. Building your community takes time, but there are so many ways to go about it. Join Facebook groups, reach out to people in your field on LinkedIn, participate in local meetups for entrepreneurs, or say “hi” to a fellow business owner on Instagram. You never know where a brief greeting could lead.
On a similar note, find a mentor — preferably more than one. You don’t even need to have a mentor in a formal capacity. The people in my network that I refer to as mentors are simply people who have more knowledge and experience than me and are willing to provide me with feedback and resources and connect me with others. Multiple mentors can be advantageous in that each can offer you information and ideas specific to different aspects of your business like marketing or social media.
A third tip would be to invest in programs or resources that provide guidance and supplemental education that may be relevant to your offerings. The benefits of investing in education are severalfold: it is likely you’ll meet at least one mentor even if it is just the course instructor, you will be able to network with fellow entrepreneurs and you will learn information pertinent to your business.
On a personal note, my final tip would be to cultivate a work/life balance that resonates with you. This looks like creating a routine that honours your most productive times of day, taking time away from the screen and scheduling fun, leisurely events that are unrelated to work.
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?
When I look back on how my entrepreneurial journey has unfolded, the people and themes that have led me to where I am now have all been very cohesive. In my early freelancing days, I applied for a gig that was slightly out of my comfort zone but so intriguing that I couldn’t pass it up.
The gig was research and writing focused with an emphasis on how we can disrupt travel to make it even better. The client who hired me owned a UK-based luxury trip planning company. I was captivated by his business’s process of pulling insights from other fields such as history, art, and science.
This client has gone on to hire me for several other jobs thereafter and still doubles as a mentor for me, providing me with resources and advice. I am forever grateful that this individual took a chance on me as an inexperienced freelancer.
It is through this client that I learned about other concepts that I went on to study and specialize in such as transformational travel. This very same client also encouraged me to launch my brand. I am not sure where I would be in business or work today if it weren’t for this person’s encouragement, support and assistance.
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?
At Your Travel Analyst, we aim to inject inspiration, passion and relatability into tourism education and trainings. We do this by challenging conventional, logistical approaches to learning and development in the travel industry. Travel is human-centric and by zooming out in order to identify the root of where real change in the industry is possible, we have to start at the beginning. In this case, the beginning is the structure and content of the learnings in both educational institutions and the workplace. That is, post-secondary tourism programs and learning and development in travel businesses.
Our framework includes looking at a number of factors including the personal travel experience of the learners as well as experience design as a whole. There is great value in having students and tourism professionals reflect on their own travel experiences as a means of identifying skills and opportunities within the industry and their respective careers. Experience design in the context of travel traditionally has focused on making the sale and sending travelers on their merry way, with the occasional on-the-ground check-in and maybe an automatic “thanks for booking with us” at the end of the trip, hoping that the cycle will repeat itself for the sake of generating repeat business.
People are showing time and time again how they are craving personalized and even individualized experiences. Not only do we have to reevaluate how we are creating this personalization at every touch point in their journey (before, during and after the trip) but we also have to humanize the travel experience itself. How are we giving travellers the best chance at travelling as a means of generating a desired feeling, outcome or transformation? We have to understand how people work and how people are impacted by moments and experiences. Awe, flow, anticipation and reflection are just a few examples of concepts we can incorporate into travel design.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?
Through our approach to humanizing learning and development, we aim to address a number of pain points. The first one is that traditional tourism education and training don’t do the power of travel justice. As we’ve touched on, we have identified an opportunity to make travel learning and development accessible, relatable, creative and even inspiring. The business-oriented nature of travel education as it stands can make the idea of working in tourism unsatisfying and disappointing.
Secondly, tourism has existed in a silo for a long time. This has resulted in stagnant and outdated strategies and processes. By collaborating and integrating with other fields such as art and science, travel education and therefore services will be much more interesting and dynamic. In doing so, we can address some of the pain points of learning and development such as the forgetting curve and lack of relevance.
Thirdly, the deliberate sanitization of the travel industry is partly responsible for why “travelers don’t know what they don’t know”. By this, I mean that the travel industry often leaves out the “hard stuff” whether it be the realities of a destination, cultural or racial dynamics while perpetuating stereotypes about a place. When we introduce trainings about asking the tough questions and having the hard conversations, we take an important step in evolving tourism in a more human-centric way.
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
This will disrupt the status quo in a number of ways including a surge of informed, passionate tourism graduates and professionals. This in turn may entice employees to stay long-term or even inspire future generations of thought-leading entrepreneurs in the tourism space.
Humanizing travel education will also aid in the industry’s ability to adapt to future obstacles by providing professionals with the tools to be resilient and curate evergreen strategies through leveraging soft skills.
Lastly, we will see a rise in creative, engaging and value-packed products and services in the travel industry. When people draw on their own experiences, this opens up possibilities for inherently personal and memorable travel opportunities.
As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 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?
I envision the following five examples to be the major ways in which travel companies will be adjusting to consumer preferences:
- Ongoing value — We are seeing more and more travel businesses identifying the importance of providing value at all touchpoints of the customer journey. This strategy will only become more necessary and refined. The impact of a travel experience extends far before a trip starts and far beyond its physical end. In terms of practical application, anticipation has been shown to be majorly influential in the travel planning process. Travel companies and professionals can help build anticipation for their clients by sending them links to movies, books or articles related to the destination(s) they are headed to. As far as post-trip, reflection and integration into real life are crucial elements of memorable travel. Acknowledging a client’s favourite part of a trip or newly generated interest from their vacation could be a way of helping the client implement aspects of said trip into their daily lives. For example, perhaps they took a cooking class in Italy and really enjoyed it. It takes no time to send them links to local cooking classes or even recipes of dishes they made on their trip to help encourage the formation of their new hobby.
- Redefining “niches” — Traditionally, niches in the travel industry have been broad, popular types of travel including adventure, beach or eco-tourism. The problem with this is that you could have a room full of people who identify as loving adventure travel, but no two people are going to have the same interpretation of what that means. Going forward, niches are going to be hyper-personalized to reflect individual circumstances and lifestyles. Examples of this might be travel for 60+ females, travel for those with dietary restrictions or even travel for those with disabilities. This will empower travellers to define meaningful experiences for themselves.
- Community-led travel at the forefront — The pandemic has highlighted the importance of listening to the voices of host communities. This is reflected in tourism campaigns where countries are becoming the ones to dictate how they want to be represented, not how tourists expect them to “perform”. An example of this was found in Uganda’s tourism marketing campaign earlier this year, where the nation purposely did not promote the standard safari narrative.
- Dispersed and off-season travel — In the interest of sustainable and even regenerative tourism, travelers are open to and even equally satisfied with visiting lesser-known places. This will be important for travel companies to take advantage of because it will help disperse the benefits of tourism more evenly throughout destinations. Another way for travel companies to promote sustainability is to encourage off-season travel. Both dispersion and off-season travel can be implemented through a shift in marketing messaging.
- Innovative travel booking options with a “human” touch — Travelers are seeing all sorts of buzzwords floating around in the industry these days — from transformative to meaningful to impactful. They are interested in what these expressions claim to offer but since definitions of these terms can be inconsistent, it is up to creative and informed travel designers to execute these experiences. Experienced travellers themselves such as travel coaches and even digital nomads are increasingly being hired or collaborated with to curate personal, life-changing experiences.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
My perfect vacation experience would include a mix of adventure, challenge, connection with my fellow travelers and locals, wellness and relaxation. This might include hiking as well as basking in natural environments.
About five years ago, I really enjoyed a homestay experience in a small Peruvian village and would love to do something similar again. I would like to try the local cuisine and define the must-see sights for myself, not what a guidebook tells me to see.
It is also important for me to support local businesses through my purchases and accommodation choices.
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.
Over the past few years, I have been trying to adopt an “anti-bucket list” approach. Specifically, I have been trying to really analyze the “why” behind my travels rather than the “what”. The former is really what makes a lasting impact. I think it is easy for us to fall victim to FOMO (fear of missing out) if we skip a particular famous sight or pass on a “must do” activity, but I believe we can cultivate more peace and satisfaction in travel if instead we pursue what we are naturally drawn to.
I am also trying to foster a balance between setting intentions and being spontaneous. Setting intentions and making plans are important when travelling as travel is a significant investment of both time and money. However, I have learned if I overschedule myself, I end up burnt out which compromises the quality of the experience. On the opposite end of the spectrum, being overly spontaneous can be equally as wasteful. To create a fine balance of both intention and spontaneity requires understanding your limitations and needs as a traveller as well as strategic pacing and timing of an itinerary.
Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My success has hinged upon a number of factors. The first has been challenging my own subconscious misconceptions about travel, including evaluating previous travel habits and determining how I can do better. I also believe the professional relationships I have cultivated have generated goodness in a number of ways including collaborative brainstorming sessions as well as asking my fellow entrepreneurs how I can best support their journeys.
I also try to consistently demonstrate through my messaging that a career in travel can be creative, inspiring, impactful and most importantly, curated on your own terms. When I promote this, I envision it reaching tourism students who may unsure about their future. As a student, I would have benefited from this type of encouragement.
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. 🙂
I believe there is great power in tourism collaborating with other industries and individuals whose stories and lifestyles can have a great impact on travellers. Forward-thinking companies are already implementing this; for example, there is a tour company that hires homeless individuals to show tourists around their city. This provides employment opportunities for underresourced folks while introducing visitors to a seldom-shared local perspective.
Tourism goes hand in hand with many fields. For example, ‘dopamine travel’ is a concept that has recently come up. It refers to color therapy, visiting a place that features bright colors like buildings and doors, can be mood-enhancing. Dopamine travel draws not only on psychology but also on the fashion industry trend ‘dopamine dressing’. Understanding the interconnectedness of why and how we travel will make our experiences that much richer.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!