Our success in finding a product offering hope, joy and human connection expands knowledge, appreciation for each other and the world around them and share with as many groups as we can.
As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Wei and Tricia Norton Discover Live.
Jason Wei is the Founder and CEO of Discover Live. He is an accomplished global business development and operations leader across multiple industries and disciplines. Jason Wei is a deep lover of world travel and entrepreneurship, and believes a big dream, a great team, an open mind, and hard work are all that are needed to make the impossible happen.
Tricia Norton is the Chief Marketing Officer and Cofounder of Discover Live. In this role, she is responsible for brand development, growth strategy and positioning the company for long-term profitable growth. Throughout her career, Tricia Norton has traveled extensively around the world and has operated business in 72 countries working with subsidiaries and distributors alike.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Jason Wei: We started company to focus on senior living and used to travel quite a bit via airplanes. I would always see older people leaving happy but returning unhappy with not having access to prescribed medications and locations without wheelchair access. I thought I could help.
Tricia Norton: I came from a family of world travelers. My aunt owned a travel agency and went from being a lively woman to to a woman living in an assisted living senior community. And, because of lack of stimulated activities, her health deteriorated rapidly. Travel was the one thing she was truly passionate about she could not do. I was thinking of her and my mom, and how their lives and happiness revolved around travel.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Jason Wei: There have been so many, but I feel the most interesting was when we did a trial tour in the USA and in 1 hour, we realized we could not cover the whole thing. We spent a bunch of time on a park bench that all of the participants previously took photos on and wished they were there, and this made people cry and made me want to bring this level of emotion to every tour.
Tricia Norton: When we brought family generations together — 4 generations of family, were on a tour. She and her husband first met in Italy. During the tour as generations of this family watched places their grandparents traveled to, when we stopped at one beautiful locale, her grandson said on the tour that he was there for a wedding years ago. This connection would have never happened if it was not for the tour and this personal moment was shared forever. This off the beaten path location in Rome, Italy reminded me how powerful Discover Live can be for generations of family. We successfully reunited 4 generations together, bringing people together in a way you not normally bring people together and I am sure they are still talking about it to this very day.
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?
Jason Wei: I always thought everyone knew how to use Skype and found myself teaching the customer and the tour guide. This was very embarrassing for customers we sold tours to who did not understand how it worked. I learned to not assume everything, and that Skype was a very new concept for many.
Tricia Norton: We learned to create a meaningful experience and that our customers are not just paying us for a tour, and when the tour starts, we stay behind the scenes. We realized that engagement and interaction in best facilitated by us where we curate questions for our customers and their needs. For example, if Kim wants a culinary tour we need to follow up and say hey there is there is a bakery and be more active in this role. I think of it as we are part of the invited people to the party, and we are also the hosts. Our role is to make sure that everyone is engaged from all angles.
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?
Jason Wei: There are many and we wouldn’t be here today without them. My wife Vivian is a strong supporter, and she did a lot of initial research, suggested a goal for us was us to research the hotels in NYC. We actually approached people in these hotels. With her help in getting the first hotel on board, she also helped get us our very first customer.
Tricia Norton: On a personal note, without Jason Wei we would not be here and my mom- a beacon of light for the entire family. She leaped out of a plane at 80 years old and traveled her whole life, has always been supportive of travel, and the gifts of travel. She was on 14 cruises at age 80, as well as in Barcelona and Tokyo. Jason Wei and I and has shared tours with her and she shared what was boring and what is exciting — our own personal tour expert.
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?
Jason Wei: For the first time in history, we allow people are not able to travel/do not want to travel able do something in real time and as a result created new way of travel. This is especially true with everything going on with COVID. With Discover Live we are able to not only bring all of this with the “new” way of travel, but we are also supporting the whole industry as well.
Tricia Norton: We bring personalization and customization to travel both being very innovative with a much more personalized experience where we can immerse people in food and drink- all things that make a location unique. Food is history — you can learn a bunch through food, innovation around culture and cultural differences and our tours are much more focused on diversity and inclusion.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
Jason Wei: As much as we have researched — “I wish I could have traveled more” is what people regret most before they died, whether too expensive, no one to travel with, nervous about foreign countries, etc. Our company has made travel more accessible to everyone.
Tricia Norton: We are eliminating the barriers to travel and the pain point of the unknown with traveling to foreign countries. We break down the unknown and share what makes places unique and special, i.e., the slums of India. This experience is also great exposure for kids.
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?
Jason Wei: 1. People don’t think of not going to the office is as the same as not going to the airport, which will in turn create rapid growth for travel agencies and tour guides will need to learn how to adjust to this. More people will use virtual travel to study before booking virtual trips for a few hours a day before having their family join. The new regulations and travel companies will capitalize on this, for example even new museum tours for schools.
Tricia Norton: We can support people apprehensive with tours bringing numbers of people as the ability to grow an audience with all of the limitations of in-person travel today are completely broken down. For example, this could be seniors and students in the northeast would not normally see the zoo in San Diego. It is now limitless on whom can experience what and see what vs. past travel experiences that were only reserved for high end. Now everyone can see and travel to practically everything.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
Tricia Norton: My perfect experience is seeing someplace new and getting an opportunity to see the real side of things- culture, tradition, cuisine and what truly makes a place unique from any other location.
Jason Wei: Enjoying travel with close friends and family with over 3 generations without worrying about anything that would prevent them from participating.
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.
Tricia Norton: Yes. We have made a lot of efforts to cultivate a connection with personalization and customization, where we learn about what our guests want or something special, we obtain information from friends and family, making that connection in advance so everyone enjoys the experiences of the trip. This is part of the pre work we do before the tour, so this truly resonates with our guests throughout the tour and our travel guides. This creates shared, meaningful experiences and learning through this interaction.
Jason Wei: Wellness is at the heart of all that we do — starting with the senior industry in isolation and is why we offer premium tours with 3 generations of family members enjoying a Christmas tour which makes people truly feel better when they are alone. Another example would include Indian villages, or bridge tours where -customers enjoy the locals making them feel good.
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.
Tricia Norton: 1. Personalization 2. They enjoy learning something new aha moments 3. Personal connection whether guide guests or family 4. Interaction 5. It is FUN.
Jason Wei: 1. Fun 2. Personalized 3. Pleasant surprise 4. Good preparation 5. Travel with the ones you are about to share an experience with.
Example Story: Celebration tour in Algeria — the pleasant tour guide was able to show the market and bath house. In Alegria people bathe together; it is a social place like a coffee house. The guide showed a dessert flower created by lightning and thunder, and the flower was sent to gal for her birthday. We create lasting memories. WE deliver more than what people think as a personal tour.
Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Tricia Norton: Our success in finding a product offering hope, joy and human connection expands knowledge, appreciation for each other and the world around them and share with as many groups as we can.
Jason Wei: We have done free tours for non-profit organizations — including late-stage cancer patients, helping people find ancestry routes, we offer the greenest travel and support tour guides around the world. We have done events with philanthropies and underprivileged students in order to educate.
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. 🙂
Tricia Norton: Appreciation of different cultures and our differences — sharing this learning with all of the world so people can respect, acknowledge and behave with this understanding that there are difference and similarities, bringing down any mistruths. Experiencing the world and how people can behave for the better, the movement would be around education about travel through online, traveling from your own home to get citizens to experience with appreciation of the differences of other cultures along with our similarities.
Jason Wei: We are already in the middle of a movement by allowing people to explore the world without the blocks of traditional travel. We are all one world together and we want others to experience the world without prejudgment, as we are all the same.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!