Authenticity in Travel

In 1969, a romantic comedy starring actress Suzanne Pleshette was about middle class Americans traveling on whirlwind escorted tours around Europe. United Artists released “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium,” spoofing the preposterous — but almost accurate — notion that we were pretty much clueless about appreciating the absurdity of packing centuries of historical landmarks into 18 confusing  days. It hit home with viewers able to poke fun at themselves.

How things have changed. These days, destinations are all about authenticity, signature experiences, personal touches and the sharing economy.

Imagine how undesirable it would have been for deluxe European tours to feature accommodation in a private Venetian flat instead of a five-star Grand Canal hotel. Or how little consumer demand would have been generated for an informal dinner prepared by the wife of a Tuscan olive grower, shared in their centuries-old farmhouse tucked away in the hills.

Today’s savvy consumers are celebrating craft authenticity wherever they can find it. Behind the bar, it may be exhibited via the talents of a skilled mixologist. It is demonstrated in conversation with a master sommelier. It could emanate from the kitchen of a three-star Michelin restaurant as much as from the Tuscan stove. Due to the sea change in consumer perception, a rarified white glove service is no longer required to spell out g-r-e-a-t. Some fine dining restaurants adapting to consumers’ wishes to celebrate the chef’s artistry and mastery have created a windowed wall onto the kitchen to facilitate accessibility to craft authenticity.

A deluxe escorted motorcoach operator specializing in finely-tuned signature experiences delivers the goods. In Tuscany, for example, Insight Vacations clients get up close and personal over wine tasting, lunch and a private tour from Count Francesco Mazzei, 24th generation owner of his family’s Chianti Classico estate at Castello di Fonterutoli.

Count Franceso Mazzei at home in Chanti. (Credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

Count Franceso Mazzei at home in Chanti. (Credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

Italian country roads chiseled from Etruscan cliffs lead to an encounter in a medieval square with the amusing and ebullient Sergio Dondoli, owner/maker of San Gimignano’s award-winning gelato. To listen to Sergio describing the harvesting of pistachios and strawberries with such great pride leaves little wonder as to why his flavors sing as they do. Not so fattening as ice cream, he assures everyone as the phone cameras click away.

Not very long ago, we could fly aboard supersonic Concorde jets and on jumbo 747s serving caviar and champagne at piano bars on the upper level. As the actual process of getting larger numbers of passengers where we’re going is more and more about no- frills functionality, the authentic and personal experiences we can have at the  destination have acquired enormous appeal for travelers.

It is now time for hospitality brands to offer both a consistent product that meets guest expectations and an authentic one that offers a unique sense of place.  Coyle has been helping brands and independent hotels achieve this balance for over 16 years. To speak with one of Coyle’s hotel consultants please contact us.

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