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The end of the tourist

The tourist is over. The cliché of the boorish, unassimilated vacationer, clutching guidebook and camera, is quickly being replaced by the traveler – confident, adventurous, and savvy.

The tourist uses photos to convey mere location: “Here I am at the Eiffel Tower.” The traveler conveys lifestyle: “Here I am sipping rosé on my balcony with the Eiffel Tower in the background.” Vacations, once a rare big-ticket expense, are now integrated into the traveler’s life - booking last-minute deals for festivals, conferences and adventures with friends.

The tourist wants product. The traveler seeks experience - unique, memorable, Instagrammable. With cheaper flights, the ability to work remotely, and falling language barriers with apps like DuoLingo, travelers are outpacing tourists, fast.

The traveler needs social currency. Experiences worth sharing. At the luxury end, Virgin Galactic sells stratospherically-priced bragging rights to a lucky few. A few pegs down the ladder, Facebook-ready moments go far beyond the hotel - think eco-camping, destination supper clubs and yurts for hire.

At a variety of price points, AirBnb’s call to “Belong anywhere” peddles thoughtfully curated cultural immersion. Embrace the authentic or risk the prosaic - and no one wants to be the corporate ghost, trapped behind the glass-walled anonymity of a chain hotel, daunted by the city he sees out the window.

In an age when even airports have their own Instagram accounts, the story that the traveler can tell along the way - from their continental breakfast to the Duty Free - is equally important at every juncture.

For big, established brands, there are invaluable prizes to be won. For one, they can fill the trust gap – the lack of accountability the Airbnb’s and funky motels of the world face for feeble water pressure or musty carpets. Second, for the savvy, deal-seeking travelista, access to a broader network and customer loyalty programs mean upgrades, amenities and rewards.

“Collection” brands like the Autograph Collection by Marriott, Curio by Hilton, and now The Unbound Collection by Hyatt (which Wolff Olins helped create and design), sit somewhere at this nexus, hitting the reliability and rewards pieces, while offering guests more personality. For The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, we developed a visual communications and identity system that could feel more like a canvass - open-ended enough for the traveler to project their own story. With the messaging, we continually underscored what could provide the traveler with social currency. When Hyatt specifically came to us to rebrand the Thompson Miami, we gave it a new name, The Confidante, and an entirely new identity stamped across every touchpoint to spark more Insta-worthy moments throughout the hotel.

#Picsoritdidnthappen. It’s sacrosanct now. Any experience in the hospitality space needs to provide a tableau worth uploading, a backdrop the user can insert themselves into, a pen they can write their story with.

Long live the traveler.


Illustration by Crissy Fetcher

Stephen Phillips Horst is a Copywriter at Wolff Olins New York.