July 10, 2024

NTC 3 Delivering Tourism Experiences

Discover Unique Insights from Tourism: Economic Development for Any Size Community that will leave you wanting more

Imagine driving along a scenic highway, enveloped by majestic trees, suddenly emerging into the sunlight to overlook an ancient, lush valley. Or picture yourself relaxing in an authentic, historic house while horses clop past your window, setting the stage for exploring the oldest plantations on American soil. Such experiences capture the essence of tourism, which is about life punctuated by inspiring and unanticipated “made-to-order moments.”

For decades, many in the tourism industry have mistakenly believed they were selling products like tickets, meals, or hotel rooms. In reality, they were always in the business of delivering experiences. Our new book, Tourism: Economic Development for Any Size Community, explains why industry professionals must focus on delivering great experiences and how they can craft unforgettable moments in tourism. 

Experiences Are Multifaceted

Experiences in tourism can be diverse and multifaceted. They encompass a series of interactions, such as standing in front of a painting in an art gallery or looking out from the crown of the Statue of Liberty. These core events are surrounded by a chain of interactions that contribute to the overall experience. An experience also happens in time, spanning a series of interactions over a short or extended period, from planning to participation. Defining moments within these experiences can provide profound insights, as noted by the Heath brothers in “The Power of Moments.”

Experiences can also be optimal, as described in the business classic “Flow,” where transformative moments occur when a person fully engages in an activity. These experiences are often loaded with emotions, thrilling, devastating, entertaining, and more. For instance, reaching a mountain summit or kayaking a raging river can be exhilarating, while a natural disaster can be devastating. The various emotions and interactions that make up an experience highlight its complexity and depth.

The Experience Economy

In “The Experience Economy,” Pine and Gilmore outlined the progression of the American economy, from extracting commodities to staging experiences. They identified five levels based on the value added at each stage:

  1. Commodities: Basic ingredients like coal, steel, and grain.
  2. Goods: Tangible products sold by businesses like Walmart and Target.
  3. Services: Activities executed by service providers like accountants and housekeepers.
  4. Experiences: Time spent with businesses like hotels, attractions, and spas.

Transformations: Demonstrated outcomes achieved through experiences offered by hairdressers, consultants, and financial advisers.

NTC 3 Newfoundland Winery

Organizations can guide individuals’ transformation through experiences, as demonstrated by a winery in Newfoundland/Labrador. This winery offers a personalized, hands-on event that connects visitors to the land, people, and wine, creating a memorable experience beyond mere wine tasting. Travelers seek to go beyond spectating; they are driven by a deep emotional motivation to immerse themselves in local culture and discover something about themselves.

Key Elements of Great Experiences

Extraordinary experiences are characterized by several key elements that make them memorable and impactful:

The “Wow” Factor

Every great experience has an unexpected surprise that creates delight, amazement, wonder, or awe. This “wow” factor makes the experience feel unique and memorable. The part of the experience that stays with us is the story we recall and share with others. Whether it’s an unexpected scenic view, an engaging local story, or a personalized interaction, the “wow” factor is crucial in crafting unforgettable moments.

Engaging All the Senses

Engaging all senses—seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling—is part of any great experience. For example, visiting a historic home can be enhanced by allowing visitors to touch fabrics, tour the kitchen, smell fresh baking, and enjoy high tea served in an elegant room. This multi-sensory engagement creates a richer, more immersive experience that resonates deeply with visitors.

Emotional Response

For an experience to be transformational, it must touch the heart. Whether it’s the power of the mountains, the beat of the music, or the sight of a sunset, an emotional response is essential. Videos and other media can help evoke emotions, but nothing replaces the real thing. Experiences that move us emotionally are the ones we remember and cherish.


In a world filled with commercialization and fakery, authenticity stands out. Genuine, authentic experiences are increasingly sought after by visitors who crave originality. From computer-generated actors to fake sales, people are inundated with inauthentic experiences. On the other hand, authenticity offers something real and meaningful, allowing visitors to connect more deeply with the experience and the place.

Transcending Time

Real leisure requires physical and mental engagement, allowing individuals to immerse themselves fully in an experience. When an experience is participatory and engaging, time seems to pass unnoticed. Interactivity, motion, sound, and smell all contribute to this immersion. A great example is the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, where visitors can see instruments, watch cultural videos, and hear music, creating a truly immersive experience.

NTC 3 Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix

Creating Unique and Aspirational Experiences

No two experiences are the same for different people. Customization and personalization increase the possibility of an experience feeling special. Allowing participants to create their own memories, such as taking photographs during an underwater dive, makes the experience unique. Personalizing pre-concert content can influence the listener’s attitude and enhance their immersion during the performance.

Aspiration and Self-Actualization

Great experiences offer opportunities for individuals to realize their dreams and move toward self-actualization, the highest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As people seek to become the person they want to be, experiences play a crucial role in this life quest. Transformational experiences fundamentally challenge assumptions and beliefs, affecting individuals’ understanding of themselves and the world. This type of experience is the ultimate goal in tourism, creating “Made to Order Moments” that touch hearts, raise emotions, and penetrate souls.

Final Thoughts On Delivering Great Experiences

Delivering great experiences in tourism requires careful thought and attention to detail. It involves creating moments that engage all senses, evoke emotional responses, and offer authenticity. Tourism can transform lives by transcending time and delivering unique, personalized interactions. Aspiring to create experiences that touch hearts and lead to self-actualization ensures that visitors leave with unforgettable memories and a deeper connection to the places they visit. In the end, tourism is not just about selling products or services; it’s about crafting meaningful experiences that resonate with visitors long after they return home.

Ready to take the next step? Download Chapter 8 from our book and start crafting unforgettable moments in tourism. 

Alternatively, purchase Tourism: Economic Development for Any Size Community on Amazon today!