The abundance associated with industrial models of production was often achieved through automation, standardization and the use of synthetic, artificial components that could be sourced cheaply and in quantity. Starbucks could not have expanded across the world in any other way. The end result: blandness and homogeneity. Great if your customer does indeed want “no surprises;” a disaster when they seek uniqueness, the quirky and the authentic.
Today’s conscious traveler is weary of the artifice and bored by the sameness. Instead they seek what they consider to be real, authentic, homespun and, most importantly representative of the place they are visiting. This is why there is such an increase in farmers’ markets; boutique hotels; local breweries; the chance to experience and learn a local culture; and the purchase of locally produced merchandise. Conscious travelers don’t think in boxes either. They don’t care whether their experience is delivered by someone in the music sector; a farmer ploughing a field, an ecologist leading them into the rain forest or an historian following in the footsteps of ghosts. They simply want it to feel real while stimulating their imaginations and making them feel alive and rejuvenated.
The demand for the unique, rare, unusual, micro business has also been described as the “long tail of tourism” – a phenomenon which is accounting for the explosion of small business creation in communities that understand how to attract and cater to the conscious traveler. A convergence in the demand to humanize the travel experience while engaging with locals is driving the success of such relatively new phenomenon as Couchsurfing.com which has enabled over 2.4 million people to travel without the need for additional facilities. Another success story is the commercial alternative called Airbnb, whose motel is “Travel Like a Human.” Called the “Ebay of Space” by Time Magazine, Airbnb is an online marketplace for private residents to rent our extra space in their homes.