Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Transformational Travel: How Indigenous Tourism Can Impact a Traveller’s World View

Photo Credit: Linus Strandholm

Transformational travel is a major trend that has emerged in recent years and is anticipated to become a main factor for tourists when choosing destinations and travel experiences. Indigenous tourism is in an excellent position to take advantage of this new and emerging trend, by providing tourists with meaningful experiences that have the potential to transform and offer a new perspective.

What is Transformational Travel?

The Transformational Travel Council defines transformational travel as any travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their life. Usually transformational travel consists of moving cultural experiences or nature-based activities that challenge or have a profound impact on the tourist. The transformational travel experience usually consists of 3 components:
  • Traveling with intention, openness, and mindfulness 
  • Engaging in challenging physical and/or cultural experiences 
  • Taking time for personal reflection and meaning-making 

The concept of transformational travel is not new and at its core, it is based on some of the main motivations that individuals have for travelling. People travel to escape the norm of their everyday lives, to experience something new, and to learn about different cultures and environments. Transformational travel has evolved from the concept of experiential travel, which allows tourists to fully immerse themselves in the experience either by active participation or engaging the senses. Using experiential learning in Indigenous tourism is a best practice for the industry and a great way to create a memorable experience for the participant.

Transformational Travel – A Movement, Not a Trend

Transformational travel experiences promote personal growth and challenge a tourist’s normal way of thinking to consider alternate perspectives about their world. Travellers are often pushed outside of their comfort zones to realize deeper meanings in the pursuit of self-actualization. Michael Bennett, one of the founders of the Transformational Travel Council sees transformational travel as a “movement, not a trend,” which in the case of Indigenous tourism, could promote a greater understanding and appreciation of First Nations cultures.

Indigenous Tourism – A Step Towards Reconciliation

Strengthening culture, respecting the environment and stimulating economic growth are all pillars of Indigenous tourism. By providing opportunities for individuals to learn about authentic Indigenous cultures, tourists (and the general public) will begin to understand more about the history, traditions and beliefs of Canada’s First Peoples. This not only is an enlightening experience for the tourist, but a positive step forward on the path to reconciliation.

What does Transformational Travel Look Like?

The evolution of transformational travel has already begun to take hold, and in a big way. The emphasis on ‘authentic’, ‘off-the-beaten-path’, and ‘local experts’ is a prime example of how the global tourism industry has already begun its transformation. Tourists are seeking elevated experiences that cannot be had anywhere else and are looking to add to their personal bank of knowledge. An example of a business offering transformational travel experiences is Huit Huit Tours ( in Cape Dorset, Nunavut offering cultural and nature-based tours.

“With our trips, you’ll discover more than appreciation for the land. You can share in our kinship with the stunning natural arctic environment, and millennia-old Inuit traditions and knowledge. Take a summer sea trip and visit Thule and Tuniit camps along the south Baffin coast. We’ll share the community’s natural traditional knowledge. You’ll marvel at our ancestors' ingenuity and survival skills in this unforgiving arctic environment.”

How You Can Provide Transformational Travel Experiences

Ensure Authenticity – By providing an experience that is a true representation of the region and culture, tourists will be more likely to have an engaging and meaningful experience. If a tourism product (such as a cultural tour or workshop) is staged, tourists will be able to perceive this, and the experience will lose its value. However, each community or nation must decide what is appropriate to share with visitors in order to ensure that the culture is not exploited, and sacred knowledge is respected. Only content deemed appropriate and respectful by the community should be incorporated into Indigenous tourism products.

Listen to Your Clients – Everyone has different motivations for travelling and it is important to tap into what visitors are looking for in a travel experience. Some visitors may want a 6-hour journey out on the land in an effort to connect with nature or some may prefer preparing dinner with locals for a community feast. Ask questions and pay attention to what your clients’ desires are. This can be done by simply having a conversation with your clients, asking customers to fill out a satisfaction survey or by requesting and online review of their experience.

Make Time for Reflection – Ensure that your visitors have a chance to contemplate their experience and the teachings. When creating itineraries, try to incorporate time for personal reflection, exploration and asking questions about the information that is being shared. Reflection can also mean challenging tourists to connect what they are learning to their everyday lives. You can do this by asking questions that provoke thought such as, How can we use this ancient knowledge to create a better world today, for ourselves, our communities and our environment?

Provide Something Unique – People often travel to escape the norm of their everyday lives and experience something new. When creating tourism products, try to offer experiences that are significantly different from your client’s day-to-day life and are unique to your culture. For example, most tourists buy their food at the grocery store and prepare it at home. You could take a visitor out on the land and show them the traditional methods of catching a fish, followed by traditional preparation and cooking. This way, the tourist gets the full experience of that meal and they are gaining valuable knowledge about Indigenous culture.

For more information about how you can incorporate transformational travel into your tourism products and services, contact CES for a free consultation at or 1-877-444-5550.


The Transformational Travel Council:
Transformational Travel Article:
A Guide to Transformational Travel:
ITAC National Guidelines – Indigenous Cultural Experiences: