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A Thirst For Knowledge

It’s happening for a couple of reasons: In the information age, it makes sense that travel is viewed as an opportunity for learning, for knowledge. On the individual level, it reflects self-actualization. Self-education is also becoming more important as we reduce our reliance on "experts."

So instead of Club Med, people are taking tours of family farms to view a disappearing way of life. They’re visiting the Galapagos Islands to check out turtles. Seniors are flocking to "elder hostels," combining learning with companionship.

"Experiential" is a big buzzword. Whereas people might once have been content to take French cooking lessons at the local adult community education center, today they want to travel to Provence and learn how to make the perfect ratatouille. They’re seeking authenticity.

Colonial Williamsburg, Va., or anything historical for that matter, is very popular — something we can link to the millennium. Whenever we end a century or approach any landmark, we look back to the past because the future seems so unstable. We’re trying to anchor ourselves.

Advice to marketers: Think about positioning your products and services in learning terms. If you’re a travel agent, can you combine seminars with a trip? Can you bring in authors to speak? Think about ways to authenticate your offerings, especially for Boomers who have money — and who want to "pad their experiential portfolio."

Source: Larry Samuel, co-founder of Iconoculture, a Minneapolis-based trend-forecasting company, and co-author of "The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be," Riverhead Books, 1998.