Earned experiences feel authentic

Heaven is hard work

One of the things that makes - and keeps - Dominica special is that it is a pig to get here. There is no international airport (yet*), so you are forced to island-hop. For us Europeans, it's two days with an overnight hotel stop, multiple borders, wads of forms and all the usual travel unpleasantness. Blurgh.

Of course, when you finally get here it feels even more special because it was hard work. You feel terribly intrepid, and can scoff at the "tourists" who get off the cruise boats for six hours of faked-up Dominica on a Tuesday afternoon.

And that very feeling can cause you to do silly things - like me this evening.

Having spent the day down in the capital, I had three possible ways to get home up the mountain:
1) jump in a taxi-bus and pay five bucks (EC) for the twenty minute ride;
2) hop in the back of a Rasta-driven pick-up and bounce home in a holy haze of ganja at the cost of a few bruised ribs;
3) or, call Q, the long-suffering (and wonderful) Stepdad, and get picked up in style.

Of course, I chose Option 4. Walk.

Now, it's only about four miles up the hill, but it is almost vertical, pitch dark, and terrifyingly precipitous. Substantial stretches of the road are washed out - or at least ankle-breakingly uneven - and most of the strangers you meet on the darkest, loneliest corners are frightfully polite fellows who openly carry knives as long as your arm.

And of course, it was wonderful.

I arrived at the top an hour and a half later, soaked to the skin with sweat. I had taken off the shirt after the first mile - the cataclysmic white flash no doubt causing several ships to run aground. I was sporting two prize blisters on my feet, and grinning like a loony. My family have been here almost two years, but I doubt they have ever experienced "their" road like I did: dancing fireflies, agutis in the undergrowth, glimpses of parties down side roads, the lyrical sound of domestic disputes through open windows, late-night hymns carried on the sultry air, teenagers trying to sell me stuff which they really shouldn't be selling, night birds hooting, and a million billion dwillion stars splashed across the sky. Brilliant.

Now, another traveller could have come up in a taxi, walked about for a bit in the dark, and got many of the same impressions. He would probably have enjoyed himself no end. But not as much as I did.

If we feel we have worked for an experience, we enjoy it more. That is hardly an new insight. But it occurred to me tonight that an earned experience is not just more satisfying, it also feels more authentic, feels more real. And if Messrs Pine and Gilmore are right, the Next Big Thing that customers want is authenticity.

So, how can you make customers think they have earned an experience? A tip: putting the price up is not the only answer - or the best one.

Moonlight photo by jackhynes at flickr
Slender loris by Joachim S Müller at flickr
(I know there are no lori on Dominica. Just testing.)

(* Incidentally, most Dominicans are crying out for that international airport. When they get one, they will lose a major part of their uniqueness. If they are not very careful, they will end up competing on price like all the rest of Disneyland-Caribbean, instead of turning Domenica into the premium destination it should be. Sigh. It's not their fault. People living in a shortage economy do not understand what a USP is...)

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2 comments:

Joachim S. Müller said...

Testing what?
If I find it? ;-)

Adam said...

Joachim!

Thanks for looking by. No I was testing other's zoological knowledge...

Folks, you should check out Joachim's flickr pages. Some terrific shots there, and Joachim is kind enough to allow others to use the pictures in certain ways. Kudos to him!

Adam

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