The New Culture Economy That’s Driving Global Travel

Every day it seems there’s a new study released that dissects how people travel, where they travel, and the motivations behind their travel choices.

The latest study on this front comes from travel startup Culture Trip, which suggests that there is a new “cultural economy” emerging in the travel realm.


This new economy, according to the just-released Cultural Mindset Study, involves an overall shift away from materialism, and toward tangible experiences that travelers feel will further shape their identities.

Based on in-depth interviews with 150 consumers and a survey of 10,5000 respondents in the UK and the United States, the study concludes that the travel landscape has evolved to include four distinct types of travelers:

The Culturally AWARE – These are travelers who are driven by pleasure. They seek familiarity and while they enjoy cultural contracts, they do it from a dispassionate distance

The Culturally CURIOUS – This audience is bucket listers, they want to collect experiences and hunger for disruption from the routine, balancing familiarity with difference

The Culturally IMMERSIVE – Driven by a desire for personal growth, travel is in the DNA of this group, who are true trailblazers and want to be seen as such

The Culturally FLUID – Here sits the Third Culture Kids – they feel comfortable wherever they travel to, making connections and adopting a hybrid cultural identity

“The current socio- and geopolitical environment is pushing people to engage with culture, and with the meaning of culture, in new and deeper ways,” said Culture Trip founder and CEO Dr. Kris Naudts. “This study came about from an ambition to better understand the world of modern experiences and travel from our unique perspective of cultural exploration.”

The study also revealed that 60 percent of respondents say their outlook on life is shaped by influences from different cultures.

In addition, people seek out experiences over possessions to shape their identity, with 43 percent of study respondents saving their money to travel more often.

“Travel is fundamental to most people’s lives,” states the report. “In fact, nearly half of all respondents make compromises on their daily expenses so they can save money to travel more. And yet, while cultural mindsets differ, they are united in one common truth – no one wants to be a tourist. Yet, in today’s world of influencers, traditional and social media, true discovery is harder than ever.”

Genuine exploration, therefore, is about getting under the skin of a place, getting to know its people, both in a truly authentic way, adds the report.

Female tourists reading a map in Paris, France
PHOTO: Female tourists reading a map in Paris, France. (photo via SerrNovik/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

All of which, the report says, is triggering the reimagining of what is meant by culture. Yes, it is art and history and traditions. But the travelers’ definition of culture has also grown to include such things as the latest food trends, street markets, festivals and other cultural experiences in a destination.

The big takeaway for the travel industry, according to the report’s authors, is that if you want to attract the new generation of travelers, winning over Millennial and Gen Z audiences, it will require striking just the right blend of offerings and experiences.

According to Culture Trip that ideal mix should include the culturally rich, immersive and tangible; new and undiscovered; authentic but also sharable; and within grasp.