Understanding What Travelers Want in Their Vacations, with Sahara Rose De Vore



The hospitality industry is undergoing a revolution led by a dramatic shift in what travelers are looking for from their vacation experience. It’s making some destinations and hotels rethink their offering. Sahara Rose De Vore joins host Robin Trimingham to explain these new trends and how to embrace them.








Highlights from Today’s Episode

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Episode Transcript

Sahara Rose de Vore: It goes back to people’s motivation for why they want to go on a trip. What feeling are they looking for? I think that transformative travel, even though it can seem like a trendy word that’s going on right now, the fundamentals of these trendy words are wellness. The emotional, mental, physical, physiological, spiritual wellness benefits that travel can bring for people growing up. 

Robin Trimingham: Welcome to the Innovative Hotelier podcast by Hotels magazine with weekly thought provoking discussions with the world’s leading hotel and hospitality innovators. Welcome to the innovative hotelier brought to you by Hotels magazine. I’m your host, Robin Trimingham. According to my guest today, there are literally decades worth of research on how beneficial traveling and all of its elements like human connection, nature, community, the act of exploration and eating local food can be on our mental, emotional, psychological, spiritual, intellectual and even professional wellness. And yet no one wants to go there. Until now. Join me as I chat with founder and CEO of the Travel Coach Network, Sahara Rose de Vore, as we rip the Band-Aid off the idealized insta moment marketing facade of the travel world, which pushes hotels and resorts and entire destinations to present consumers with an unrealistic and unachievable vision and explain why we need to start tapping into the real reasons that people travel. Join me now for my conversation with Sahara Rose. FOH is a global food service and hospitality company that manufactures smart commercial grade solutions. Headquartered in Miami, the company designs and manufactures all their restaurant and hotel products. They have showrooms and distribution centers located throughout the globe, and their products are always in stock and ready to ship from any of their distribution centers worldwide. Welcome, Sara Rose. 

Sahara Rose de Vore: Thank you so much for having me today. 

Robin Trimingham: Well, I’m really looking forward to our conversation because wellness and helping others, I mean, I’m all about that. So I think we’re going to have quite a bit to talk about here. What got you first interested in the healing benefits of travel? 

Sahara Rose de Vore: Yeah, Thank you for asking that. Well, I studied hospitality and tourism management in university and graduated in 2010, and I’ve always struggled with an anxiety disorder growing up, and it flared up even more in my last few years of university. And upon graduating, I found myself struggling with anxiety attacks and bouts of depression, and I wasn’t much of a traveler quite yet, but I had the goal to start backpacking, so I knew that I wasn’t going to do well if I found a corporate job and sat in an office. So I decided to take an unconventional route, bought a one way ticket to Ireland. I packed a backpack and I was not sure what I was in search of or how travel was going to benefit me. I thought I was going to go for a month and a half and come back and quote unquote, figure out my life like many people in their early 20 seconds do and feel like. But I was realizing on my that very first trip to Western Europe how travel was really feeding my soul. I was learning so much about myself. I was on my own journey of finding what happiness looked like. I was learning to cope and manage my anxiety in a variety of environments, and I was really feeling fulfilled old. And I guess that’s what you call a bit by the travel bug. And I kept on going from there and for the next decade traveled to 84 countries really falling in love with what travel was doing For not only myself. I had thousands and thousands of conversations with other travelers, and I got to understand what travel truly meant to them on a personal level and a human level and why they were turning to travel for so many different reasons in their life. 

Robin Trimingham: I remember a professional backpacker telling me once that, you know, you’re really a part of the elite group when you’re at a random bus station somewhere in Patagonia and you run into somebody that you met two years before and you’re both still on the same journey. So I think what you do is incredibly cool for you. Was there in the beginning of your travel like an aha moment that made you suddenly think about everything differently and I’m interested in your answer because we’re talking about travel and transformation today. 

Sahara Rose de Vore: Yeah, at first it was just day by day figuring out where I was going next. I was also battling the pressures and stresses of finding a job and settling down. And what am I going to do for my future career wise? And I gave myself grace to keep on going. I gave myself the time limit when I was 30. I was going to figure out my career path if I hadn’t found it by then. But it was throughout all of my travels that I gained a really unique perspective on the travel industry. I began traveling during a time when I had a flip phone that didn’t turn on for service and a paper map to travel with to today when there are all the travel apps and resources and technology under the sun that we can use to make our trip planning more seamless. And during that decade of transformation within the industry, I was learning what travelers were looking for, what they liked, what they didn’t like, what companies were offering, how companies were treating people who wanted to travel. There was a trend of the digital nomad and people quitting their corporate job. Quitting the 9 to 5 to travel became like a tagline Quit the 9 to 5 to travel the world and found it interesting. Why? And wondering why companies were not paying attention to this at the time. Becoming a digital nomad was something that I think was labeled as a careless millennial. But now we see the remote work on the rise. But because of the past few years, the pandemic has really shined a light on the value that travel has on us. And we as human beings have changed because of the pandemic and therefore our traveler behavior has changed. And that’s why we’re hearing more terms like transformative travel, mindful travel, responsible tourism, intentional travel, all of these trendy words. But. You really have an underlying purpose, which means really using travel as that tool to help us in so many different aspects of our life. 

Robin Trimingham: Think you’re making an excellent point because we have a tendency to internalize everything and to just analyze our lives from inside ourselves. But there’s a school of thought that really says when you turn what’s going on in your mind into a physical activities, you really have the capacity to change everything about you and your surroundings in a physical way. Crazy story. Whenever I have a really big problem to solve, I wind up painting a room in my house physically because the act of painting is sort of an act of transformation and renewal for me. And it’s somehow the physical labor part or in your case, I guess, the travel part. It really helps walking forward through the situation and you somehow or other come out the other side. I know that you have spent an awful lot of time helping women entrepreneurs with their passion for travel to help clients transform their lives. Talk to us a little bit about that. 

Sahara Rose de Vore: Yeah, it’s essentially what I was realizing during my travels, and because I was in search of a travel career myself, not only did I have a degree in the industry, but I had all this experience traveling. I was still struggling for a really long time to figure out my career path. I knew of all of the travel and hospitality related jobs and careers that existed, but none of them aligned with me. I’m not someone who settles for anything. If I knew that’s not really what aligns with my values or my interests or my time. So that’s why I kept on traveling for so long. But then over time, I found this void in the industry On how people were not tapping into the actual human need, human desire of travel and using that information to provide these meaningful experiences. The industry as a whole, I noticed, was marketing and selling travel on a very surface level, and travel agents were routinely asking certain questions, basing it on preferences, asking generic questions. And I said there’s more depth to why people travel and what people get out of it. That if we really set an intention to why we travel or help people set those intentions for why they’re going on a trip, they can possibly have these transformative, meaningful changes experiences in their life, these change of feelings that they’re yearning for from the moment of them searching for Google flights, Googling flights, and being envious of travel influencers that they see scrolling while they scroll online. There’s a motivating factor for why we go on every trip that we go on and we’re different every single time. So when I started my own wellness travel coaching business, I was inspired to help other especially women, but men as well. Travel business owners find how they can help other people make an impact with how people travel, really helping people set intentions for their trips and using travel as that tool that we all innately turn to for our own personal growth, professional life, inspiration, relationships, human connection and more. So that’s really what led me into what I do in the travel Coach network. 

Robin Trimingham: Let’s talk about that a little more. What is the latest data say regarding the psychological and physical benefits of travel? 

Sahara Rose de Vore: I love talking about this stuff. And something I found really interesting was in was just last year the Global Wellness Institute. They came out with a wellness tourism initiative, a survey, and they surveyed a lot of leaders in the space and asked them, what do you think travelers are looking for when they are considering a wellness related destination? Because when we think about it, first, wellness travel has been built off the spa industry. So if we were to Google wellness, travel or wellness travel experience, we’re most likely going to get platforms or experiences or offers that are centered around yoga and meditation or a hotel with a nice gym facility or spa center, yoga retreats, meditation. But for me, and just in general, there’s so much more to wellness and travel than just that. And therefore you would think that something like spa or fitness centers would be higher on the list for this survey. But instead what was found that 56% of the respondents said. For both two answers. Local healthy food as well as time in nature and wildlife. But yet, on the other hand, only 23% reported that they wanted spas and hot springs or fitness experiences. And if the industry was marketing this information or thinking that this is what people were looking for for wellness travel, this survey is a great example of what today’s travelers actually looking for. 

Sahara Rose de Vore: But remember, back during the pandemic, reading articles on doctors in the UK who were prescribing time in nature to patients struggling with anxiety and depression. And I found that really interesting and very forward thinking on ways to help people with life cope with their feelings by using these different what I call elements of travel and nature is one of them. There’s tons of studies out there talking about the power of blue and green spaces, so spaces time near bodies of water or time in nature. So parks we here force bathing in Japan, which is on the rise. So all we’re hearing more and more of these more wellness experiences that are immersed in nature, but they don’t necessarily have to have the label of wellness on them. They’re unintentionally they’re wellness experiences because studies have proven that nature and these different natural resources can provide these different various wellness benefits to us, like easing our stress, easing our anxiety and sparking cognitive ability and all those things that we innately feel when we travel in the first place. 

Robin Trimingham: I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m home based on the island of Bermuda. And you’re absolutely right. There’s nothing like a walk on the beach. It’s a really grounding kind of experience. And even in the middle of the winter, when the water is actually fairly chilly, there’s something about it that’s very restoring just to go and walk up and down a couple of times and it can absolutely change your whole day. Do you feel that the transformative benefits of travel are going to become increasingly a decision factor when people are planning leisure travel? 

Sahara Rose de Vore: I think absolutely. Like I said, we hear terms like transformative travel, mindful travel. People are more interested in responsible tourism and sustainability, which also fall under the category of wellness, the emotional field to take better care of our planet and make a more lasting impact. There are more experiences being desired to spend time and make a difference in communities volunteering or giving back in some way. Traveler behavior has changed. Like I mentioned as a whole during the World Travel and Tourism Council’s global summit last year in 2022. And Saudi Arabia, this guy named Greg O’Hara, who’s the founder and senior managing director of a private equity firm called Certares. When he asked where he would invest $1 billion, he said it would be in wellness and adventure. And I found that interesting because he goes on to say that, quote, People are making decisions about travel based on what they want to do, not where they go, end quote. And I find that super interesting because it’s not about choosing the destination first. It’s about what kind of experience am I looking to have and therefore fitting in those puzzle pieces on where to go, who to go with. And I find that really important because it goes back to people’s motivation for why they want to go on a trip, what feeling are they looking for? And then it’s the same thing that goes into the business travel industry as well. More and more people are looking to spend time on business trips in a way that doesn’t lead to the burnout epidemic that they were having before. And it could be the simple things like spending time taking a walk near a body of water, something that Project Blue Health talks about just 20 minutes near a body of water can really help ease in the long run your stress and your anxiety. So it’s a smaller changes like that. But I think that transformative travel, even though it can seem like a trendy word that’s going on right now, the fundamentals of these trendy words are wellness, emotional, mental, physical, physiological, spiritual wellness benefits that travel can bring for people. 

Robin Trimingham: I would imagine this is particularly true with a bleisure traveler that you have to be somewhere and you have to work, but you want to make the absolute most of your experience in your downtime. Would you agree? 

Sahara Rose de Vore: Yeah, it’s a tricky industry. I’m very much a part of the Global Business Travel Association and the business travel industry, and I speak to a lot of travel managers and corporate travel platforms and it’s something that wellness that they’re looking into because of the burnout epidemic that. Was happening pre-pandemic in the business travel industry. There’s actually a study by 2022 study by the GBCA, and they asked travel managers if they thought that employees were more interested in blended travel experiences as they come out of the pandemic. So do they want a little bit more leisure and leisure activities? And 82% of the respondents answered that their teams were now equally or more interested in adding leisure time to their business trips. So 82% of them thinking that, yeah, my business travelers might be interested in spending a little bit more time leisurely. And what that could look like is whether it’s flying a their partner out or their family, extending their time and inviting their family. And like I said, that time in between meetings, I’ve spoken to so many business travelers who they don’t know what to do in a destination because if you’re changing new destinations, new environments all the time, not only can it take a toll, but you’re not familiar with all these places. And if you’re not provided the education and the resources on what’s around you or what is possible, then they go back to their room after meetings. They spend their time in their hotel rooms, and it could be something as small as taking a walk near the body of water to a park or connecting with the locals in some meaningful way. Or one of my favorites, too, is to take a piece of that destination with you. So something of the cultural experience. I know a business traveler who took a photo of the sunset every time he traveled somewhere and would send it to his family. So it was a piece of them getting to see what it was like there, too. So these small little things can really build that emotional connection and enrich the travel experience and make that business trip a little bit less stressful. 

Robin Trimingham: Established in 2002, FOH is a woman owned global food service and hospitality company that manufactures smart, savvy commercial grade products, including plateware, drinkware, flatware, hotel amenities and more. Driven by innovation FOH. Is dedicated to delivering that wow experience that restaurants and hotels crave all while maintaining a competitive price. All products are fully customizable, and many are also created using sustainable eco friendly materials such as straws and plates made from biodegradable paper and wood and PVC free drinkware. F.o.h. Has two established brands front of the house focused on tabletop and Buffet Solutions and Room 360, which offers hotel products. Check out their collections today at To what extent do you think that this is all really becoming part of a corporate travel policy at some of these companies? 

Sahara Rose de Vore: Well, the term of purposeful travel is being thrown around quite a bit lately. Wellness traveler well-being is also something that many companies are taking into account. Even though we know sustainability is a step above that and gets a little bit more focused, topics like duty of care is being referred to more as duty of people. So the intent is there, the interest is there. But like you said before, everything takes time and also takes education as well. What I talk about when it comes to holistic wellness is not gyms and yoga and all the things that are already being offered in the business traveler resource bucket. So it’s different. It’s a more forward thinking approach. But the response from corporate travel programs and stuff being they’re interested in having this information and providing these toolkits for their business travelers to be able to see, what can I do? What kind of people could we partner with, what kind of companies to partner with, kind of resources can we provide our business travelers with? They are really considering well-being, but they focus right now a lot on traveler friction. So the causes of stressors while people are traveling for business. So whether that’s delayed flights or how often they travel or what time of day they travel or are they traveling on the weekdays, do they get to be home with their family at all? So that’s the information that’s really being paid attention to most right now. But moving forward, because the term the concept of purposeful travel is being considered, then it’s really about moving forward. And where does the future of business travel wellness look like and how can you really customize, quote unquote, a personalized experience for a business traveler? And it just boils back down to getting to know their personal needs as that individual. 

Robin Trimingham: I think sometimes with corporate travel, it’s really about changing your own mindset. We’re talking a lot today, and our examples are of the natural world walking in a forest or being able to see a beautiful beach. But the reality is for a lot of travel, it’s in urban areas, it’s the airport hotel. And I think you really have to challenge yourself, okay, At the end of the day, how am I going to take 30 minutes to learn something about this place that I’m in today? Or to go outside and breathe the air or to make myself remember this place in a way that I’m going to really, truly be glad that I was actually here, because that’s when your whole energy changes. Regarding your experience and the road warrior life that you might be leading at the present moment. Let’s talk about it from the hotel side. To what extent do you think that the hoteliers themselves need to realign their marketing initiatives to more accurately depict what it’s like to stay at a place or what the property is going to be like? 

Sahara Rose de Vore: Yeah, that’s a really great question. I think with social media nowadays, it makes it easier than ever for guests travelers to share their opinions and to share their experiences. So it’s something that hotels should be very mindful of, the overall experience. So one, are they meeting? Are they meeting at bare minimum, what they are putting out there to their to the travelers of the expectations? But also it’s going beyond that, that personal touch. People are looking for an experience that is going to make them feel something in some way. So if you’re just making the bare minimum, that’s an expectation people already have. And in a competitive world like hotels and boutique hotels and now co-working share spaces, it’s something that travelers are going to be looking for is how is this place going to make me feel? And that also boils down to the treatment of the employees and also the employee interaction that people have, too. But what I think that hotels as a whole need to do when it comes to depicting what a stay at their property might be like, is to identify the wellness assets that are in their hotels destination and then map out those assets or those benefits to target to reach those who their ideal travelers are going to be. Who are they actually trying to speak to? And that comes with a variety of things to think about partnering with the local community. And so really, are you talking about sustainability? How do you meet that and to what extent do you follow through with that as well? That’s something that travelers they’re going to know if you market your. Health is wellness or you market yourself as sustainability. Really? What does that look like when they’re actually on the property? So being able to be more authentic and forward with the expectations of the traveler is going to be really important. 

Robin Trimingham: I agree with that. What I sometimes wonder, though, do you think that employees in general need some sort of maybe retraining is the wrong way to say it, but some new information or a better way to think about the guests they’re serving in order to really understand like the wellness need from the guest’s perspective? 

Sahara Rose de Vore: Absolutely. The fundamentals of travel are people in place. So the hotel is in the place, and the people that the travelers encounter are going to also include the employees of a hotel or the companies that they choose. So it goes down to even their Uber drivers or the Lyft drivers as well too. So those interactions that they have makes a full contribute to the entire experience as a whole. So when it comes to I think there definitely has to be there needs to be some sort of coaching or retraining, not even training. I wouldn’t say the training because you can’t train someone to have emotions, but I think it’s the education behind helping employees understand travelers and getting to know them on a more human level, because every traveler is different and every traveler is different at every time they travel. Sometimes I know I’m guilty of being a lot shorter or tired because I came from a long journey and my conversation with the front desk people is going to be a lot shorter. And I just want to get to my room versus times where I’m more open to talk or have a conversation. So it’s more about being able to read a traveler, meet them at where they are at at that point of their trip, but then allowing them that space and that safety to be able to connect with the employees on a more personal level, too. Because if you think about it, sometimes when I hear people going on a trip or coming back, they’re some of the people that made the biggest impact on them were people at where they were staying. That’s something that I relate to. More recently, I was in Atlanta for a travel show, and I just remember thinking that every single one of my Uber drivers are just they were so kind. And it’s something I kept telling everyone when I came back from my trip. I’m like, the people in Atlanta were just so nice. And those small things make a big difference too. And that goes down to hotels and their employees. 

Robin Trimingham: Yeah, I agree with you. And I remember almost a year ago interviewing one of my first guests for this podcast, and he’s the kind of guy who is in a different hotel literally every single day because that’s part of his job. And he said to me, the worst thing in the world was to arrive at a hotel at 11 p.m. and you go to your room and you find that cheese tray. And it’s been there since one in the afternoon. And it’s the last thing that you want to look at in the middle of the night. What I often think would be a much better approach would be to simply look at the guest and say, Is there anything I can do to make your day better? And lots of the time it’s going to be, Oh, no, I’m fine, I’m good. But you know, for that 1 in 50, that 1 in 100, who goes, Oh yeah, I really need X or oh, I really wish I had Y. It might be something so small and so easy You can say, Oh absolutely, I can do that to help you out. 

Sahara Rose de Vore: Yeah. And even that question sometimes goes makes a big imprint as well too. So at least that person knows. The guest knows that, hey, the staff is here for me. If I do need something, they may not need it at the moment, but maybe another time. 

Robin Trimingham: So as always with my listeners, because they are die hard hoteliers, we have to ask the question that they’re thinking about what’s in it for them? How can the hoteliers listening benefit more on the transformative benefits of travel for the guests that they’re serving? 

Sahara Rose de Vore: Well, it’s all about the experience. And so every hotel is going to talk about how they provide a great experience or they care about the travelers and make it a personalized experience. There’s a lot of noise on the Internet and there’s a lot of competition in this industry. So like I said before, travelers will know which hotels actually stick to their word and which ones go above and beyond. And it’s really important to take a look at partnership is big. So things to consider for providing these sort of transformative experiences mean you can only do so much within your property with your amenities that you offer and the how your staff treats the travelers and the size of the suites. But partnership, especially now in this industry where collaboration is huge and partnership is huge, people want to immerse in the destination that they are at. Even if it’s a business traveler, they want to maybe go for a walk outside and want to know is there a trail nearby or is there a great site I should go visit and see nearby just to get some sunshine on their skin. I know that’s what I do when I go for conferences. I’m like, if I have a little bit of time, I just want to get out for a walk to clear my mind. 

Sahara Rose de Vore: So taking a look at what your destination has to offer, where your property is at, even if it is a airport hotel, still there’s something around or something that you can recommend or what can you create for that experience within your property as well too. So this is a time for companies to be more forward thinking and outside of the box and truly tailor to the personalized experiences that people are truly are really looking for and considering. Are you going back to the old ways of how hotels were run before and how hospitality has been? Because if that’s the case, you need to get out of that mindset. Because when an industry like tourism and hospitality has been halted and shaken up and flipped upside down and then rebooted, this is a great opportunity for innovation to stand out and to bring that humanity back to the travel industry. Think about what travelers are are looking for when it comes to community, culture, food, nature. These are all things to consider bringing something into your hotel or partnering with. Maybe it’s a surrounding charity or events or something else that that adds to the overall experience of the traveler. 

Robin Trimingham: Yeah, completely agree with you. And I don’t think that there is any really going back to how things were because things are just not how they were. A question I’m asking everybody that I chat with. What do you think is the biggest mistake that hoteliers are making at the moment and why do you say that? 

Sahara Rose de Vore: One of the mistakes that I think they are doing is it is sticking to the old ways. Like I said, wellness was talked about in the industry pre-pandemic, but what are you actually doing that’s outside of the box? So what I’ve seen in my research and in my connections is still centered around the original term of wellness travel, still associates with the spa and the fitness centers and the yoga and the treatments and all of the stuff that you can find on a spa menu. But travelers have changed and they’re looking for something a lot more meaningful. So really starting to think outside of the box on that and also caring only about the bottom line. There are more options than ever before for travelers on where to go, who to choose to stay with, and the decisions that travelers are making on who they give their money to and what they share about their experiences. They have a lot of choices now, so you have to be able to meet the travelers on what they’re in need of or above their expectations, because in the long run, if you do it right, it all is going to benefit the bottom line. Anyways. 

Robin Trimingham: I think you’re making an excellent point because social media alone has changed everything and you really can’t hide anymore if you’re making mistakes, if you’re not making an effort. But equally so, if you’re really getting it right, everybody’s going to hear about it. So how Rose, I want to thank you so much for your time today. It’s been a pleasure to meet you. You’ve been listening to the Innovative Hotelier. Join us again soon for more information and insights, specifically for the hotel and hospitality industry. You’ve been listening to the Innovative Hotelier podcast by Hotels magazine. Join us again soon for more conversations with hospitality industry thought leaders. 

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