It took us a long time to find a way to describe our approach to adventures. The best we’ve found is the concept of finite and infinite mindset, popularized by Simon Sinek in the book The Infinite Game.
The finite approach focuses on manipulations like price, promotions, fear, aspiration, peer pressure and novelty. It’s a theatrical approach, requiring an audience and performed according to a script. Transformations in this approach are external, created for the customer by the experience provider.
This is the approach made popular by Pine & Gilmore in their book The Experience Economy and what we refer to as the retail approach.
An infinite mindset, on the other hand, starts with a cause that others want to support, allowing us to work together toward a common objective. Short-term goals and metrics become focused on getting better at what we do as we work toward our bigger cause, which by definition will never be fully achieved.
This approach is like a living drama. The guests are active participants, choosing to live their own adventure. The role of the guide is to be a trusted mentor, empowering the guests to answer the call to adventure by providing guidance, confidence, insights, advice or training. The transformation happens within the guest who is the hero of our adventure.
The infinite approach is at the core of everything we do, from developing new adventures to sharing stories. We refer to it as intentional adventures.
Guides work for different types of organizations with different purposes. Unfortunately, we use the same words to mean slightly different things depending on our context. Taking the time to understand why we do what we do is the first step toward crafting intentional adventures for our guests.
What Does It Mean in Practice?
It’s not a case where one approach is always better than the other: both have a role to play in adventure tourism. However, we find that it is easier to incorporate tours built using the retail approach into our product line-up if we start with the intentional approach rather than the other way around.
That’s because intentional adventures require more work to be done upfront and guests must be willing to allow themselves to get lost in the moment. Once this is in place, itineraries can be adapted to work for the retail approach.
Starting from the retail approach is more challenging. Some have had success using shortcuts, like those presented in The Experience Economy, but to be truly successful it requires a considerable paradigm shift. This requires a considerable time investment that can be hard to justify for operators who are finding success with mass tourism.
This brings up the question of why we may want to consider offering products from the retail approach as a company focused on intentional adventures. The main reason for us is that it allows us to expand our operations, offering our guides more work throughout the year. This happens because those products appeal to a different market segment and they are more suitable for sale through the travel trade, including with online agencies like Viator and Expedia.
These tours can also be an introduction to intentional adventures for guests, encouraging them to try a different type of experience for their next adventure.
This is not unique to adventure tourism. Guides working in other contexts will notice something similar in the types of interpretive programs offered, the school field trips they organize and the lessons offered by outdoor recreation organizations.