Setting the Stage
Before 'agritourism' was a word, ranches across the West were offering a place for guests to stay and experience the lifestyle of cattle ranchers and farmers. An industry that originated by family and friends visiting this wild world of cowboys, changed quickly to a method for providing a supplemental income for ranchers as popularity spread and more ‘city slickers’ journeyed to these far out places.
And now, as many guest ranches rely more on tourism than cattle or crop productions, the focus of a ‘guest ranch’ has and should evolve to meet the needs of current travelers.
Common misconceptions of a guest, or ‘dude,’ ranch is that the experience may be old-fashioned or just plain hokey. And unfortunately, some ranches do still fit this description. However, ‘old-fashioned’ is not a word that can be assigned to all guest ranches as many are broadening their activities’ base and searching for ways to become more experiential and transformational.
The Needs of Travelers
In a recent article in Travel Age West magazine by Emma Weismann she quotes a travel industry and consumer analyst, “Just because you did something the same way for decades doesn’t mean that is always what you should do,” Henry Harteveldt said. “It’s no longer Grandma’s chocolate cake — experiences have to evolve in ways to be authentic, relevant and appealing.”
Weismann goes on further to quote Jeremy Palmer, senior vice president and general manager of land product and worldwide operations for Tauck: “The need for authentic tours has always been there,” he said. “What’s accelerating, specifically, is what defines ‘authentic’ and ‘experiential.’ Those expectations are being raised.”
Guests Ranches Taking the Initiative to Be More Than Authentic
I don’t think there’s any doubt that guest ranches have always had authenticity on their side. So, as expectations of the vacationers are changing, so too, are the guest ranches that provide these authentic vacations. Rooted in deep historical context, guest ranches are finding ways to appeal to a new base of customers that want meaningful experiences and the avenue or space to internally transform their worldview and purpose.
Up Next: Experiential Travel: How Guest Ranches Can Provide Meaning to Your Life
Within the next blog in our series on experiential travel, we'll explore specific ways that guest ranches, including our very own Elk River Guest Ranch, are appealing to travelers today, and how this type of vacation can transform the lives of our guests.
Quotes credit to Travel Age West article on November 13, 2016 by Emma Weismann entitled, “Why 2017 Will Be the Year of Transformational Touring”