Tribes can leverage experiences they can offer beyond casinos to attract younger visitors to their properties.
The Raving Next Indian gaming conference tapped into innovative trends in hospitality, technology, and guest experiences shaping the gaming industry, including experiential storytelling, that help differentiate their properties.
During Thursday’s session in Albuquerque, Jennifer Chap, a consumer-insights and brand-strategy expert with Raving Edge who previously served in leadership roles at Universal Orlando, suggested that tribes can build on the success of gaming to diversify their enterprises for generational impact.
“For three decades, casino gaming has been a transformational economic driver and differentiator,” Chap said. “Today, Indian gaming is maturing. With more competition from everywhere, differentiation is the key to standing out in the crowd.”
That’s taking place as the gaming customer continues to age, but Chap said there’s good news for tribes. The experience economy is booming. Multidimensional and meaningful experiences are in demand.
Chap said tribes need to reimagine what’s possible to diversify and complement gaming and create new revenue streams.
Shifting demographics and travel trends are inexplicably linked, Chap said. Younger generations value multigenerational and meaningful experiences.
“Empowered by technology and the post-COVID new normal, those things are amplifying travel behavior,” Chap said. “Today, the combination of Millennials ages 27 to 42 and Gen Z ages 11 to 26 represents 46% of the U.S. population. This means one in three adults is in these two groups and don’t forget the Boomers and Gen Xers. You can build on this base.”
These travelers are looking for a broader range of experiences. Millennials are driving a growth in travel and they don’t mind spending more if it’s worth it to get those experiences, Chap said.
“But both segments look for deals online, where they go for their information gathering, planning, and booking,” Chap said. “Authenticity and social connections are critical for both generations. They value experiential, authentic, local culture and want to engage in experiences that are in essence of the people and place.”
A 2022 study led by Northern Arizona University explored Millennial preferences for tribal, cultural, and nature-based tourism. They tested 11 ideas and the top-performing concept was immersive experiences guided by tribal members, Chap said.
The top experience was a cooking class of tribal food, followed by a shared meal, and Chap said guests were willing to pay for it.
Second on the list was a guided tour, followed by a tribal art gallery that allowed guests to interact with tribal artists. In addition, they wanted a guided hiking adventure on tribal trails.
“In contrast, the more passive and less unique experiences, which you can get at other places, like wine tasting, were at the very bottom,” Chap said. “I think that’s an important insight.”
Millennials travel not only to explore, but to express themselves through images, videos, and stories, because they value social connection, Chap said. Instagram-friendly travel is important to them; Millennials want to memorialize these experiences.
Chap said technology from the startup OurWorlds helps the public get a greater understanding of current and historical Native American experiences using extended reality 360 geo location. It includes personal storytelling mixed with immersive technology.
“The bottom line is Millennials yearn to be immersed in a unique culture and travel is all about experiences people can touch, taste, and emotionally connect with. Tribes can provide that through preemptive differentiation and taking what’s really unique that every tribe has.”