TURNER Q&A: Sahara Rose De Vore
Based in Milwaukee, Sahara Rose De Vore is a wellness travel expert who believes that a vacation is not just a means of escaping reality, but a powerful tool for personal growth and self-discovery. Her own transformative travel experience came as a solo globetrotting backpacker — a 10-year journey to over 84 countries and across six continents. During that time, De Vore developed a deep understanding of the power of travel.
Today, De Vore is committed to helping her clients unlock their full potential via the Travel Coach Network, an extensive database for travelers, companies, and organizations to search for and hire travel coaches. TURNER spoke with Sahara to get her thoughts on the evolution of wellness travel, the state of the industry and much more.
Wellness travel is one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot — what does it mean to you?
Wellness travel has a variety of perspectives and definitions. It was built off the spa industry originally — so a lot of people think of spas, gyms and hotels with luxury wellness treatments. But I focus more on the holistic approach. I look at what parts of travel can improve or positively impact our emotional well-being, our physical well-being, our spiritual well-being. There are decades of research out there that show the various wellness benefits that travel can have on us. I take a closer look at that — things like human connection and time spent in nature. How changing your environment can change your thought process.
You’ve said that travel can help us professionally as well as personally.
Absolutely. When I started my own wellness travel coaching business back in 2018, I took a big interest in the business travel industry because of the burnout epidemic that I was seeing. I’d talk to road warriors they’d talk about how travel could have such a negative toll on them —increased addiction, obesity levels, depression, stress, everything. Business travel can bring emotional struggles, where you feel like you’re doing something that’s not fulfilling you anymore. You’re just on the road, kind of in a robotic sense. That was taking a big toll on the industry.
I wanted to empower companies to flip the script on a business traveler’s well-being. Again, there’s a lot of research out there on how travel itself can inspire creativity, inspire new ideas and build relationships. That’s the whole purpose behind why someone gets on a plane for business and goes to another destination. And then when it comes to the travelers themselves, business travel doesn’t have to have a negative impact on their well-being. It’s about changing behaviors. Instead of going back to their hotel room instead, maybe take a walk near body of water or spend time outside in the sunshine. Connect with the locals, try local cuisine and get immersed more in the local culture. Everywhere around the world has something different to offer and it’s a missed opportunity if business travelers aren’t experiencing it all.
Tell us about your concept of the “Travel Coach” — what is a travel coach and why do you think it’s an important part of the tourism industry going forward?
I started the Travel Coach Network in 2019 based on responses and questions that I was getting online from travelers, travel agents, travel business owners and other people looking to do more with their love of travel. It’s grown over the years — which is great — and now there are different definitions of what a “travel coach” is. But within the Travel Coach Network, a travel coach is someone who helps people set intentions for their trips. We help people use travel as a tool, whether it’s for their personal goals, their work goals or their wellness goals. We help them find the transformation and change in their life that they’re looking for. All of the underlying reasons why people travel in the first place are brought to the surface. Travel coaches show that travel can be a vessel to achieve positive outcomes in our life.
What can destinations and hotels do to stand out in a way that aligns with your work as a travel coach?
What many destinations and hospitality companies offer — at least in their marketing materials — is very similar. You can only have so many different types of beaches and so many different types of comfy beds. Room sizes are going to be quite similar across the board. Every hotel is going to have a great sport and fitness facility now. So, it’s really about thinking outside the box and going back to the roots of why people travel.
When I speak with people at hotels, I tell them to take a look at the unique attributes of their property or their destination. Find an emotional connection. It’s not about speaking about the beach itself, but about what benefits the beach can offer the traveler. It’s speaking to the emotions of the traveler instead of just out of surface level marketing. Go beneath the surface. Understand who you’re trying to attract and look at travelers’ needs on a more human level.
On your website, you mention the idea of “authentic tourism marketing” — can you expand on that?
Instead of trying to market to everyone, authentic tourism marketing is figuring out which audience is best for your destination or property. And then, speaking to that audience on a human level. Addressing those motivating factors that cause them to book the trip in the first place. And instead of trying to keep up with what competitors are doing, take a look at what you can do differently. We hear people in the industry talk about a human-centric approach or a more holistic approach or a personalized approach. But they still refuse to go beneath the surface and speak to the actual emotions of the traveler.
A pet peeve of mine is that so many in the industry haven’t changed their approach. We’ve gone through a pandemic that flipped the tourism industry — and people’s lives — upside down. As a result, people are prioritizing their time, money and happiness more. For companies to completely ignore that change seems like a big missed opportunity. It feels like some hotels and destinations are doing themselves a big disservice. It’s interesting because at its root, travel is such a personal thing.
I just came from a travel and adventure show this weekend where there were a lot of Caribbean destinations. In the Caribbean, as a destination, you’re going to offer a very similar product to your competitors. And I couldn’t tell you the difference from one booth to the next. The marketing materials were more or less the same for each place. It seemed like no one was taking this different approach. We need to look at why we as humans travel in the first place.
Learn more at thetravelcoachnetwork.com.