Travel Trend: Exploring Your Roots Through Ancestry Travel
In the past few years, at-home DNA testing has become more and more common with the popularity of companies like Ancestry and 23andMe. People are increasingly interested in learning where they come from, and these tests often reveal surprising ancestry that they never would have guessed.
As of 2019, more than 26 million people had tested their DNA with a commercial database (MIT Technology Review).
One of the results of this trend is people are traveling to the places their ancestors came from, leading to a rise in ancestry travel, also referred to as heritage travel or DNA travel.
These ancestry trips are a way for travelers to learn about their families, explore their own identities, and understand their roots. At the forefront of this trend is the partnership between Airbnb and 23andMe, which matches travelers with experiences that will help them get in touch with their heritage.
What ancestry travel looks like depends on the person, but it can include staying in traditional lodgings, avoiding the most popular attractions in favor of authentic experiences, or enjoying interactive activities that connect to the local culture. This guide will cover some of the types of experiences ancestry travelers look for in their destination.
Authentic Local Experiences
Ancestry travel is all about getting in touch with your roots, so travelers on these types of trips are not usually looking for tourist attractions that are removed from the actual life of the locals. These travelers prefer off-the-beaten-path tours that give them some insight into what life is really like at their destination.
This could mean taking a hike in a location that isn’t popular with tourists, a visit to a traditional town, a food tour that goes to the places the locals frequent, and more.
Local tour guides also make a huge difference in these authentic experiences. They bring intimate knowledge of their hometown to the tour, and their stories help guests feel more connected to the places they’re visiting. Local guides also offer tips on where guests can find the best local food, explore traditional shops, and other experiences that ancestry travelers are sure to be looking for.
Private, Customized Tours
If an ancestry traveler is looking for a unique experience that connects them to their heritage, they might be hesitant to join a public tour with a large group. A private experience allows for more customization, especially if it encourages travelers to choose what parts of their destination they want to visit, what activities they want to do, what kind of food they want to eat, and other aspects of the tour. This allows travelers to create a tour that will truly resonate with the purpose of their trip.
History & Culture Tours
One of the main drivers of ancestry travel is a desire to learn about the history and culture of the destination. Travelers on a heritage trip are looking to connect with their ancestors and learn where they came from, and a history tour is a great way to gain a lot of knowledge of a place within just a few hours. Whether it’s a walking tour, bus tour, or a visit to an iconic museum, castle, temple, or another type of site, history tours can be a great cultural experience for an ancestry traveler.
When on a heritage travel experience, travelers are often looking for information that they can’t find in a book or travel guide, so expert guides can really make a difference here. Whether they’re weaving in personal history or sharing their knowledge as historians or other types of professionals, tour guides on these tours can really make history come to life for guests, bringing them closer to the destination and their own roots.
Hands-On Activities with Locals
A great way to connect with a new culture is to roll up your sleeves and take part in a hands-on activity like a cooking class, homestay or craft workshop. This can be especially appealing to travelers on a heritage journey, as it allows them to connect with their destination in a way that feels truly personal.
These types of activities are also a great way to get to know the locals, such as a local chef at a cooking class or a local artist at a workshop. Hands-on activities also allow travelers to learn about the history of their destination, whether it’s through tracing culinary traditions or learning about the local economy and how artisans support themselves.
The rise of ancestry travel is a great opportunity for tour and activity businesses to attract travelers interested in exploring local life at their destination. If you offer off-the-beaten-path tours or other authentic local experiences, make sure you’re marketing these aspects of your business that make your tours unique. It might be just what ancestry travelers are looking for! For more travel trends to look out for, explore our industry insights guides!