Why slow travel is a rising star in the travel industry – and may prove the most resilient

How does a travel business increase revenue by 20% year-over-year with fewer travelers?

Just be a pioneer and an innovator like Fresh Tracks Canada is in providing the types of travel experiences people can’t get enough of right now – slow travel.

Slow travel has a big place in a travel economy that continues to prove possible- recession-proof. It’s at the nexus of many luxury travel trends – the desire to spend longer on trips, willingness to spend more money on them, and the thirst to immerse oneself in a place and learn from the people who live there. At the same time – The World Travel and Tourism Council says it’ll take another year to reach 2019 tourism levels, and even then, inflation may put downward pressure on the total number of trips taken overall.

With those market dynamics, maximizing individual trip experiences is key – and it’s why things like Fresh Tracks Canada’s “One More Day” marketing campaign are so on point. Its goal is to maximize the book-ends of a trip. Say a client books a five-star hotel the night before their 13-day trip on a glass-domed train for a coast-to-coast trek across Canada, but spends only a few hours enjoying that hotel. Why not come in the day before, or stay a day at the week’s end? The goal of Fresh Tracks Canada is to make sure the entire experience, end-to-end, for every single client, is exceptional. And that benefits everyone in their travel ecosystem.

“We want to make sure the customer has a legendary experience from start to finish,” said Gabriel Villablanca, who is the Director of Paid Media and Website for Vancouver-based Fresh Tracks Canada. “Trips are busy, but they are never rushed. All of our trips are personalized and bespoke in nature.”

Trips that are busy but never rushed is a really good way to describe slow travel experiences – sort of mini versions of “Eat, Pray, Love.” They’re all over Conde Naste’s list of biggest travel trends of 2023 - intrinsic to transformative retreats, hybrid flight-light travel and trips that prioritize educational itineraries. Flywire has many clients that enable these types of experiences – allowing people to visit places in a sustainable way, such that they don’t leave heavy footprints on the environment, and come home, as Forbes put it, with “a thumbprint on the soul.”

As Fresh Tracks Canada will tell you, slow travel isn’t new, and the fundamentals behind it only continue to gain strength.

  • Travelers surveyed by American Express Travel said they wanted to visit a place where they could truly experience the local culture (85%), and were interested in going on vacations that support local communities (78%).

That’s exactly what Fresh Tracks Canada is delivering. They’ve planned more than 25,000 personalized trips that center mainly around rail travel. Transportation isn’t a means to an end. Travelers cross the country via railroad in luxury rail cars on multi-day trips. The company also offers tours to polar bear country in Churchill, traversed via tundra buggy. Everything is designed to help travelers be fully present in these environments, to connect with the majesty of it all. It’s hard not to look up and feel something when a brown bear sidles up to a train or a polar bear grazes by the window.

A really important part of making this all happen is making sure paying for it is as seamless as possible for the travelers. While its largest market is US travelers, Fresh Tracks Canada hosts guests from all over the world. As little as a year ago, travelers still paid for these trips by check when they wanted to use a credit card, which was not the type of “slow” anyone was looking for.

“The point of payment is a big moment of truth, and we need to make sure that moment of truth is an elevated experience. It reflects poorly on us if not,” Villablanca said.

Fresh Tracks Canada implemented Flywire in July of 2022 to allow travelers to pay online in their preferred currency, using their payment method of choice. Flywire handles the currency conversion, and Fresh Tracks Canada receives payment in USD and CAD. It’s easily accepting payments from 31 different countries and 25 different currencies (with the ability to scale to 140+ currencies), with the majority of travelers now able to pay online with their own country’s credit card. Flywire also supports digital payment methods. Fresh Tracks Canada recently accepted payment in Boleto from Brazilian guests.

The savings add up. Fresh Tracks Canada has saved more than $167,000 so far in merchant fees since implementing Flywire.

It’s just one example of the real value to be had in considering payments as a part of the trip experience.