Why 'Xperience Local' lived up to its name by showcasing exceptional Jordanian hospitality

HLabs shows up for alternative tourism by speaking at the Xperience Local conference in Jordan. Our Founder & CEO Hannah Springett shares her experience of the conference and stay at the Hilton Dead Sea Hotel.
20th September 2023
5 min read
Hannah Springett, Founder & CEO of HLabs
Xperience Local Conference - Presentation
A sneak peak into some of slides presented at the Xperience Local conference
That was easily the best business trip I've been on... and to do it solo, with one day's notice, even better!

I wanted to take a minute to appreciate the last week and what an unexpected treat it’s been to visit this fabulous country. I had no idea what to expect when an invitation to the Xperience Local Conference dropped in the HLabs inbox.

Earlier this year I set the personal goal to speak publicly, so this and a 15-minute chat with the charming Anan at Leaders International was an offer I couldn't refuse.

Xperience Local's event is dedicated to alternative tourism, shedding light on sustainable and authentic travel experiences led by the diverse, less-explored local communities of Jordan. I got designing immediately!

What was the conference about?

The conference kicked off with this wonderful video showcase of Jordan's tourist attractions created as part of the Curated Experiences initiative, funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Jordan.

The day was packed with tips, case studies and community projects discussed by a wealth of experts, influencers, government officials and of course the Jordan tourist board.

90% of travellers to Jordan are solo travellers.

Whilst listening to live translations of Arabic into English (a first for me that I found fascinating) I jotted down notes on how Jordan needs to improve its marketing efforts to reach new audiences.

The heritage, culture, and historic sites from Golden Triangle are so overwhelmingly suited to storytelling it gave me hundreds of ideas on how we might be able to help tantalise any tourist.

The real focus needs to be expanding people's knowledge and visibility of areas less well-known and community-started projects that put locals at the heart of it.

The Jordan Trail presented by Duha Fayyad, President of the Jordan Trail Association was one of the most memorable. Their site is a great visual storytelling example with interactive itinerary carousel, full-bleed video and illustrated maps. I struggle to motivate myself to walk anywhere and this talk had even me considering it. Great job!

80% of tourists travel to Jordan to see Petra.

The discussions in the afternoon were more about tech, AI and marketing efforts. Chats about utilising AI for travel itineraries left me with split views. Although we are seeing technology impact our lives daily to save us time, I personally still think half the fun of booking a holiday is doing the research and finding out more through local guides and hours of searching online.

One of our HLabs clients, Atlas Obscura, is doing a great job at widening the gap in knowledge of unknown areas with its 'Add a place' feature. I suggested to every small tour operator at the conference that they should be doing this. Immediately!

However, if I found the right AI tool for business travel, I’ll take itinerary organising all day! 😂

Ending the conference with an incredible banquet on the beach with traditional entertainment was the perfect way to conclude the day. Huge shoutout to Somaya Jamal Belqees for her energy and stories of embracing solo travel. Dancing barefoot to bagpipes was definitely a surprise but it instantly broke down barriers to allow some of the most successful networking I've had the pleasure to be part of.

I was glad that HLabs could play their part

At the conference, my talk was about interactive storytelling and the effects it can have on travel marketing. I shared a brief intro on what storytelling is, HLabs' formula for success, and real examples with proven results.

Time Out Magazine x EasyJet campaign to promote Jordan heritage sites was one of the first pieces of branded content I designed for the Jordan Tourist Board.

The three case studies I shared varied from branded content with big publishers, non-profit campaigns for WWF and working directly with travel brands to promote viral, user-generated content on smaller production budgets.

Exploring beyond the desert in AlUla: The Independent

World Travel Hackers: KIWI.com

Blue Carbon: WWF

I will be recording the presentation as a webinar soon but for now, please find the link here to take a look in more detail.

It was a humbling experience hearing that our work resonated with so many people in the audience. From design graduates to NGOs to travel operators who loved the 'freebie' options we shared. Was nice to feel we left a mark across attendees.

How was the stay at Hilton?

The stay itself was a real treat, and I was so pumped that it was part of the umbrella group of HGV, a brand we’ve just started working with (Check out the ESG report we just designed!). Everyone that knows me, knows I live for five-star hotels. And Hilton Dead Sea Hotel and Spa did not disappoint.

The staff are clearly happy. On my second day, I watched an employee get together to decide ‘housekeeper of the month’ and the team games and laughter were infectious and ended with a game of volleyball in the pool. Was great to see such a tight-knit group of employees together.

I have to personally thank the bar staff (in the photo above). After just one day I had a totally personalised service. Even before unpacking my bag, they had an iced coffee waiting not forgetting the side of ice and throughout the day knew what I wanted before I even did. Maybe I’m a creature of habit but it was really well received. So thank you, Hilton.

From the massage I booked to the spacious rooms and the most stunning sunset I watched night after night from the infinity pool I would recommend a stay here to anyone. I’ve never experienced hospitality like it.

Can't wait to book my next trip!

The location, the hotel, the business connections made at the conference and the warmth of the people I’ve met in just a few days, made it the best business trip I’ve ever had. My only regret was not seeing more myself, but this has just made me want to start planning a longer trip to do it justice. I'll be back. Promise!

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