top of page

5 Reasons Experiences Are Taking Over The Gifting Industry

Written by: Melanie White, Virgin Experience Gifts


The events of 2020 to present have shaken up so much about our culture. We’ve changed the way we work, the ways we connect and refocused our priorities. An uncertain and trying period gifted us perspective, and for many Americans it changed everything. More Americans are trending toward minimalism and gravitating toward fully experiencing life, rather than accumulating more stuff. A recent study revealed 74% of Americans would prioritize travel and experiences over traditional wrapped presents for gifts.

Statistics confirm the trend. Even before the pandemic, a 2018 Eventbrite study showed 63% of U.S. adults (ages 18 – 65+) would prefer to receive an experience gift than a material gift for the holidays. That trend continues to climb. A 2021 Sitecore Holiday Trends Report showed 71% of US residents said they don’t need more stuff and would prefer experience-based gifts. International research data group YouGov polled US dads in 2021 about what gifts they wanted for Father’s Day. Experiences tied for the top spot with 28% of dads saying they want an experience with family more than tools, clothes or something homemade.

RELATED: Minimalism – An Essential way to Flourish

Gifting Experiences Strengthens Relationships

This trend toward gifting experiences is backed by science. A 2017 Journal of Consumer Research study found that experiential gifts can bring people closer. The study included experiments that examined real-life gift-giving and found experiential gifts produced “a stronger emotional response which led to improvements in personal relationships making the impact of the gift truly last a lifetime.”

Experiential gifting is about making meaningful memories through unique extraordinary experiences. People are going to remember a once-in-lifetime flying or driving experience long after they use up a candle. Flying lessons, or cooking classes with a world-class instructor or golf instructions with a pro will stick with someone long after last winter’s sweater ends up in the donation pile. These experiences also form lasting bonds between the people who share them.

One customer writes of their experience, “Once in a lifetime experience... Flying on a P51 was one of my dreams and I'm glad to say that I did it. Fly with a legend. The whole experience from the ground crew to the pilot was amazing. A must for all aviation lovers.”

Gifting Experiences is Hyper-personalized

One of the biggest draws for experiences as gifts is truly being able to personalize the gift for the recipient. A 2018 Expedia survey found that though all generations prioritize experiences, the types of experiences they’re most interested in varies: “Gen Z travelers value adventure experiences such as exploring and trying new things more than anything else. Baby Boomers see traditional travel experiences such as sightseeing or touring as the most important. Millennials and Gen X desire relaxation, such as the beach or spa time, more than anything else.”

The study also found differences depending on economics. Families with lower income desired more family-friendly experiences, middle class buyers were interested in traditional experiences like tours and sightseeing and those from the higher income bracket preferred relaxing experiences. Experiential gifting allows you to focus on personality types. There are categories of products that cater to creative personalities, thrill seekers, foodies or someone looking to be pampered. personalities. An experiential gift is inclusive of all genders, personality types, socioeconomic situations and backgrounds.

Americans Want Convenient Gift-Giving

Another consumer demand that is driving the experiential gifting field is the desire for convenience. According to the 2020 National Retail Federation study on consumers 97% of consumers have backed out of a purchase because it wasn’t convenient. Buying an experience eliminates the dreaded trip to the mall. To make things even more flexible, many experiential gift providers like Virgin Experience Gifts allow easy refunds and exchanges and convenience in scheduling, allowing the gift recipients the freedom to choose a date and time that works best for them.

Two gift recipients write, “We received a half day fly fishing trip from our children for Christmas. It was so easy to book the date and time. All the info we needed was there. Extremely easy and so smooth. I know our children spent the money for us and in my opinion, whatever they paid, it was well worth it in every way!”

Gifting Travel Experiences on Trend

Though holidays, birthdays and graduations are always a popular time for gifting, travel has also become a drive in the experiential gifting industry. As more Americans are traveling, they are looking for new places to visit and new things to try when they arrive. According to Destination Analyst’s April 2022 report, 55.7% of American travelers prefer places they have not been to before. Furthermore, 64.9% of Americans said that they would be “happy” or “very happy” to receive a travel-related gift for the holidays.

Millennials Prefer Experiences

Millennials are fueling the experiential industry. There are 80 million of them in the US., and according to a 2020 study, they spend $2.5 trillion every year. Eventbrite did a survey on millennial spending habits and found that 78% would choose to spend money on an experience or event over buying more stuff.

Furthermore, 72% say they would like to increase their spending on experiences rather than physical things in the next year, pointing to a move away from materialism and a growing demand for real-life experiences. Millennials say experiences help to create their best memories and make them more connected to other people, the community, and the world. In a 2021 Storage Café survey of 9,200 people, millennials ranked experiences as their top gift choice.

Gifting experiences over stuff is convenient, unique, personal and helps to strengthen relationships between the gift-giver and recipient. Expect to see this trend continue to climb as millennials and gen-z start to dominate the consumer market.

Tour and activity providers, spas, restaurants, and attractions can learn more about partnering with Virgin Experience Gifts by emailing suppliers@virginexperiencegifts.comor by visiting


About the author:

Melanie White is the Executive Vice President of Virgin Experience Gifts, formerly Cloud 9 Living. She joined the company in 2015 with a focus on product development and immediately secured a number of new experience partners. Since then, Melanie has held several positions within the business and led various commercial functions, contributing to the rapid growth of the business over the past 6 years. Prior to her tenure with Virgin Experience Gifts, Melanie was an accomplished sales professional handling key accounts for BCBG Max Azria Group. Melanie received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Fordham University and an associate degree in fashion merchandising management from the Fashion Institute of Technology.



  • linkedin-brainz
  • facebook-brainz
  • instagram-04


bottom of page