For a New Wave of Luxury Travelers, Experience Matters

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The Maldives, Paris, Dubai, Mallorca, Tuscany… Some, if not all of these are likely on most people’s list of dream holiday destinations. But for the discerning traveler who’s journeyed around the world and back for both business and pleasure, these places – and many like them – have lost their appeal, offering the same “humdrum” beach-front views or ski-slope activities.

When it comes to luxury holidays, high net-worth individuals (HNWI) have done it all and seen it all. To them, a 10-day Southeast Asian diving expedition is no longer exotic and the biennial tour of Europe has become mundane. In what has become a wake-up call for a complacent hospitality industry, these HNWIs are craving for MORE – more culture, more adventure, more authenticity – and they’re willing to shell out to get it. So instead of opting for the usual, ubiquitous travel packages of sight-seeing tours and souvenir shopping, sophisticated globetrotters are increasingly turning to curated luxury experiences for their discriminating holiday needs.

According to data from management consulting firm Bain & Company, the global luxury industry saw its biggest year-on-year expansion among the travel segment, with high-end hospitality in the lead, boasting a 17 percent growth. Luxury cruises and the private jet market were not far behind, increasing 16 percent and 14 percent respectively.

This growth, occurring at a time when high oil prices and a Chinese economic slowdown curbed spending worldwide, suggests that high-income consumers are more willing to spend money – and even splurge – on experiences rather than goods. A 2014 survey conducted by American Express confirms the trend, revealing that 72 percent of respondents would rather travel than make large purchases on items.

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But HNWIs are not interested in just any run-of-the-mill holiday experiences, they “want to have life-fulfilling experiences when they travel, and they are seeking travel experiences that closely align to their own personal values,” said Laura Fink, vice president of American Express Travel, as quoted by a joint report from destination management firm Peak and travel news portal Skift.

Wendy Perrin, TripAdvisor Travel Advocate and former “resident travel guru” of Condé Nast, echoed her sentiments, adding: “I think people and more people are traveling for a personal interest or theme. Like, they’ll fly to Lima to try out all the cool new Peruvian restaurants.

“Or they’re going to Italy and it’s not about seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Colosseum; it’s about learning to make homemade Tuscan cuisine, tiramisu or balsamic vinegar; meeting the chefs and winemakers.”

All-inclusive travel packages such as these are not only becoming increasingly accessible, they are also pushing the boundaries of luxury hospitality, with curators going through extravagant lengths to offer inimitable experiences that are authentic and, most importantly, tailored to the needs of the discriminating customer.

Are you a golfing fan with a penchant for fine whiskey? Take a first-class flight to Scotland, the birthplace of golf, and tackle some of the world’s best greens under the personal tutelage of a PGA professional. Then, celebrate your hole-in-one with a glass (or two) of the country’s premium whiskey during a tour of a distillery.

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Looking for a rejuvenating getaway that combines beauty and culture? Pack your bags for a metamorphosing experience in South Korea, Asia’s premium destination for cosmetic treatments. But before checking into your carefully selected world-class beauty clinic, enjoy amazing offers at Seoul’s most exclusive shopping districts.

For today’s luxury travelers, “time is [the] most precious asset,” said Perrin. So while HNWIs are ready to spend money on an extended holiday or a brief getaway, they won’t do so frivolously, scrutinizing their growing number of options carefully before selecting a truly unforgettable, bespoke travel experience.

 

 

 

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