In an American Express survey commissioned last year, consumers illustrated their demand for more enriched lives and personal fulfilment through experience and learning. Over 72 per centÊof respondents said they would rather spend money on experiences than things. Further, 88 per centÊsaid travel is the number one dream on their life’s bucket list, ranking higher than family or wealth.Ê
ÒConsumers want to have life-fulfilling experiences when they travel, and they are seeking travel experiences that closely align to their own personal values,Ó said Laura Fink, VP of Marketing at American Express Travel.
ÒFor example, we are seeing customers looking for travel experiences that will allow them to interact with the local community; they want to visit private homes, schools, orphanages and smaller villages.Ó
American Express recently polled a group of its travel ÒcounselorsÓ (agents) to ask them what trends they’re seeing for summer travel. Of them, 34 per centÊresponded that their customers are Òspecifically looking to immerse themselves in the destinations they visit and to travel like a local”.
When the same travel counselors were polled about specific travel priorities, Ms Fink said: ÒOver 20 per centÊindicated customers want adventure travel tours and arts and culture tour experiences. Our travel counselors are often receiving requests to plan trips that include gondola lessons in Venice and pastry-making classes in France.Ó
One of the most interesting takeaways from the American Express survey is that this shift in travel behaviours crosses all age groups. With so much focus on Millennial travel trends, there is a tendency to sometimes overlook how Boomers and older Gen X are driving significant demand for more experiential and adventurous travel options. Their definitions of experiential and adventure travel are sometimes just a little different however.
Tour operator industry shifts into local gear
For example, the United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA) is seeing in increasing numbers that travelers today are looking for more immersive experiences, but the rise in demand is spread across both emerging and traditionally popular destinations.
For younger generations, the Adventure Travel Trade Association reported this year that, ÒTech-savvy Millennials are adept at researching destinations and experiences online, however tour operators that personalise their offerings still have a role to play.Ó
For example, it’s implicit that tour operators catering to Gen Y only package accommodations with free and fast Wi-Fi. Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of the tourism consultancy Destinate, adds that millennials expect instant email confirmation, web tickets and digital boarding passes delivered to their smartphones.
Experiential vs. material goods
ÒMiddle class tourists from emerging markets want materialism,” said Ian Yeoman, Travel Futurologist.Ê”However, with the rise of middle classes in developing economies, luxury becomes less exclusive as more people are accessing it. As consumers become older, luxury becomes more about enrichment than materialism.”
We know that luxury does not mean one thing to all. However, it’s clear that in mature markets, luxury has evolved to become increasingly bound up in experiences rather than things. One key trend driving the future of luxury travel is the shift in values from the material to the experiential, rather than saving up to buy luxurious possessions, people are choosing to spend their money on experiences.
ÒWe offer unique access to some of the most unavailable and undiscovered experiences one can imagine,Ó said Luigi Bajona, Partner at Onirikos, a boutique Italian destination management company and concierge.
ÒWe design Ônon-Googleable options’ Ð from a private gala dinner in Venice on the roof terrace of Peggy Guggenheim to a private visit to an excavation under the Vatican. We secured the most VIP tickets for the sold-out Bocelli concert, which will be held at Teatro del Silenzio in July.Ó
As this trend continues, brands will appeal to luxury travellers via what they can deliver beyond their material product. Certain luxury customers will resist travel they consider to be pre-packaged and inauthentic Ð exclusive, one-off experiences are what they seek.
Brands that strike the right emotional chord with consumers will thrive over those reliant on the quality of their material offering. The new era of luxury travel will be about having access to the most incredible, transient experiences that money can buy, but only for a select few.
By Lorraine Abelow
Lorraine has had a 30-year, award-winning, boutique travel PR firm in New York City and is at the forefront of trends affecting traditional and digital media.ÊHer firm has represented such blue-chip names as Four Seasons and Hilton Hotels, as well as boutique properties across the globe and island destinations including St Barth’s and Necker. The agency’s affordable hotel PR and digital campaigns are designed to move the needle regularly gaining eye-catching feature exposure in such top outlets as The New York Times, Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. It’s the long-standing relationships the Abelow PR team has with high-level editors that insures coverage in A list media in every campaign. Coverage in influential blogs and social media campaigns round out Abelow PR’s expertise. Lorraine serves as an honorary judge for the Hotels Sales and Marketing International Organization, from which she has won awards for her outstanding achievement over her illustrious career. For more information about this boutique New York City PR firm visit www.AbelowPR.com. You can contact her at [email protected] or 203-226-9247.