In Search of Authentic Experiences: What Would You Sacrifice?

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A friend of mine just came back from an eco-chic hotel and said there was a rat in her room. That’s pretty real and authentic. The more I questioned her, it turned out that this was maybe not a rat but an animal indigenous to the South American location she was visiting. We decided, right or wrong, it didn’t matter. Wild animals in your guestroom is usually not a good thing.

It got me thinking, with the quest for authentic travel, what exactly are luxury travelers willing to give up? We asked the luxury travel advisors who attended our recent Ultra event this very question. While some said that their clients want to be emotionally connected to the people and the destination they are visiting, they don’t want to give up the basic comforts. For some, this meant going from a five-star to a four-star hotel. “They don’t want to give up a good night’s sleep!” said one advisor. Another said their clients will go for just basic amenities but only for a night or two. “They just don’t want to be too hot or too cold. And they don’t want bugs!”

One said her customers are willing to sacrifice private limousine service, but beyond that, they would not be keen on giving up great food or go down a star rating on their hotel. Another declared her clients are absolutely unwilling to give up any luxury when they travel. At least she knows where they stand.

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Ruthanne Terrero

Fabulous food and wine were two features that could not be sacrificed, as well as coffee. (Personally, I wouldn’t go on any trip if there was no hope of coffee in the morning. We all have our things.)

In the end, it comes down to a travel advisor managing the expectations of their luxury client. These need to be in-depth conversations. Just as a travel advisor should be able to paint the picture of what a truly priceless luxury moment is like, they should also be able to illustrate the “non-luxury experience” if their clients are going to emerging destinations that do not have air conditioning or where the lights go out every night at 8 p.m. Advisors need to put their clients to the test and get them to respond honestly that, “Yes, I can handle this and I will not be calling you every two minutes to get me out of the hotel I insisted you book for me.”

Two other elements that cannot be given up? Time is one of them. Luxury clients want every element of their itinerary to be protected so that they are not wasting precious moments on their vacation. The travel advisor needs to ensure they’re not kept waiting for private transfers or that they’ll have to wait an extra two hours to get into their hotel room because a property is slow on maid service that particular day. That’s when it’s vital to have direct access to the general manager, who can fix such a scenario.

The other factor that cannot be left out of a trip? Safety. It used to be fun to travel when there was some sort of edge to a destination, but now that we know the evils that exist in the world, security is a number-one concern for any traveler, luxury or not.

One travel advisor said that she feels this drive for authenticity is a bit “buzzy” at the moment. “At the end of the day luxury has to exist. The food has to be great, the air conditioning has to work well and the service has to be perfect and personalized.” Do you agree?

For other findings from Luxury Travel Advisor’s Ultra conference, watch future issues!

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