Lessons Learned from Coachella: Going Where the Money Is

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Long flowing prairie skirts with lace-up boots and flower wreaths for your hair... I’ve always been a fan of the Bohemian fashion style; in fact, sign me up for it any time, any place. I’m there.

That’s why my heart sings when Coachella rolls around each year. I’ve never attended the music festival, which takes place in the desert in Indio, CA each spring, but I do pore over the social media feeds of girls dressed in fringe vests with flowing hair and love beads.

I’m not the only one enamored with Coachella, which has just wrapped up. This year, according to CNN.com, American Express had a pop-up lounge for its Platinum and Centurian card customers at the Parker Palm Springs hotel. Guests were treated to private concerts, shopped for chic festival wear while sipping cocktails, had their hair braided and took SoulCycle spinning classes.

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Why the huge investment in such a consumer event? American Express says that Coachella attracts an older, more affluent Millennial than other festival, and that it’s engaging thousands of card members and attracting new customers, according to the article.

And so goes the quest to attract the MWM (that’s Millennials With Money; I just thought that up, thank you). If MWMs have all the traits that the research says they have, i.e.: the inclination to recommend brands they trust to their friends; an innate desire to travel now to iconic places instead of waiting for retirement; and a nearly inborn dependency on technology (which means you will be able to reach them on their mobile device because it’s always attached to them), I’d say American Express made the right decision to spend big on its own happening scene at Coachella. Go where the money is.

That’s definitely something for luxury travel advisors to consider: Where can you find such an enormous cluster of potential clients with such a strong likelihood to spend on themselves? And how can you immerse yourselves right into their midst, as American Express did, so the image of your travel agency is melded directly into the amazing experience they’ve spent a lot of money on to enjoy? Look around in your own geographical region to see if this type of event ever takes place. It might be something so simple as winery tours or it could be an event you build yourself — specifically for MWMs.

Another thought came to me as I read the CNN.com piece; it noted that the previously free-wheeling, wild-child fashion at Coachella is becoming homogenized by mainstream retailers standardizing the look, or, as Women’s Wear Daily put it, “The majority of attendees’ clothes have stagnated in what can only be described as the mass mall-ification of ‘festival fashion.’”

In other words, what was once meant to be a loose, let-go event in the desert is falling into the trap of being over-commercialized.

Luxury travel could stumble in the same way. As more and more trips are plotted out by Millennials because they’ll provide the most Instagrammable moments, the concept of what portrays a great vacation can definitely become homogenized. This is where luxury travel advisors and suppliers come in to play. They need to protect the original spirit of what travel is supposed to be: A time to immerse, a time to let go and a time to explore. 

Put pressure on the client in the nicest way possible to push their boundaries and to not consider their trip a triumph just by the way it appears on Instagram. The success of their trip should be based on how they feel when they’re on their journey, not just on how they look to those subscribed to their social media feeds.

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