Opinion: Are You Doing Luxury Right?

I traveled recently with a group of very affluent travelers. Some had three houses, a private plane and a yacht. They are used to having private guides when they travel and staying in the best hotels. You get the picture.

During the trip, our group leader took us on a city tour and led us into a glass-blowing exhibit. It was pretty basic stuff; everyone gathered around the glassblower and watched him do his thing. After a short while, a few of the people in my group stole away. When we all met up later, they questioned why they were brought to such a simple demonstration. “Do you know how many times I’ve seen a glassblower do that?” asked one woman. Then she cited all of the locations she’d seen glass-blowing demonstrations in.

It was a tough crowd to please but suddenly a light bulb went on over my head. Have we all become a bit too cliché when it comes to delivering luxury travel? We know the affluent traveler wants authentic experiences, but how many times have they been taken to a farmer’s market by a chef on a trip you have planned for them? If it’s more than once, I think you can safely assume they’ve crossed that experience off their bucket list. But are you still putting such basic activities into their itineraries?

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How about cooking classes? Who doesn’t want a cooking class? Not that client who has had about five of them on the top-notch tours you’ve booked for them. So what else are you offering them?

Joshua Bush of Park Avenue Travel earlier this year said at one of Luxury Travel Advisor’s roundtables that the client is over the “wow” experience. You’ve been giving it to them for years and now they’re spoiled. They’re asking what you can do for them that’s really different. His words have stayed fresh in my mind all year long. Beyond the “wow” is the new mantra for 2014 if you want to stay at the top of your game.

Related Link: What does the luxury traveler really want? Here's that roundtable discussion we just cited.

What does this mean for you? When you picture your affluent client, imagine they’re at the very top-tier of experienced globe trekkers and that they’ve seen it all. Imagine them looking down at you askance as you try to stick them into a basic experience that will make them yawn and will have them sneaking away to the first pub they can get to so they can escape the mundane.

Scott Wiseman, president of Cox & Kings, The Americas, was just here and said he’s finding that affluent travelers often want to meet up with other affluent people in the places they are visiting because they will have similar interests and may be able to provide access to amazing things, such as their own private art collections, that no one else gets to see. Wiseman said he and his team are trying to build that type of experience for Cox & Kings’ FIT programs next year. It’s not easy and such introductions are usually made because someone you know knows an interesting person who can introduce you to a remarkable person. It’s all personal.  This means your networking capability to find fascinating individuals has to be stepped us several notches. Are you ready to do that?

So, if you have a client who is a painter, don’t just insert museum visits into his itinerary. He can find his way in there himself. Get him a meeting with a well-known local painter and let them spend quality time together. Reach way beyond the norm to see what extraordinary pairings you can make between dynamic human beings so that your client’s travel is not only authentic, it’s enriching and memorable, and way beyond “Luxury Travel 101.”


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