These are the findings of several recent studies of the affluent market. We can affirm that high-end consumers are increasingly seeking new and more personal experiences. From Millennials to Boomers, we are seeing an aspirational shift from seeking to be cocooned and pampered toward a desire to truly connect with local people and the destination.
It’s no longer a one-size-fits-all landscape. We often show our upscale hotel and tour operator clients how making even minor adjustments in their offerings and renaming them for buzz and highlighting those attributes in the public relations messaging can be very effective. This works for both enhancing their appeal to existing clientele and in reaching new types of visitors.
Here are three of the important trends that our hotel and travel public relations agency has been leveraging successfully recently which are resonating with the press and their readers.
Unpretentious Luxury. The buzz in hotels and hideaways is no longer about seeing and being seen in extravagant surroundings. These days, upmarket travelers treasure stunning architecture and landscaping designs that incorporates local materials and traditions to convey a true sense of place—all with no sacrifice in comfort, privacy or personal service, of course.
For example, treehouse-style lodgings that nestle into a Central American rainforest provide a private perch for birdwatching, wildlife spotting and spa treatments rooted in indigenous traditions and local ingredients. Meanwhile, in the South Seas, wealthy guests cut off their links to the outside world—including WiFi–to stay in secluded, thatched-roof huts cooled by sea breezes.
And in cities, boutique properties are increasingly redeveloping landmark historic buildings and creating welcoming cafes, bars and other public spaces that provide a “home” for the local community as well as their guests.
Takeaway: Ultra-luxury often takes the form of privacy combined with a strong sense of place. Boutique properties that emphasize special local aspects of their properties, from eco-tourism to wellness to total escape, can garner the attention of prosperous travelers and the media and travel agents who cater to them.
Authentic Connections to Local Communities. “Authenticity” has become the word of the day both in budget and high-end travel because it points to the kind of true people-to-people connection today’s travelers want to feel with a destination. These human interactions often create lasting bonds that transcend the normal travel experience.
For example, a resort in a remote coffee-growing region of India arranges for interested guests to visit one of the local farmers and see how coffee is sown, plucked and prepared. This is especially popular with families. Similarly, bringing in a local choir, dance troupe or storyteller to perform at the resort and then mingle with guests not only connects guests with the local culture, it engenders good relationships with the community.
One boutique resort in Fiji noticed how thrilled guests were when employees occasionally invited them to join in traditional activities, so the owner and employees worked together to develop a cultural program. Now visitors can learn to “herd” fish, harvest herbs, weave baskets, help cook a communal evening dinner and take part in a “meke” celebration where traditional songs and dances relate tales of love, legends and spirits.
This cultural sharing has become a centerpiece of the resort and the reason many people return year after year.
Takeaway: Luxury travel often means being able to connect to locals in an unscripted and natural way. Tour operators and hotels can work with their employees and local organizations to create meaningful experiences that genuinely benefit both the visitor and the community. These experiences, in turn, can start a virtuous circle of goodwill and provide the basis for great coverage in the media.
Only-here experiences. Unpretentious luxury doesn’t mean not strutting your stuff. In our work as a NYC-based luxury lifestyle and travel public relations firm, we find many clients don’t even recognize their most valuable assets. We discover them and mine them for publicity in top outlets.
Is your hotel decorated with engaging art or artifacts? Consider offering personal guided or self-guided art tours. Do you have a great chef who enjoys teaching? Take a cue from some of the luxury cruise lines and offer small-group cooking classes or chef experience that begins with shopping for ingredients at the local market, which gives a real flavor of the destination. What questions do guests most often ask employees?
Groundskeepers at an Australian resort were constantly being asked about the unusual native trees and plants around the property. Now its guided eco-walks have turned the landscape into an attraction in its own right.
Takeaway: Take a fresh look at your property or products with an eye towards what is authentic, intriguing or unique. Check in with your clientele and employees and look at what is trending around the world. You may be surprised what you find!
We are here to help. Give us a call at (212) 941-9247.
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