Luxury continues to be more about experience, less about lodging

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“Experiences, experiences, experiences.” It’s been the driving mantra of luxury travel for several years now. And not only is it not going away, it is permanently and substantially reshaping the industry.

This week’s announcement by Collective Retreats that it had secured $10 million in funding along with the support and participation of industry veteran Simon Turner underscores the fact that luxury hospitality is no longer about simply providing accommodations.

And it’s a fact that was emphasized by general managers and luxury travel professionals repeatedly during the annual International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes.

Collective Retreats is new “asset light-experience heavy” brand of portable luxury resorts. It currently operates tented resorts in Vail, Yellowstone National Park and New York’s Hudson Valley and is preparing to open in the Texas Hill Country and Napa Valley.

With the new cash influx and guidance from Turner, former head of global development for the innovative Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Founder Peter Mack says the company will be looking into developing new urban and international destinations as well using thing like moveable modular-style retreat.

The whole focus is on hyperlocal but still hyperluxe experiences, which was the driving theme as well at ILTM.

Accor luxury brands CEO Chris Cahill, for instance, said the focus across all his company’s luxury portfolio is on creating memorable experiences.  Ditto at Hilton Worldwide, where luxury head John Vanderslice says the them is “live unforgettable.”

Accor  hotels also offer customizable experiences through its global concierge service, John Paul.

And it’s not just hotels, Crystal River Cruises, for instance, this week unveiled a new collection of “destination experiences” that, for an extra cost, offer passengers both private custom and smaller group excursions with experts on local culture, cuisine and adventure.

For private excursions, the cruise line will offer concierge services to help guests design their own experience.

As Nancy Schumacher, senior vice president of tour operations for National Geographic Expeditions, said at ILTM,  luxury today isn’t about the room,, it’s about “luxury of the experience.”

And any doubters need look no further than demand.

Schumacher says the National Geographic is opening offices in London, Mexico City and Sydney next year, launching new products and growing its private, customizable itineraries program, which she says have grown 100 percent each year since it was launched in 2015.

By Jeri Clausing Courtesy Travel Weekly

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