September 23, 2017
 
Luxury Travel

Read Part 1: https://www.voyagersworld.in/article/luxury-travel-rides-opulent-wave-part1

Decoding the Modern Luxury Seeker.... Marketing Insights!

We explore the rapidly changing preferences of the contemporary luxury seeker and the innovative ways in which luxury can be packaged so that it appeals to the agent and the affluent traveller. For luxury brands to resonate with and seamlessly connect with the current market intelligence, they need to redefine their go-to-marketing techniques and embrace disruptive strategies, which call for a paradigm shift from the conventional practices. This will help them consolidate their brand loyalty as well.

Anju Anna Alex

The notion of luxury itself is quite perplexing given that while most travellers equate luxury to plush interiors, modern amenities or even an indulgent spa experience, the epicures might easily censure such amenities as austere and frugal in outlook. In the opinion of Amit, “All generations have a different exposure, understanding and perception of what they feel is Luxury Travel. It is difficult to select any one generation which is keener on Luxury Travel.” Commenting about the evolution of luxury Tanushree says that, “A traveller’s perception of luxury not only changes throughout their lifetime – it can change throughout the duration of a single holiday. Circumstances along their journey will alter their perceptions and their norms – and the new era of luxury travel requires brands to constantly monitor their expectations, and adapt accordingly. In other words, new luxury is real-time.” Tanushree also stresses the need for service providers to understand the constantly vacillating requirements of the clients and to be in tune with the latest travel trends. “Our services and facilities or rather the experiences evolve around laidback luxury, close to culture and dedicated passion; our passion to provide the best of the Maldives in terms of value for money and unforgettable experiences”, she adds.

Luxury could mean different things to different people and luxury travel providers must be in tune with the constantly evolving tastes of the affluent consumers. Tanushree says that she always thought of luxury as an overrated term and that luxury travel is subjective. She elucidates, “Each destination has much more to offer than the 5 Star Luxuries of a room. For one traveller, it could be a private multimillion-dollar cruise around the Arctic on a famous yacht. For another, it could be the reassurance of having their dietary requirements automatically catered for, throughout their entire holiday. For me personally, leaving behind all the gadgets including the cell phone and just taking a break for 10 days in the wilderness of nature and staying in a small cottage off grid is Luxury. We have seen a growth at Sun Aqua Vilu reef – our 5 star boutique resort in Maldives mainly because of its offering – truly Maldivian and naturally playful where the focus is to show our guests the true Maldivian culture. The warmth of service and the attention to tiny details of the valued guests is in the heart of Sun Aqua Vilu Reef.”

These Millennial luxury seekers, who are intrinsically technologically driven, are distinguished by their readiness to splurge on authentic experiential itineraries close to nature without compromising on amenities as well as their insatiable appetite for personalized experiences. The affluent millennial travellers are also willing to address the need for sustainable luxury and are willing to go that extra mile to find destinations or properties that interknit wellness into luxury. Concurrently and quite paradoxically, though the purpose of travel is to disconnect from the madness of city life, today’s luxury seeker requires seamless connectivity for enabling business and leisure activities vis-a-vis technological platforms. The matured discerning clients add supplements/essentials to such comforts wherein they seek space, time, deeper and more engaging experiences, out of comfort zone trips, once in a lifetime inspiring moments etc., in Amit’s opinion. “Such a growth is good as new people from each generation start experiencing Luxury and appreciating it, others move to the next stage of more discerning and evolved luxury style of travel”, Amit elaborates.

Millennial travellers associate luxury with unique experiences and great amenities. Luxury connoisseurs opting for longer trips in smaller groups, is yet another emerging trend in the luxury segment with the Christmas-New Year period witnessing the most number of bookings for the luxury segment. From dining at Michelin Star restaurants to extending luxurious accommodations in rural locations, the new trends can be perplexing to say the very least. This also highlights the need for designing a framework that paves the way towards sustainable luxury tourism. Tour operators who offer bespoke, tailor-made experiences are in turn expediting the pre-existing market segmentation, even further. A few years back the luxury travel industry optimistically looked up to the family segment for curating its itineraries. Now, it is repositioning itself to target the millennial travellers.

Today’s consumer is more educated, well read and inundated with options. At the same time, the consumer has evolved to become a curator, a creator and an influencer. Thanks to social media, a single luxury shopper has the power to influence hundreds if not thousands of their peers. Amit defines luxury as something that is constantly evolving worldwide and says that this is the reason why accommodation or experience providers are always innovating to make sure that clients get to experience authenticity and at the same time they do not want them to miss out on any essential luxury they would otherwise expect. “This fuels growth in the Experiential Luxury Travel segment. Look at The Highlands in Ngorongoro, Bisate Lodge Rwanda, Ion Hotel Iceland, Miavana Private Island Madagascar, Merzouga Desert Camp Morocco, Longitute 131 Australia, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort Canada, Fogo Island Inn to name a few. Destination or experiences which have not yet involved to the same level of upgraded luxuries, we offer clients the best available alternatives, thereafter they either decide to go ahead (giving more weightage to the experience than the creature comforts), or at times they even tend to decline on the destination or location on basis of their continued preference for luxury accommodation and/or comforts”, he adds.

The matured discerning clients add supplements/essentials to such comforts wherein they seek space, time, deeper and more engaging experiences, out of comfort zone trips, once in a lifetime inspiring moments etc., in Amit’s opinion. “Such a growth is good since as new people from each generation start experiencing Luxury and appreciating it, others move to the next stage of more discerning and evolved luxury style of travel”, Amit elaborates.

Travel has increasingly transformed into a way of self-expression for the younger luxury seekers. It is understandably challenging to sell luxury to such a diverse, well educated, influential generation of young people. In order to resonate with the millennial mindset, experiences have to be global, exclusive and immersive. Amit remarks, “Luxury cannot be packaged, it is always tailor made, it always involves a consultation process and it involves lot of time and attention. You need to design a trip which is as per client preferences, expectations and budget. You can offer suggestive ideas from your archives, but never a readymade package itinerary. So selling true form of luxury travel is not easy, if it was easy then you would have been able to book it online. So discerning clients who understand the true meaning of luxury and seek services of luxury travel designers will come to us and the rest can Google everything and book in DIY fashion.” Therefore, when the very definition of luxury is puzzling, the packaging of luxury becomes even more problematic.

Brands and branding becomes important with more engagement on social media and websites becoming user friendly in Tanushree’s opinion. She says, “We try and maintain a healthy balance between the traditional methods of selling and the New-Gen marketing. We have seen a steady growth from India in the last one year thanks to our placing utmost importance to the individual planning of each holiday. I can vouch for it as I have been a part of the same, though it is very time consuming and challenging however the end results are that our guest satisfaction has increased drastically. Our resort team takes personal attention on each client and ensure that they go back home with a suitcase full of extremely happy memories. Anyone can sell luxury, but we sell experiences. We have so many repeaters to our resorts, and it is proof enough that we are doing more than selling, we are actually building bonds.”

Namale Resort & Spa is often eulogized as the epitome of luxury in the Fijian islands. Emphasizing on the packaging of luxury in all its exclusivity which Namale has perfected over time, Nowdla Keefe, Co-General Manager, Namale Resort & Spa, Fiji, says, “ Tranquil, private, and exotic; Namale Resort and Spa, is the perfect luxury hideaway for newlyweds, romantics, and those seeking their own South Pacific paradise.Set amidst a breathtaking tropical setting that abounds with rainforests, waterfalls, and stunning coastline, Namale’s boutique, adults-only setting features 19 private five-star bures and villas nestled among 525 stunning acres. Located on Fiji’s second largest island of Vanua Levu, these gorgeous natural surroundings, robust all inclusive packages, and an array of complimentary activities offer guests a unique combination of adventure and relaxation. Our guests fill their days to their ideal design, enjoying complimentary horseback rides along the beach, snorkelling day trips, motorized water sports, cultural entertainment and local village tours, and even indoor bowling among a wealth of other included activities and off resort excursions. Our award-winning, 10,000 sq. ft. Namale Spa is perched upon volcanic pinnacles with magnificent views of the Koro Sea and offers a range of globally inspired treatments with a focus on total mind and body. Our two ocean view restaurants serve world-class cuisine with a farm-and sea-to-table focus, while our destination dining program offers private, intimate experiences such as a romantic dinner in a candlelit sea cave or a champagne breakfast next to a rainforest waterfall. Because we’re very well-suited to romance travellers, we see a range of demographic profiles, but many of our guests are younger honeymooners, or older couples celebrating milestones and anniversaries.”

The consumers often find themselves in a fix trying to differentiate a high end brands from luxury brands due to the myriad of clever marketing tactics which overplay the usage of the term “luxury” in their promotional campaigns to the extent that the end user is left clueless about the veracity of such claims and about means to separate the wheat from the chaff. Stating that the quintessence of luxury is personalization, Nowdla elaborates, “The Namale experience is all about customization. Our 4:1 staff –to-guest ratio allows us to offer a high level of attention to each and every guest, and we pride ourselves on not only providing exceptional service but also anticipating our guests’ needs. Everything about a couple’s experience can be individualized, from custom menus catering to certain dietary restrictions, allergies, or simply personal preferences to personalized activities itineraries filled with as much or as little adventure or relaxation as desired. We can arrange for a private destination dining experience which offers a unique and special twist on all inclusive dining, or a romantic couples’ spa experience like a tandem massage and banana leaf wrap. We’re especially thrilled when our guests are celebrating a special occasion such as a honeymoon, anniversary, or birthday – a surprise dining experience, flower petal bath, or custom drink at happy hour goes a long way in crafting very special memories. We find that guests really enjoy bespoke experiences that are also tied to the culture and destination, and everything we do at Namale incorporate our beautiful islands and the rich culture and warm hospitality Fiji is known for.”

Luxury seekers want their itinerary to be experiential and exclusive if not anything else. Commenting on the same Amit says, “Depending on client, the focus is either on accommodation comforts or the destination experiences. They have to select what is more important, destination with luxury accommodation or destination with experiences or they search for a combination of both (which still forms the major chuck of luxury travel business from India). Certain locations or destinations which are more experiential, cannot offer luxuries of traditional 5 star Hotels or Resorts. This does not mean that you rough it out or backpack, you still get the essential luxurious (to the best extend possible) to make you comfortable while you experience the core of the trip.”

Kajal Somaiya, India Representative, Namale Resort & Spa, Fiji, explains that travelers today do an immense amount of research prior to booking and have a wealth of resources at their fingertips. She says, “Because the Namale experience is ultra all inclusive, travellers can easily see the immense value of our holistic package and know that they can expect the highest standard of accommodations, experiences, and customer service. It’s extremely necessary to make it simple for guests to customize their experiences, so our concierges are readily available to assist agents and travellers. Namale prides itself on delivering on our value propositions and offering the most bespoke, unique setting and experiences in which to create lasting memories.”

The new age luxury travellers seek of off-the-grid experiences in contrast to traditional luxury. Kajal further affirms the aforementioned fact by stating that luxury travellers today are looking for experiences far beyond solely traditional amenities. In such an interconnected world where more and more destinations are easily accessible, there is an upsurge of luxury travellers seeking untapped locales, highly customized experiences, and more unique and holistic itineraries that can’t be experienced elsewhere. “The draw of reaching far flung destinations and switching off from the everyday (even forgoing social media sharing) is becoming more appealing, and the Namale experience is designed to provide as little or as much technological connection as desired – which in turn fosters a lot more real and authentic connections between couples, tourists and locals, and tourists’ and nature. Namale caters to small, high-end incentive groups, but is a boutique property mostly focused on couples and romance”, she adds.

The industry as a whole might find it taxing to keep up with the ever changing needs of the discerning traveller. Nowdla opines that travellers today are definitely conscious of their impact and footprint. “Namale was purposefully designed to be harmonious with Fiji’s natural landscape – each of our 19 private bures (Fijian for bungalow) and villas feature authentic Fijian design like traditional thatched roofs and rich interiors of native wood, and blend seamlessly into their natural surroundings. Formerly a working coconut plantation, it is important that that history and natural legacy remains intact – instead of unnecessarily clearing trees or damaging the volcanic rock cliffs and shoreline, we build around those natural elements and incorporate the land. Fiji’s fertile landscape and bountiful ocean are ideal for bringing the farm- and sea-to-table culinary concept to the islands. Namale is currently expanding our organic farming operation in order to bring the freshest, most sustainable ingredients to our all inclusive dining. We harvest much of our own vegetables, fruits, and herbs from our own chef’s gardens, and supplement the program with fresh caught seafood from local fisherman, locally produced coconut oil, and other fare from local producers and farmers’ markets. It’s a concept which allows us to take all inclusive cuisine to the highest standard while also supporting local economies”, Nowdla outlines.

Image Credits: Namale Resorts, Fiji.

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