First-class flights and the more stars the better for accommodation have been the mainstay of luxury travel for decades. What’s driving the desire for authenticity, which is defining a new luxury in travel experiences?
We caught up with industry expert Karen Majsay about how her team at Travel Associates, a Virtuoso partner is leading the way in 'money can’t buy' on the ground experiences that are redefining the words ‘luxury travel’.
The “New Definition of Travel Luxe”
The shift, we believe is due to the desire for authentic, unique and personalised travel experiences. This is driven by an increase in global appreciation of different cultures and the longing to become one and emerge ourselves fully into a given culture when visiting.
Luxury travel is less about the standard of the French pastry at the breakfast bar but rather about traditional greetings on arrival, opportunity to dine on local delicacies and speak to locals.
What is driving the new luxury?
Individuals are seeking accomplishment and an understanding of their full potential in the creative, intellectual and social realms. It’s a shift from externalisation to internalisation of luxury. In Karen Majsay’s world, in a practical sense “this means time for self improvement in having the opportunity to do something in your travels that you do not have the chance to do in everyday life”. This may be yoga every morning, finding a time to paint and do art classes, eating fine foods every day or being as remote and removed from your life as possible. Going somewhere or doing something that very few people get to do, (especially the neighbours) is considered the new luxury as it is exclusive and unique; something their friends and family may have never done or heard of. This could be (swimming with whales, following Leopards in Sri Lankan national park, attending an Indian wedding).
How does this relate to destinations?
Luxury was once defined as 5 star hotels and locations that would involve perfectly made beds, extraordinary customer service and pristine cleanliness. “Luxury properties these days are not just 5 star hotels, but properties that offer experiences and connection to a place.” Somewhere unique and different, that no one else has gone to. Karen Majsay says more and more clients are looking for more exotic and off the grid locations in order to achieve that exclusivity. They are choosing more remote locations in order to see places that are untouched, meet people and communities that have not already been affected by tourism and see wildlife and natural environments that are fragile. Of course being active and adventurous has always been a desired aspect of travel, however Karen has seen an increased desire for a combination of activity and adventure combined with luxury comfort and cuisine. For example, the luxury lodge all-inclusive with daily treks or hikes is a continuously growing travel option.
How are top end organisations and tour operators responding to self-actualisation holidays?
With self-actualisation being at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of personal needs, it is the realization, growth or fulfilment of one's talents and potentialities. These much desired feelings could be more easily achieved whilst on holidays when one feels their absolute best in a state of peace and tranquillity. Karen Majsay says, “based on personal recent experiences in travels to South America and Africa, companies in the luxury lodge and experiential travel realm are at the top of their game. They are offering guests undisputed luxury in terms of their accommodation, food and transport but also offer so many jaw-dropping or challenging cultural experiences. These experiences offer customers the highest satisfaction and fulfilment of needs.
Where are the ‘must-go’ places to visit in the next year?
Karen Majsay says her go to places for 2019 are “Japan, Sri Lanka, remote wilderness lodges in Canada or Alaska, Peru, Chille, Galapagos; the list goes on.” Karen’s plans involved a mixture of entertainment, relaxation and fun; a self-drive in Ireland, a major festival in India and Japan for the Rugby World Cup. Having the luxury to experience a range of holidays is a luxury in itself.
What’s trending as popular experiences to maximise positive psychology and well-being? Where and what?
Beach style trips to relax and recharge are so important for busy, working families and couples. Hot for this is Maldives, Greece, and Croatia, which is now growing to other Mediterranean islands.
Destinations that promote families doing things together always work. Africa for safaris, sailing on private yacht charters, self drives through national parks, and then cycling and walking trips for older families.
“Wellness resorts" that offer luxurious accommodation, a lot of flexibility on wellness programs and can include gourmet cuisine and wine, and allow for short stays are attractive for singles.
How are the top end organisations and tour operators responding to self actualization holidays?
Experiences that are jaw dropping, and or challenging are constantly being added to destinations. The key is tailor making trips and having a network such as Virtuoso that enables great insider access to get the unattainable ticket. .
What do you offer that others don’t?
Every holiday requires a mutual understanding of what’s the personal goal. That’s our key difference. We have a strong client base that comes back again and again because we innately know what they want and what works for them.
I have multiple clients that I am aware of their 3-5 year travel plans, so am always thinking of those future trips for them already and how we will fit them in, and why one would work better this year and then another trip the following year.
We are after finding you the perfect trip for the time, the reason, the budget and then looking after every detail of the trip that we can, to make it come together perfectly.
Consumerism in the tour industry is driven by price, however we tailor the experience to the person. That’s not to say that everything is off the Richter scale price wise. Sometimes this means using flight deals but it’s balanced by tailored research to match the desired outcome for our clients.