There’s been a shift in luxury travellers priorities; while once brand-based luxury elements drove the travel purchase decision, now consumers are more concerned with the narrative of their trip. So what is the narrative of travel? In a nutshell, it’s small brands with big stories, according to M. Paul Munford in the 2017 Skift Travel Trends Report.
Offering first hand experience of this is Ken & Downey Africa, an Adventure Travel company that operates throughout the continent. CEO, Lee Kelsall comments, “A large part of what we do revolves around tailor making trips for our international guests. This gives us first hand experience with what the market is looking for. Travelers are less and less asking after names of luxurious lodge brands and increasingly, essentially, asking for experiences that will make a great story, or that have a powerful story attached to them.”
There are a few reasons for travellers switch from premium big-name brands to ‘authentic’ experiences. An increase in travel has led to competition and as travel companies have found that customer satisfaction increases when their experience consists of unique moments, fulfilling encounters or adventurous thrills, a new expectation has been set in the market. These expectations cannot be met simply by placing a well known name on the cover of an itinerary or hotel lobby wall, as Paul Munford puts it, “rather than…prestige being defined by the logo on the side of someone’s bag, scarcity and prestige are linked to unique and outstanding brand experiences.”
According to Forbes, “Approximately one-fifth of leisure travellers worldwide turn to social media platforms for inspiration within different categories of their travel planning” citing inspiration around vacation activities as the 2nd largest category of social media influence, after hotel choice. The sharing of unique and powerful travel experiences further increases the value that the market places on, and the amount that travellers are willing to pay for these travel experiences, when compared to purely premium brand luxuries.
As an example, this changing definition of luxury is encapsulated by Ker & Downey Africa’s LuxVenture™ Experiences. “As the name suggests these are our experiences that perfectly capture this new definition of luxury. We like to define these trips as containing adventurous days and comfortable nights. Yes, our guests are used to a certain level of comfort when they travel, and yes, these trips carry a premium price, but the real focus of the trip is in the moments we create. Unique, powerful moments that forge memories our guests will never lose. Whether walking with wild dogs in Kenya or glamping in a South African desert – they create a narrative you can take home with you.”