Luxury travel isn’t what it used to be, and it’s a good thing. The reality of travel today is that consumers are more concerned with the narrative of their trip than the brand-based luxury elements that traditionally drove travel purchase decisions. The evidence of this shift in perspective and priority is clear through travel trends such as Adventure Travel and Experiential Travel. M. Paul Munford puts it succinctly in the 2017 Skift Travel Trends Report, saying that “The new luxury is defined by small brands with big stories.”
Ker & Downey Africa, an Adventure Travel company operating throughout Africa have seen the evidence of this first hand. 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.” As further confirmation of the market’s movement, an entirely new genre of travel has recently gained traction, known as flashpacking - backpacker style travel for the affluent. Flashpacker Connect is one such company that partners with Ker & Downey Africa in satisfying Adventure Travel needs globally.
There are a few key reasons for the shifting emphasis of travel from premium brand names to authentic experiences and powerful narratives.
The travel industry is one of the most competitive, lucrative industries in the world, showcased by the expected $12 trillion that the industry will contribute to global GDP by 2025 (source: Skift). Where there is competition, there is an expectation on service and product providers to continually improve satisfaction levels of their customers. In this case, the industry has followed closely the heightened satisfaction customers feel when their travel experience has consisted of unique moments, fulfilling encounters or adventurous thrills. As global awareness around the power of experiential travel has grown among travelers and suppliers alike, 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.” Brand experiences that are today, amplified globally through social media, in real time.
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 travelers are willing to pay for these travel experiences, when compared to purely premium brand luxuries.
This changing definition of luxury is perfectly 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.” - Lee Kelsall.