Who is the Luxury Travel Consumer of Today?

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October  2017
by Anna Bjurstam, Six Senses Spas VP

I read an article recently that profiled the luxury travel consumer, and while there were some good thoughts, there were a couple that really bothered me. There is so much talk, and so many articles and blogs, about who the luxury consumer is, and all this conversation generally sits under one umbrella. But is that actually meaningful information and a worthwhile discussion?

I also just read the absolutely excellent book “Homo Deus” (the sequel to “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”) that speaks about knowledge that does not alter behavior, being useless knowledge (kind of like when we know that eating cake is not good for us, but we still eat cake).

An overarching theme in the luxury consumer article was around "personal fulfillment," followed by “You are who your friends are. You are what you share,” and continuing with "Next-generation luxury travelers are seeking access to people and places that elevate their social status among their online networks.” What a load of ….... well, something. In my view, anyway.


Why I travel

I'm lucky enough to work in the luxury travel segment and would say that very little of my travel is about achieving my life goal (personal fulfillment). My reasons for travel are multifaceted, but one thing I do is choose a hotel that expresses how I want to feel during that particular trip (hip, cool, sophisticated, relaxed, fancy – mind you, it is very different from how I feel at home) or a hotel that fulfills specific needs (value for money, travel with the kids, business etc.). I then want a hotel with a wellness foundation such as a good gym, a spa, nutritional food and a great bed, as I fit in the category of “wellness tourist.”
To give you an idea in case you are familiar with these hotels, examples of three different addresses in New York that make me feel utterly different are Baccarat, The Nomad and 1 Hotel.  Each with their own distinct personality.

To continue my rant on the article – saying that “I am who my friends are and what I share online”, I find pretty ridiculous. If we were what we share online, we would all live amazingly happy lives every single day. And I love my friends, but we are beyond different! How boring would it be if I am who they are? But given that I'm 47, I asked the question of both my kids and the millennials in our Raison d’Etre and Six Senses offices and they all thought as well that this was a pretty strange hypothesis (understatement).

Hence, achievement of one's life goals is a lofty endeavor, that social media is who we are, is simply useless information. When I talk to my friends and associates I find that the luxury traveler is looking for a personalized, purpose-filled travel experience that varies for each trip depending on reason for travel, destination and so forth.


So, who is the luxury traveler?

It depends.

If you are a 5-star business hotel in New York, or a resort in the Maldives – you are fulfilling different personal needs. Innately people want hotels that make them feel more than what they feel at home, hotels that resonate with their own values as they fulfill the image that they have for that particular trip.
Then, if you can personalize that experience for each guest – and this is the holy grail – then you are meeting the luxury traveler’s objective and hit a homerun.
In conclusion, truly knowing your customer, why they are coming to your hotel, what need and image you can fulfill gives you the answer to who your luxury traveler is.


Or perhaps – it depends!