Note: The editor of a leading travel industry publication called me “entitled” recently. I was shocked. Fortunate yes, but hardly entitled. But I thought maybe my language is, maybe my travels appear so? And is that a bad thing when I hope to inspire high net worth travelers? I don’t think so, and that inspired the following article.
To borrow a phrase; the affluent are different than you and me. But if you want to help them plan their travel you need to speak their language, understand their values and most of all, obliterate the word luxury from your vocabulary.
Luxury travel may be the most overused cliche in travel writing today and that is not the problem. The problem is that those trying to attract the wealthy to plan travel for them, to stay with them, or to eat with them don’t understand that the very word, luxury, is not in their lexicon. Moreover, the use of it is a flashing red light, that you don’t speak their language.
You don’t expect the editor of Vogue (apologies to Anna Wintour) to be “to the manor born”, but you do expect her/him to dress and act the part. You expect their interviews to be pithy and on point to the language of fashion today. In short, you expect them to give every appearance of being a connoisseur and not a salesman.
The author at the perfect spot on Mount Nebo, Jordan to view Jerusalem, on a less cloudy day.
So too should travel advisors and travel suppliers learn the ways of their affluent clients. They need to be the ultimate connoisseur of their niche. If you propose off the shelf itineraries, overexposed hotels or anywhere they have already seen all over Instagram you will lose their trust. Read the bible of discerning chic, “How to Spend It” from the Financial Times to see what might be inspiring their dreams. They must trust that you have unique access, exquisite taste and most of all, unquestionable judgment.
Similarly, savvy and socially conscious marketers have embraced the sustainable travel movement and have even helped shift perceptions of travelers. They know it is not only the millennial traveler who focusses on their carbon footprint but that Ted Turner began to lure the luxury traveler a decade ago with his environmental focus. Socially responsible is always good business no matter the travel niche.
Costco or Masterpiece Theater?
Marketing to and retaining high net worth clients with even higher expectations requires a different strategy from that of Costco. Viking Cruise lines understood this when they hit the marketing bullseye with their advertising on Masterpiece theater for Downton Abby. Yes, it was a hit and that helped, but their advertising (or what resembles advertising on PBS) spoke, in dulcet tones, of the sublime pleasures of cruising the rivers of the world. No hard sell here, just discovering treasures. Check any one of their videos here. Silversea Cruises’ recent partnership with filmmaker Steve McCurry similarly hit the mark. Exquisite photography and commentary that implies, but doesn’t scream, a world of wonder. This film respects the viewers’ intelligence so they know, without Silversea saying it, that this cruise line speaks to the traveler of discerning taste.
Private dining in Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn
For the travel advisor, the lesson is the same. Make sure every touchpoint of your personal brand reflects the client you wish to attract. Find a specialty and become the ultimate expert. Knowledge is wealth and this puts you on the same footing as the most affluent traveler. Practice and promote travel that helps communities you visit and that is environmentally sensitive. (Both, because we all should and because it is ultimately good business.) Develop the friendships that open doors for your clients all over the world, after all, that is what they expect. Learn to whisper to the advantages of working with you. And most of all…..strike the word luxury from your vocabulary.
You may not have gone to Eton or the U.S. version, Harvard. (Americans form their definitive friendships later in the educational cycle than do the British), but you can speak the language, acquire the knowledge and most of all shine as the connoisseur of affluent travel that you are.
Alone inside Versailles, while others wait for opening.