Your fancy watch is not luxury anymore!BY STEVEN GONG
It's a little funny when one thinks about luxury now. Back then it was easier. Shiny watches, fancy brand names, a yacht or two.
While those may still be the trademarks of indulgence and decadence in Singapore, they aren't necessarily symbols of luxury anymore. Ask anybody with a lot of money these days what luxury is and you're far more likely to get time and the ability to do what one wants as the answer.
After spending over 5 years in the trenches of hospitality and travel, new trends are emerging that are both applicable to Singapore and worldwide.
It's about the experience, not the price paid.
Instead of “where I've been” it's become “what I've done”. It's not enough to lie on a beach and be waited on hand and foot. Luxury travellers, more than ever before, spend heavily on everything from heliskiing to temple hopping to shark diving to mountain climbing.
Even if they're not into much physical activity, they still expect some degree of cultural immersion and experience as part of their holiday. For many of the Singaporean demographic, finding authentic local food from street-side eats to gourmet dining is of paramount importance.
One need only look at all the food blogs and mobile apps originating from Singapore to realize food's critical influence.
Annie Fitzsimmons of Forbes also reported that luxury travelers are seeking adventures that will keep them both fit and active, which is why diving in Tonga and climbing Mt. Fuji are still attracting the affluent and wealthy.
Get real. We want authenticity.
In the same Forbes article, Fitzsimmons also pointed out that travelers are looking for holidays with a “sense of place”, a distinct cultural atmosphere that weaves both the destination's history and way of life. This all makes sense. What's the point of flying halfway around the world to talk to the same people and have the same experiences as back home.
Look at the top hotels in Bali, Vietnam, or the Maldives. Each one will incorporate its surroundings as part of the holiday and offer a plethora of cultural activities. The Orient-Express has done a great job of this and so has the Shanti Maurice in Mauritius. Blending the distinct features of a culture into contemporary luxury is no easy task and the top hotels know how to do it.
In a survey we did with the members of ImpulseFlyer, we asked the simple question, “Where do you want to go?” While cities such as Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, Paris, and Bangkok are still the heavyweights of tourism, are members increasingly requested off-the-beaten-path destinations such as Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and Borneo.
Venti, non-fat, no foam, extra hot, soy chai latte.
Gone are the days of cookie-cutter holidays.
In an ILTM (International Luxury Travel Market) Report, a web-based survey was conducted asking what luxury customers pay the most attention to. Not surprisingly, 80% cited personalization of service when they plan vacations.
For the past few months my team has been doing a series of video interviews. At the end of each interview, we ask, “What does luxury mean to you?” Far from citing beluga caviar and diamonds, the truly wealthy will almost always mention time and the ability to pursue your dreams.
Whether that's reading the entire works of John Steinbeck or sailing from Greece to Turkey, luxury has transformed from status to a personal experience.
Luxury is not about getting what everybody has. It's about getting what you want. If hotels and travel agencies are to keep up with the demands, then more attention needs to be paid to the entire holiday from booking to check-out ensuring that travellers come home with a unique and unforgettable experience.
Steven Gong is the Founder and CEO of ImpulseFlyer, a luxury and boutique hotel private sale site geared towards affluent travel lovers in the Asia Pacific region. He founded the company in 2011 after realizing the urgent need affluent consumers have for an easy-to-use, honest, online travel brand they can trust for high-quality, unique travel experiences.