“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”
Travel can spur personal growth and transformation. Exposing yourself to new cultures and experiences can make you a better person and enlarge your worldview. But the powerful “bucket-list” experiences of transformational travel are often expensive. These curated, life-changing journeys usually require expert planning, exotic locales and high-end support services. And if you have to get somewhere by helicopter or private boat, even a three-star accommodation will cost more than a five-star one.
This is why high-net-worth (HNW) and ultra-high-net worth (UHNW) travellers are more likely to be the market for this kind of travel. Fortunately, they are naturally drawn to these experiences because they align with their values and satisfy their need for personal fulfillment.
The hierarchy of traveller needs
You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, which states that human needs follow a hierarchy, and basic needs must be satisfied before you move up the ladder to achieve higher levels of need.
This is what the hierarchy looks like:
At the bottom of the hierarchy, needs are basic: food, shelter and security. At the top, it’s about self-fulfillment: finding meaning in life and personal growth. Altruism and sustainability are also part of the top rung, because being a better human also means improving the lives of others and the world around us.
For example, University of Michigan political scientist and professor Ronald Inglehart observed in his his influential 1995 paper that there is a correlation between support for the environment and affluence. Others have wondered if care for the environment is the domain of the affluent.
Travel preferences at the top of the hierarchy
As people build wealth and move up the hierarchy, they seek out the kind of travel that supports their need for self-actualization. This is a trend we’ve seen through our work with one-of-a-kind luxury travel products. Guests who seek unique luxury travel experiences are looking for meaning, authenticity and higher purpose. So travel and hospitality brands that want to attract more of this demographic have to make sure their product is designed in a way that accommodates these needs.
We are also seeing this trend reflected by Millennial HNW and UHNW travellers:
“Younger generations are less likely to be staunch loyalists to a single brand when compared to their parents and grandparents,” says Mike Phillips, Wealth-X‘s vice president of marketing and communications, in an interview with Batarags. “They’re more likely to try something new if it speaks to their personal values and passions.”
Experiences over things
In the luxury market, we see a clear trend of people seeking experiences over things:
“We know that luxury does not mean one thing to all. However, it’s clear that in mature markets, luxury has evolved to become increasingly bound up in experiences rather than things. One key trend driving the future of luxury travel is the shift in values from the material to the experiential – rather than saving up to buy luxurious possessions, people are choosing to spend their money on experiences.” —From the Shaping the Future of Luxury Travel Future Traveller Tribes 2030 report (emphasis mine).
This theory was also adapted by Skift in The 6 Big Trends that are Reshaping Luxury Travel:
“For luxury travellers, an experience in itself is no longer enough. The personal fulfillment and self improvement one gains from an experience are taking precedence, and luxury brands can help travellers reach this goal.”
“Luxury travel today has gone deeper than the experience itself. Rather, the ultimate luxury lies in the transformational value of the experience and how it helps travellers become the person they aspire to be. In other words, the new luxury is personal fulfillment. Luxury travellers are being presented with increasingly personalized travel experiences created with the sole aim of guiding them on their journey toward personal fulfillment.”
This idea also aligns well with the way we see things here at Wallop. We talked more about aligning the brand and products’ values with those of HNW travellers in an earlier post. It’s also one of three pillars we use in the model we use to guide our strategic work.
Associated values to consider when catering to the luxury travel market
If travel and hospitality brands in the luxury market want to attract more HNW and UHNW customers, they need to support the drive towards self-actualization. And they have to cater to the other values associated with self-actualization. These include:
- Personal fulfillment & growth – Does this experience allow me to grow as a person? Does it make me, and those around me, better people? How does this affect the world around me?
- Authenticity – Is the experience authentic to the place? Does it support and amplify the culture, employ the people in it and serve the foods that people eat locally?
- Sustainability – Is it environmentally friendly? Does it follow sustainable policies and practices? Does it conserve non-renewable resources?
- Time – This is also a group that values time over money. So it’s important that the experience respects that, and provides its services in a way that makes the best use of their time. You can honour this by taking a very hands-on approach to the guests’ logistics and trip planning, and making sure that every minute counts.
- Family – Time also includes time spent with family. So make room for the family by designing activities, accommodations and amenities in a way that considers their needs, preferences and limitations. Keep in mind, though, that non-traditional families are a lot more common these days. So whatever you do, it must be inclusive.
At Wallop, we incorporate this kind of thinking into our own work in different ways, but we only help our clients with what happens in the digital world. In the physical world, it’s important that these values are properly reflected in the many choices the businesses make. Some examples of these choices:
- Are the ingredients local, and is the culinary program authentic to the region?
- How is sustainability considered in the design of the physical property and service program?
- Is the guest experience optimized adequately, so it values their time?
- Is the business choosing products and suppliers that are friendly to the environment?
People are savvy. If they see a misalignment between your brand positioning and product, they’re going to call you out, and that’s going to erode brand equity. Remember how easy this is when every one of your customers has a megaphone in their pocket.
We’re seeing a lot of hotel and travel brands being reactive, and jumping from trend to trend in the hopes of capturing more of the market. If you are a hotel or travel brand that caters to a HNW audience, increasing the resonance of your brand and aligning to the values of this audience is a more effective strategy that will add long-term value to your organization. Let your customers grow, and your business will grow right alongside them.
Like the late Roy Disney once said, “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”