Comment: Experiences are the new luxury

Comment: Experiences are the new luxury

TV show ‘Amazing Hotels’ puts focus on mindblowing moments, says Andy Freeth, MD of Travel 2 and Gold Medal

We have survived a couple of recessions, more airline strikes than we care to remember and many geopolitical crises in the past few years. With the new business rates hitting our high streets, the EU directive on credit card charges and the ongoing Brexit negotiations, it’s fair to say it’s pretty tough out there.

So stumbling upon the new BBC Two series Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby was a rather terrific find. In the first episodes the presenters visited Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, which looks like a spaceship perched on skyscrapers, and Mashpi Lodge, a glass-walled eco-hotel with a jungle cable car in Ecuador. This week’s show saw them jetting off to Giraffe Manor, a hunting lodge in Nairobi National Park, while upcoming episodes will feature an island off the coast of Canada and an ice hotel in Sweden.

They all look like stunning properties, but I appreciate I’m probably not the target customer for these spots. While I love a mint on my pillow as much as the next guy, these days I generally look for three things when I’m booking a hotel: a kids’ club, a babysitting service and a range of activities that will keep every member of the Freeth clan entertained for two weeks.

Experiences focus

But what the series does is give viewers an unprecedented look behind the scenes of hotels most people would only dream about staying in.

What really caught the eye of this humble TV critic were the experiences on offer and the lengths that the businesses creating them go to. From enjoying your own private candlelit rooftop plunge pool in a palace owned by the King of Morocco, to sharing the breakfast table with giraffes, this series has shown that the guests of these hotels aren’t just looking for a stunning backdrop but for a mindblowing, once‑in-a-lifetime moment.

Added value

I’ve read that the ‘fly and flop’ holiday is reinventing itself as the ‘stun and awe’ hotel. The trend is less about the fancy surroundings and more about the experiences on offer.

Don’t get me wrong, guests aren’t staying in squalor, but the luxury focus of these lovely properties is on the experiences, and the hotel owners that are going the extra mile to provide them have struck on a winning strategy.

Nothing stays still in the travel industry and agents have long recognised that loyalty is best driven through added value and incredible service. I’m constantly hearing of the hard work that agents are putting in, often going above and beyond to secure those all‑important sales.

Competition is fierce and it’s more important than ever to differentiate yourself and ensure you are suggesting that little bit extra – that incredible restaurant not to be missed or that villa that offers the best view for sunset.

So what can agents learn from this? While the added extra might not always carry the same price tag as breakfast with a giraffe in the middle of the jungle, striving to always create exceptional holidays for our clients is something we all have in common.

After all, isn’t personalised, trusted advice how good retailers prosper?

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