Special Report: Aspire Leaders of Luxury Conference

Special Report: Aspire Leaders of Luxury Conference

Inaugural event by Travel Weekly’s luxury title hears insights from experts in sector. By Juliet Dennis

‘Embrace ego tech to flatter your selfie-obsessed clients’

The future of luxury travel is ‘ego’ technology, according to a consumer and digital psychologist.

Speaking at the first Aspire Leaders of Luxury Conference, Dr Paul Marsden urged luxury tour operators to cater to an increasingly narcissistic client base, a result of the prolific growth in popularity of digital technology.

Marsden, who works for digital specialist Syzygy, said: “We believe the biggest change is happening in your head: we are living our lives through our digital devices. Your mobile is a remote control for life.

“Digital technology is changing how we think; it’s making us more self-centric. The future of luxury travel is ego tech – technology designed to flatter the ego.”

The company is conducting research to establish whether there is, as Marsden believes, a link between digital technology and a narcissist ‘epidemic’ worldwide.

Using multiple ‘on demand’ apps, wearing fitness trackers, posting more than three updates on social media a day and owning a selfie stick are all examples of narcissistic traits, he claimed.

He urged luxury travel firms to tap into this narcissism trend through marketing and the way they use and develop their technology.

This means creating marketing propositions that appeal to clients’ sense of holiday ‘entitlement’, flatter the ego, offer unique experiences and promote products that give clients ‘bragging rights’.

Other factors luxury firms need to consider include ways to make customers feel in control of their holidays, while helping them to “help themselves”. Marsden said: “We need to create technology that flatters the ego and panders to the self. If we don’t, we will not be heard.”

The Aspire Leaders of Luxury Conference will return to the Royal Geographical Society in London on June 6, 2018.

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‘Travel intent is a better guide than demographics’

Using traditional demographic profiling to identify clients’ preferences in the luxury market is “antiquated”, according to one travel marketing expert.

Speaking during a panel debate on today’s luxury traveller, Sojern senior sales director Spencer Davies said it was more important to identify customers’ ‘travel intent’ – what they want to do on holiday – than create profiles based on age, class and lifestyle.

Two people of the same age, postcode, school or football team, for example, could want vastly different types of holidays, he said. “Cementing people into profiles is a traditional marketing technique. However, there are some elements of luxury travel they [both] expect.”

Designer Travel managing director Amanda Matthews agreed. “They [luxury clients] vary so much. It’s not about old-school demographics.”

She stressed the challenges of keeping up with the young luxury market due to technology.

“You have to be ahead of the game. They are so geared up with technology and we might overlook that,” she said.

Debbie Marshall, managing director of Silver Travel Advisor, warned against using age to identify luxury clients. “In the older market you’ve got the haves and have-nots,” she said.

The older generation is also often overlooked by travel marketing campaigns, she said, adding: “Luxury brands have always been very good at targeting older clients, but they sometimes fall down on the delivery. However, we are now seeing much better examples of advertisers not using beautiful George Clooney types.”

Mariella Frostrup: Environment must top the agenda

It is the responsibility of the whole travel industry to ensure that protecting the environment is kept at the top of the agenda by destinations, according to journalist and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup.

The guest speaker said: “The environment really does matter. Going to places where they educate you about it is one of the great pleasures of luxury travel.

“It is the responsibility of everyone in the travel business to make it one of the key points, otherwise there will not be anywhere for us to visit.”

Quizzed on the terrorist threat in many destinations, Frostrup said there was little the industry could do other than “allay irrational fears” of holidaymakers.

She added: “The way to battle terrorism is not to be terrorised. It has to be business as usual. There are places I would not take my family – it’s about balancing irrational fears with terrorist fears. I am probably less safe in London than the places I visit. I am very careful about where I take my kids.”

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Travellers love Instagram, so engage…

Luxury holiday companies should use Instagram to connect with clients, as travellers are among the most-active users of the social media platform. That was the message from Instagram’s brand development lead, Gord Ray (pictured).

He said: “There is sometimes this fear: is Instagram about people? Do companies have a place on it? Businesses are very much part of Instagram. People like content from businesses – 80% of users follow a business on Instagram.”

One of the most successful ways to increase engagement with clients is to create inspiring content that tells a story or journey, he said.

People who post travel content are, as a rule, more active and engaged in Instagram, with 70% of them sharing their pictures or videos, Ray added.

Beware the effects of mass tourism, says A&K’s Kent

Abercrombie & Kent chairman and founder Geoffrey Kent warned of the danger of mass tourism “destroying tourism”.

Kent, who has pioneered travel worldwide, from safari camps to Concorde trips, said he preferred tourism that was “high-yield and low‑impact”, echoing the view of journalist Mariella Frostrup that environmental protection must be a top industry concern.

Kent set up the operator with his parents 55 years ago, and now leads experiential luxury trips with his wife to places “where planes don’t go”, and which are unspoilt by mass tourism, such as the Solomon Islands and the Gobi Desert.

“Experiential travel should change people’s lives. It’s our job,” he said.

Kent, who was expelled from school at 16 and inspired to set up a travel business by explorer Joseph Thomson, said specialist destination knowledge would always beat information sourced online.

He said: “I believe specialist knowledge will always outstrip the internet. We are growing at a rate of 20% because we sell products nobody else can buy online. Expertise will always win out.”

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