In our line of business, specific definitions are important, but there are a lot of terms that depend greatly on perspective. Is Ho Chi Minh City far from Hanoi? Yes… if you’re not comparing Hanoi and New York. Is northern Thailand cold? Well… if you’ve spent a winter in eastern Canada, it’s more like cool, but to Thai coffee farmers living near the peak of Doi Inthanon, Thai winters are bone-numbingly frigid.
This question of perspective sometimes comes up when we go down the rabbit hole of trying to define Smiling Albino (or redefine. Or refine. It depends on our mood and maybe how many glasses of wine we’ve had). We are included on lists of luxury travel companies, which we greatly appreciate, but we always pause to reflect – what exactly is a luxury traveler in 2018, and more importantly, how can we give them what they want?
In the past, luxury was easy to define – big house, BMW, first-class air travel. But that’s a definition that has become fairly dated in the face of modern demographic, cultural, and financial shifts. These days, owning a thing is emblematic merely of a good credit score, and not always an entirely different lifestyle. So who exactly are these new luxury travelers that we need to cater to?
A recent article in Forbes stated “there are currently 11.8 million Millennials age 18-30 living in U.S. households with annual incomes exceeding $100,000… 34% of today’s Millennials have been wealthy throughout their lifetime. This group will take over as the largest generational segment in the luxury consumer market around 2018-2020.”
Bringing this segment further into focus, travel marketing company MMGY said that luxury travelers these days took more trips, relied on travel agents more often, and were willing to pay top dollar to step out of their comfort zones for more experiential travel, i.e., collecting memories, not things.
Luckily, that’s just what we’re good at. And forgive us a bit of self-indulgence here, but we long ago discovered that experiences are what people should be striving for.
A luxury traveler of days past would never have been caught dead dancing with locals in a dive bar in a dark corner of Bangkok, or sipping a cup of hand-ground coffee on the dirt floor of a hut on the side of a mountain. Would your parents define luxury as a lonely ride over a mountain pass on an antique motorcycle? Perhaps not in their time, but that’s what experiential travel is all about, and what modern luxury travelers are looking for.
So, raise a glass with us to the new definition of luxury. It isn’t what you have, it’s what you do. It’s not what you can buy, but the stories that you can tell. To add to the old saying – may you live in interesting times, and may your memories be seen as luxurious.