The notion of tapping into the rhythm of local life is a big part of what luxury consumers are looking for to separate their experience from all the others.
We recently released our latest report in the Skift Trends series, The Changing Business of Selling Luxury Travel.
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Heading into its 50th anniversary year in 2016, Butterfield & Robinson is a high-end tour operator specializing in “slow” biking and walking itineraries with upscale dining and accommodations. CEO Norman Howe says the idea of biking tours for the luxury segment is surprising to some people, but the trend toward wellness over the last two decades has spurred demand for active luxury travel for small groups and customized independent consumers. Biking and walking also inject affluent visitors more directly into communities in new and unsuspected ways.
“The appetite has shifted from what we might call trophy hunting, or that kind of blatant aspect of luxury travel, to one that’s more about the experience,” says Howe. “In newer markets like Russia and China, you still see consumers very much focusing on the bling aspect. Latin America, particularly Brazil at the very top end of the market, is moving into that space of really valuing the experience over hard luxury goods. In the American market, it is probably the most advanced in terms of where the market is focusing looking at the future.”
As an example of a recent client trip that could never be created by a client alone, Butterfield booked six people inside the house of a village chief in the Shan region of Myanmar. There’s no real tourism infrastructure there so B&R brought in beds, linens and furnishings to create a private pop-up hotel for three days.
“That kind of experience tends to be much richer than staying in the grand suite at the best hotel somewhere,” suggests Howe. “There’s a growing demand for savoring experiences more by traveling slowly versus quickly, so it’s much more of a local and human sort of pace.”
Of course, there’s still an expectation of high calibre infrastructure but there’s more demand for more customized travel out of the ordinary, which biking helps deliver in a unique way. According to Howe, he says putting someone on a bike gets them into the kind of landscapes and cultures where spontaneity happens easily, and where people are further removed from their normal lives.
“Biking is the new golf,” adds Ezon. “The growth opportunities in the market for specialized active travel is huge.”
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Photo credit: A promotional image of a luxury bike tour in Southeast Asia. Butterfield and Robinson