Skift Take

High-end brands are using travel experiences to foster loyalty with existing clientele or entice new customers. And they're going to great lengths and partnerships to meet these luxury travelers' aspirations.

Mention Bentley or Fabergé, and the brands are instantly recognizable as paragons of luxury. It’s the type of brand recognition that equates to valuable equity. Yet, marketing luxury brands of this nature is about so much more than selling a product or service. 

While the slow-burn case of Bulgari might not be a fully-fledged chain of hotels, luxury curated travel experiences continue to create a world of aspiration and desire, steeped in a mindset connection amongst high-end brands’ clientele and their ultra-luxury lifestyles. 

Bentley Motors is a prime example, with its recently launched global calendar of curated Extraordinary Journeys.

Caren Jochner, global head of brand experience at Bentley Motors, said the company has “travel and journeys as a core part of its DNA.”

The company has gone beyond the automotive hard sell with its travel series to give new audiences relevant opportunities to experience the Bentley brand, according to Jochner.

Designed around once-in-a-lifetime road trips, Bentley touts its offering as providing access to “the very best of local cuisine, design, architecture, and wellness.” Travelers choose between three destinations, namely Scandinavia, New Mexico and the UK. The average cost is $27,755 per person.

New Customers’ Explorer Mindset

“It is specifically designed to appeal to a new customers’ explorer mindset, whether that be in wellbeing, audio, speciality travel, and above all real estate and architecture,” said Jochner. 

Bentley delivered 15,174 cars (the first time it has retailed more than 15,000 cars in a year) in 2022 , which it called the company’s best financial results to date as it recorded some $1.24 billion more in operating profit when compared to 2018. The company declined to share any specific values related to its travel marketing initiatives.

Yet, Bentley’s brand positioning is not about sales volume for profitability. Instead, it is about maximizing personalization, Bentley Motors chairperson and CEO Adrian Hallmark said when the company released its financial results.

“Through Extraordinary Journeys, Bentley not only engages its existing customers but also reaches new audiences, with a focus on design, sustainability and wellbeing,” said Jochner.  

The UK program, for example, allows guests private entry to the Bentley factory, bringing them up close to the craftsmanship that goes into every car. 

“This type of visit to the home of Bentley is an emotional highlight for any Bentley owner or prospect as it allows them to meet the experts who handcraft their cars and see the latest innovations within our carbon neutral factor,” she added.

A private dining experience at the Bentley Factory in the UK. Source: Bentley Motors.

A private dining experience at the Bentley CW1 House showroom, in Crewe. Source: Bentley Motors

Surprise and Delight Moments 

The Extraordinary Journeys program is layered with partnerships.

The UK program provides exclusive access to Bentley’s headquarters in Crewe and also that of Macallan’s, single malt whiskey, and a Michelin star celebrity chef curating an under-the-stars alfresco dining experience. 

In Scandinavia, the program has more of an architecture focus, with an exclusive visit to the studios of one of the world’s greatest architectural practices. 

It makes sense for a brand of this prestige to buck the automobile showroom tradition to find new customers. Jochner did, however, answer the question to define the typical Bentley customer by saying what the Bentley customer is not:

“It’s not the geography or demographics that define and unite the guests of Bentleys Extraordinary Journeys,” said Jochner.

A tour of the Danish Architecture Centre, Copenhagen. Source: Bentley Motors

Other significant partnerships for the Bentley brand in the travel and hospitality sector include the Bentley Record Room at the Co-Op Live Stadium in Manchester.

Located next to the performers’ Green Room inside the new $452.89 million music and entertainment venue – “set to be the largest live music arena in the UK,” said Jochner.

“Luxe members will have access to the space before, during, and after events at Co-op Live, with the best tickets to live shows as well as access to an exciting range of special events in The Bentley Record Room,” she added.  

When asked about the overall budget for its Extraordinary Journeys travel series, Bentley didn’t indicate any specific value, instead confirming the brand intended to grow the travel series with new additions to be revealed throughout the year. The series will be run by Bentley Motors globally, together with selected concierge agencies. The company also expects to have experiences available on all continents and launch in more countries over the coming months.

Multi-Million-Dollar Art Collection at Sea

So while Bentley drives its travel series offering, other high-end brands have found power in the like-minded partnerships.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises has enlisted Fabergé, the globally revered jewelry house, in the run-up to its newest ship launch, the Seven Seas Grandeur, expected to set sail in November 2023. 

“Two exclusive Spotlight Voyages will immerse guests and art enthusiasts into the world of Fabergé and provide exclusive access to Fabergé experiences and experts onboard these sailings,“ said Andrea DeMarco, president of Regent Seven Seas Cruises.  

Titled “Journey in Jewels” the company said its collaboration with Fabergé creates a rare, first-of-its-kind multi-million-dollar curated art collection, with the first Fabergé Egg Objet to reside permanently at sea.

DeMarco added, “The hand-crafted Fabergé x Regent Seven Seas Cruises Egg Objet captures the essence of how the powerful natural elements of the sea create ‘The Voyage’, this unique creation also reveals a number of ground-breaking firsts for Fabergé.”

The world’s most expensive Fabergé eggs include the Third Imperial Easter Egg (estimated at $33 million), the Rothschild Clock Egg (estimated at $25.1 million), and the Imperial Coronation Egg (at an estimated value of $18 million).

Regent Seven Seas Cruises guests appear to be an appropriate pairing for the finer Fabergé things in life.

“We host culture vultures, history buffs, true foodies, and guests with many other interests. They are well-traveled but are always keen for more discoveries and new personalized experiences,” said DeMarco.

The luxury cruise line carries no more than 746 guests across its fleet of six ships and has seen a growing appetite of luxury travelers, setting new record booking days when it launched its 2024-2025 Voyage Collection in August last year.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises data shows that during this booking period, no single voyage had a duration lower than 16 nights, with the longest being 25 nights. Entry-level prices ranged from $9,999 per guest and $21,199 per guest. The most spent on a single reservation overall was close to $275,000 for a Grand Suite on board the Seven Seas Mariner.

DeMarco added that the Seven Seas Grandeur launch remains highly anticipated, as an authority on the Fabergé story. The cruise line is set to introduce guests to the world of Fabergé with small group master-class programs, access to intimate shore-side tours, jeweled egg demonstrations, lectures and screenings.

So with multi-million-dollar egg objects and $200,000 price-tagged cars, the question remains whether these curated travel experiences increase the bottom line. It undoubtedly puts these opportunities to connect with clientele on a slippery Hunger Games slope, as each partnership and curated effort must be more thrill-inducing than the next to hit that once-in-a-lifetime benchmark.

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Tags: cruises, experiences, luxury, regent, tours and activities, travel agents

Photo credit: Bentley Extraordinary Journeys. Source: Bentley Motors

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