The resilience and joy in travel as the WFH Global Nomad trend emerges and the ingredients for a perfect trip are found in the consumer-centric model
How has the luxury consumer evolved over the last few years?
For our clients, travel has evolved to be more than just checking a list of monuments and museums. It is fascinating to see how it has just become a platform to leave your routine and connect – connect with themselves, the people they are with, and the places they go. In fact, the concept of gatherings in travel has grown almost 350%. About 54% of our trips now have small groups beyond one couple or one nuclear family. And it goes beyond multi-gens too. Think ten friends, six couples, or four families… people crave connection on a deeper level, and consumers realize that travel is the best way to bring people together.
The other big change is the concept of the WFH Global Nomad. You can no longer think of clients as a “New Yorker” or “Bay Area Client.” They are now everywhere, many of them permanently. This means that while you may target client messaging in different geographic markets before you do that anymore. Messaging must transcend borders. And with people able to WFA (work from anywhere), their trips are getting longer, and their needs for internet hookup are more of a priority. We are planning people’s trips around time zones and their ability to work before or after their day “on location.”
How do you use partnerships to elevate the guest experience?
Our mission statement as a company is actually to “Leverage relationships to build connections.” We have deep relationships around the world to help us create incredible experiences for our clients…. And many of these are not quantifiable. We have “fixers” in hot markets like Ibiza, Mykonos, and St. Tropez, who will personally ensure clients are sitting at the right table or lounge at the hottest beach club, night club or restaurant. We have personal relationships with owners and managers of the most desired hotels to snag a room at a hotel that has been sold out for months in the heart of season… and not just that… but often to give our clients priority upgrades and a personal connection with the owner or manager. Our relationships also help open doors, like a private tour of the Uffizi in Florence or dinner at a spectacular private home with the most amazing view… we even got our clients into the Chanel Haute Couture fashion show and dinner the night before with Karl Lagerfeld – all from our relationships.
How do you differentiate EMBARK Beyond from other luxury travel companies?
We specialize in the client and know the world …We don’t specialize in a specific place in the world… You see, we don’t have travel agents we have travel advisors. That means we don’t just take orders and directions. We build relationships to the extent that we understand our clients. If they ask us to book them for a week at the Ritz in Paris, we ask “why,” and after listening and knowing their personal tastes, we may tell them they really need to stay at the Villa Magna in Madrid or even a week in Cape Town. Because we focus on ingredients and not deliverables, we can take a higher look at purpose. Thus, we don’t just take orders. We give direction.
Again, as noted above, our mission statement as a company is actually to “Leverage relationships to build connections.” We are not just about travel. We are about enabling people to build stronger connections and advance their aspirations and passions using travel as a platform. Contrary to what most travel agencies do and what people would think, travel is not about the “Where”; rather, it is about the “What” and the “Why.” We first look for the ingredients of what makes a great trip. What is the purpose? What is the desired outcome? Why do they want to go away?
That advice is also no longer limited to just travel but discusses travel as a platform to fulfill their greater goals. You see, today’s bucket list is more aspirations than destinations. And to be a true advisor, we need to turn the entire model upside down to be a customer-centric model. We need to specialize in our clients and know the world rather than specialize in a destination and sell it to many different clients. Our clients don’t live a decompartmentalized private life, so why should we only speak to one part of it? To be a true advisor, we need to know where their travel plans fit into their personal lives along with their cars, art collection, homes, design, wine collection, fashion, food, and most of all, family. While we don’t necessarily need to do everything, we need to broaden the conversation and our vocabulary to truly speak to our clients, understand them and continue providing relevant advice. While we recognize our core competency in luxury travel, we see an opportunity to possibly add value to our clients by partnering with experts in their leisure life from a holistic level, engaging lifestyle verticals to provide a seamless and trusted experience for their personal needs and aspirations. And so, we decided to build Embark as a platform to encourage this.
What experiences are trending in luxury travel, and what do you see for the future?
Celebrations beyond weddings – the destination celebration market has exploded beyond its wildest book in 2019. People are looking for any reason to take a party on the road. Destination Weddings used to be about 70% of our destination celebrations and now account for just about 52%. The rest? Birthdays (the multi-million dollar 50th Birthday celebration is the party du jour for some reason), anniversaries, bar mitzvahs, and well, even celebrations of life! It is no longer limited to milestones, and guests are flocking. They’ve also all upped the ante with headliner entertainment (Jon Legend, David Guetta, Billy Joel) and over-the-top immersive décor and experiences.
- Travel as a means, not an end – aligned with what we explain above, the idea of using travel for meaning and to dive more into purpose has become a successful driver.
- Travel to Connect – people are traveling to gather in a more defined and focused way with people.
- Travel to engage – travel is no longer just about seeing sites. People want to engage in a culture deeper than learning about it, which means more activities like cooking classes, mosaic designing, scarf making, or philanthropics.
- Art is the new food – art has gone mainstream, and people are planning trips to locales with hot art shows or great galleries.
- Travel with Style – with the strong dollar, people are traveling to shop! They are pairing trips with personal stylists to reinvent their wardrobe for a post-covid world and hitting top cities to curate a new look!
- Department meetings – now that many companies have team members scattered, they have been taking departments to a central location to meet for 2-3 days – to brainstorm and get creative – before going back to their homes to work. These small departmental meetings continue to grow, giving people an opportunity to meet in person without having an office to conceive ideas and build community organically.
- Multi-Gen buyouts – Multi-gens and small groups no longer want a place in a large hotel. They are looking for small hotels to take over. Concepts like Eleven Experiences, Ultimata, and Ani Villas – or large villa estates with 10+ rooms are the #1 fastest growing product segment for us.