Luxury Travel has never been more popular, with an incredible 46 million international luxury trips having been taken in 2014 alone. Naturally, with great demand comes overwhelming supply, as brands try to reach these top spending travelers. The result is ever increasing difficulty to market to this segment. The first great challenge is standing out among the noise and providing affluent travelers exactly what they want, which generally revolves around unforgettable experiences, anticipatory service, and the ability to completely unwind. Reaching them however, never mind standing out, is often easier said than done, as luxury travelers often spend the least amount of time researching and planning their trips.
This dichotomy has resulted in a slight shift in strategy for luxury marketers as they try to reach end users with almost infinite resources but an equally finite budget of time. Jeff Boyd, President of Luggage Free notes, 'we are finding success with a more succinct message that moves toward eliciting a favorable emotion relative to our service. This strategy allows us to stand out among the clutter and be relevant enough for the user to initiate either an order, or dialogue with our team-both of which help us build a connection.' Indeed, what works is generally a mix of short form content that is accompanied by a human connection.
For Boyd, the human connection is particularly powerful as acquiring new customers and retaining existing clients go together more now than ever. "We find luxury travelers relying on recommendations more than any other segment. Nothing is as powerful as a repeat customer championing your brand to friends, family and colleagues."
In reaching the luxury segment, the human connection also often extends beyond the client. Boyd classifies them as 'influencers in travel', which can range from travel agents, to something as obscure as a ship's captain. These connections allow for trust to be developed, a reputation to be validated, and a track record of reliability, resulting in referrals that can be made with confidence and received with trust. It's one thing to learn about a luxury brand in a big glossy ad, but travelers, and those who influence them, know more and more that those ads can be bought by anyone-often the highest bidder.
Another powerful trend in reaching luxury travelers is collaboration among brands. Perhaps, most noticed is the amenities kit given to premium class air travelers on long haul flights. In this model, the collaboration is a great way for an airline to 'surprise and delight' a premium client, while giving the vendors in the kit great exposure to a much sought after clientele. For Boyd and Luggage Free it's a bit more involved since they sell a service rather than a product, but the opportunities are still ample. "Many luxury brands are looking to push their premium service beyond their doors via collaboration. Regent Cruises for example, offers luggage shipping among a suite of pre-cruise options, as a way to add value and convenience for their guests. For Luggage Free, it's a great opportunity to be introduced to a premium traveler by a trusted source. Our partnership is definitely mutually beneficial."
Editorials and customer reviews also prove fruitful in reaching the luxury travel market. Unlike an advertising or content campaign, luxury travelers are more prone to see value in real, honest comments and reviews of a product or service. With travel coverage the way it is today the line between editorial and customer review are blurred more than ever, but confirmed purchaser review sites such as Trust Pilot are proving more and more relevant. "We're really fond of our relationship with Trust Pilot' said Boyd. "With only real, verified customers able to provide reviews, the reader knows they are seeing real feedback. We can't 'game' it to sugar coat it, nor can someone with ill intent. It's feedback that can be trusted."
As the luxury travel market continues to grow, and get more competitive, marketers will no doubt need to continue to innovate, stay on message, and stand above the crowd with a powerful but quick message.