The savviest travelers are now seeking extraordinary, one-of-a-kind experiences tailored directly to their tastes. As a result, tons of travel companies are upping the ante on what they offer guests, increasingly designing exclusive activities that can be booked right alongside flights or accommodations. The best part of this growing trend? Luxury travel is becoming increasingly more creative, personal, and meaningful.
Where once it was bucket-list destinations, today it’s all about bucket-list experiences—a total shift in the way we travel and what’s important to us during the journey. For example, it’s no longer just about sitting down for an incredible Thai meal at Bangkok’s finest restaurant, it’s about visiting the marketplace and then taking a chef-led cooking class to learn how to make curry paste. It’s about off-the-tourist-path access, one-on-one time with experts, and carefully curated activities. It’s about creating a memory different than any that other travelers to the same area will have. And it’s a bit about bragging rights too—getting the perfect Instagram shot is paramount.
Interest in experience-driven travel has risen so sharply that many of the travel industry’s biggest players have launched new initiatives focused specifically around experiential activities. Airbnb’s Trips offers up bookable in-destination experiences; Marriott’s PlacePass is a search platform for activities; and SAS Airlines’ SAS Dreams program offers live concerts and free vacations to frequent flyers. Travel media company Skift even recently declared “experiences” the single biggest trend in travel.
For luxury travelers, booking a cooking class or hyper-local activity is just the beginning. The next step up is crafting a fully customized itinerary created specifically for them. And that’s where Luxury Retreats’ services and experts truly shine.
The Creation of a Bespoke Vacation
Imagine if your most ultra-sophisticated, travel-savvy, well-connected best friend designed a vacation for you. It would be pretty spot on, right? That’s exactly how Luxury Retreats works with each guest, taking personal tastes and preferences into account, and then offering bespoke vacation advice—from villas to local experiences. “We believe in forging personal relationships with our guests,” says Guest Experience Lead Celine Le Fevre. “Our Guest Experience Specialists are hospitality experts, and want to make magic happen for their guests.”
Here’s how the process works. First, a Villa Specialist helps a guest a the perfect home for their trip. Within our curated portfolio of more than 4,000 vacation rentals lie countless opportunities for tailored experiences. Some of these homes are experiential destinations in and of themselves, like Coral Pavilion, beachfront to the best shoreline in the world, Serra Retreat, a villa with its own tennis court, or Ani Villas, a Thai oasis with 35-full time staff members. When you travel this way, your accommodations are as much a part of the experience as anything else. But finding an incredible home to stay in is just the first step. Next, guests are matched with a Guest Experience Specialist, a regional expert that helps each couple or family create a custom itinerary for their stay. These specialists take personalized travel experiences seriously. They have the contacts and the know-how to, say, arrange a personal helicopter tour, go dog sledding with a pro, take a swim safari, or even explore a local market with a chef.
Le Fevre can recall several instances where her guest team went to great lengths to deliver absolute one-of-a-kind experiences for guests. For instance, one of her recent guests was an avid skier and had rented a home on a world-class U.S. resort. She set him up with a renowned ski instructor, but as privacy was extremely important to him, she arranged to have the resort close off one entire run for the use of that guest, and that guest only. For two whole weeks.
Another of her guests, a cycling fanatic, traveled to Paris during the annual Tour de France race. Luxury Retreats arranged for him to meet an ex-Tour de France athlete who accompanied him throughout the day, using his VIP credentials to access a special viewing site—and there, he described the race to the guest from his own pro perspective, and relayed some of his own career experiences and memories.
Private, Immersive In-Home Experiences
One of the most attractive advantages of vacation rentals over say, hotels or bed and breakfasts, is having your own space to call “home.” A private pool where you don’t have to fend off fellow guests, your own kitchen space to cook meals or store snacks, and even the ability to arrange entertainment right there in the villa for just you and your guests. While an activity may take you to a famous attraction or a prestigious event, custom experiences can often be delivered right to a guest’s door, too. Since many of Luxury Retreats’ homes are equipped to accommodate 20 people or more, they tend to be spacious enough that experiences can come to you, too.
“We can have local experts visit the home—for instance, a cigar roller could give a class in your living room or a Mariachi band can perform in your backyard. Those are all things we’ve done,” Le Fevre says. “It’s your own space and you can transform it any way you like.”
The sheer amount of travel information available out in the world is vast. But while the available nuggets of intel on travel sites, magazines, Google, Instagram, etc is broad, actual access—i.e., the ability to do things that few others have the means to do or even know about—is perhaps the most important part of luxury experiential travel. The Luxury Retreats Guest Experience team has the global connections to grant the most discerning travelers that very access. This is what entices so many high net worth travelers to call their go-to Luxury Retreats Villa and Guest Experience Specialists for each and every trip.
“We want to anticipate our guests’ needs. That’s the minimum. But what we really want is to anticipate what they don’t even know they want.”
“Our guests look at Instagram and read travel blogs; they do their own research,” says Le Fevre. “They’re looking for Luxury Retreats to provide that ‘what can’t you Google’ experience. We have guests actually say those words to us now more often than not. They’re expecting us to find that outside-the-box experience, to use our connections to make something extraordinary happen. And we’re up to the challenge.”