Incentive travel has traditionally been synonymous with luxury. It stemmed from a shared word cloud that included terms such as “exclusive”, “expensive”, and “elite”. Back then, only the highest performers qualified for incentive trips.
While some cultures and geographies may continue to link luxury with the lifestyle of the rich, the new global consensus is that luxury has more to do with accessing authentic experiences tailored to an individual’s personal choice. These days, you’ll hear words like “energising”, “experience”, “neighbourhood” and “local” being associated with luxury travel.
I recently spoke with Richard Twyman, managing director UK and Ireland for Azamara Cruises, who quoted research by Boston Consulting Group around the changing definitions of luxury. Richard highlighted four characteristics at the heart of “new luxury”: connect with the local culture, exclusivity, personalisation and localisation.
Azamara crafted its USP around these findings and now includes “Azamazing Evenings” as an indispensable itinerary element on all of its voyages. The experience always involves some form of unique destination immersion, something that could never be purchased from an offline or online travel brochure.
As examples: during a recent China incentive cruise, all guests were taken to the Great Wall where they were treated to a performance by the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra. On a Med cruise, the 3 Tenors delivered a private concert in Florence, and a maiden port call to Dublin brought 700 guests to an exclusive performance of Riverdance. In each case, the focus was on immersive experiences that reflected the destination’s cultural identity.
New luxury involves curating local experiences, keeping them authentic, and allowing the guest to immerse in the experience as an insider rather than a tourist. Incentive travel has evolved in the same way: A shift from generic group activities to highly customised individual experiences that bring qualifiers into contact with new cultures and lifestyles.