Tapping the power of transformational travel

Announced today, our CEO Tamara Gillan is a Venus Award Marketing Excellence Finalist, read her recent article on the transformational power of travel.

“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.” So said Henry Miller, the American writer whose greatest works were written in Paris.

Following this early 20th century view of living life beyond the map, Miller coined a new form of the semi-autobiographical novel; his personal stamp on the literary world. How’s that for life inspiring art?

Travel has that power. Part fantasy, part reality, travel is a way of experiencing life that takes you beyond the familiarity of your day-to-day and transposes you to another place. The destination differs but the intent remains the same – the incomparable pleasure of experience…

There is a group who belie an age, gender or professional classification who are, in marketing speak, members of the global affluent tribe. These people prioritise their lives, time and money, according to their ability to travel. Not to simply visit a place and tick it off their bucket list, but a desire to travel that delivers on personal goals and experiences. Experiences that put them smack dab in the midst of a life different to theirs; a chance to enhance their own.

We know from speaking with consumers that 36% of travellers would pay more for their travel experiences if they felt it was based on their personal preferences, which is why, when done well, travel becomes a marketing ‘enabler’ because it directly engages the customer and has the possibility of positively impacting their behaviour and attitudes.

We refer to this as transformative travel. Irrespective of financial capacity, the treasure found in this sort of travelling is not an expensive thing but a valued experience. This reflects the shift from acquisitive luxury, where you would focus on the airplane seat or the club membership, to meditative luxury where the bragging rights are about acquiring a fulfilling life.

Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky was happy to share new research that revealed three in four millennials would rather buy an experience than a material good. If that does not spell an opportunity for growth, then what does? The imperative for experiencing something is personal fulfilment; the real gem. The sense that a trip can enhance your life and your values echoes Louis Vuitton talking about adventures as the constant journeys of life in its campaigns and showing stories of people who deliver on this promise.

Journeys of self-discovery

The desire for fulfilling experiences and personalisation is a truly global trend. At the top end of the Chinese market, there has been significant growth with 58% of high net worth travellers now using (and demanding) a travel advisor. Their motivation is to gain access to experts who will provide complex itineraries that deliver a high degree of personalisation.

While previously, great travel might have been defined by a shopping bag full of luxury brands, today it’s much more about the trip of self-discovery. The virtual shopping bag is judged by putting the self in situations that will reveal something of themselves.

Now this is not something that can be authentically or easily represented in conventional media and creative. A beautiful video and elegant words will describe the opportunity but it will always be presented from the outside looking in – which misses the trick completely. This is a group of people who want to feel it first hand; want to feel inspired.

It’s not just about staying at a fabulous hotel, it’s about creating a bespoke trip that feels crafted for you. Prescient brands understand this nuance and its ability to attract an otherwise difficult and always demanding customer.

Which is why for HSBC Jade – a product created to recognise the top echelon of HSBC customers – luxury brand partners are providing experiences tailored to these customers. In doing so, HSBC is creating its ‘wow’ factor, giving customers real-life experiences that are not promoted in a traditional commercial context or made available to just anyone. As a HSBC Jade client, you are given your own version of a night stay at the Mandarin Oriental or Small Luxury Hotels of the World. It’s not just an overnight kip – it’s a curated experience. Research has vindicated that this is not viewed as a luxury stay but rather the intimate enjoyment of being at home with the indulgence of being somewhere else. This experience is again not easily captured in conventional communication. But a strategic partnership with an aligned brand tells the story perfectly.

There are a number of other interesting partnerships that also provide first-hand experiences. Just think of British Airways and Liberty of London’s amenity kits on-board. What better way to feel the city of quirky fashion juxtaposed with centuries of tradition?

For those of us who live life beyond the map, you’ll agree, Henry Miller got it very right.

This article was first published in the Drum Travel Special

by Tamara Gillan, CEO and Founder, Cherry London tamara@cherrylondon.com