When most people think of ‘luxury travel’, images of beautiful, Cucci-clad models lounging around an Italian villa or private beach or yacht come to mind. And while that may indeed be how some affluent types spend their vacations, it’s certainly not true for most, or a very good way of describing what luxury travel is.
But there are a few common themes that separate luxury travel from mainstream or mass-market travel:
Exclusivity: Luxury travel is defined by small groups, (or your own private group) and exclusive experiences, typically out of reach to the lower and middle ends of the market.
Cultural: Authentic, local elements are very important, especially when they are ‘exclusive’ (see above) such as access to interesting places or people. Many affluent travelers also want an educational component to their trips such as arts and architecture, or indigenous cultural experiences.
Culinary: A high standard of cuisine, especially with a strong local component is often a key part of luxury travel.
Customization: Luxury travelers expect a high-degree of customization in their itineraries depending on their interests.
Price Point: When it comes to cost, luxury tours generally start at about $1000/day, not including airfare. Therefore, many higher-end, adventure tour operators are also ‘luxury travel’. But you probably won’t find any young, Gucci-wearing models at that $2000/day fishing resort in Alaska, or heli skiing in BC or on a small-ship cruise to Greenland, yet these are luxury tours too.
When it comes to marketing to affluent travelers, spend the time to create a solid marketing plan. Who exactly is your ideal client(s) and what is the problem you solve (or benefit provided) for them? How are you differentiating from your competitors? It sounds simple, but I can’t count how many times I’ve seen high-end tour operators totally fail at this important step.
A few years back I was approached by a luxury adventure tour operator that was really struggling. They were a family business and traditionally their marketing had involved doing glossy, direct mail campaigns to high-net worth zip codes. This generally worked quite well for them. But they had hired a new tourism marketing agency, who convinced them to kill their direct mail campaigns and go all-in on social media marketing. By the time I talked to them, they were spending $20K/mo on social media ads, and were nearly six-figures in and didn’t have a single booking to show for it. The agency kept telling them how awesome they were doing, ‘“SOOO many likes and shares and viral videos!”. They were pushing vanity metrics and the tour operator was freaking out.
Had they taken the time to get their marketing strategy right, researching, interviewing and really understanding their core market, they would have learned their ideal clients (who were affluent couples aged 60+) were not on Instagram or Tiktok or wherever they were throwing all that cash.
Even though your marketing will need to be customized to your ideal audience, there are a few things I see that apply to nearly all luxury adventure tours out there. One of those is a longer customer journey. With the high tour cost, time commitment, and sometimes risk (depending on the activity and destination), these travelers will do a lot of research, comparing you to your competitors, and other destinations out there. Here’s where ‘trust’ comes in. You need to build trust at every stage of the customer journey, from initial awareness to the point of referral.
Here’s where content can really come into play. As you map out your customer journey, think about the content for each stage. What would someone be searching for really early on? That’s where keyword research, tourism SEO and getting them into your ‘funnel’ or on your mailing list is critical. Further down the buying journey, what would move them towards your tours and not your competitors?
A solid Public Relations strategy (based on your marketing strategy) is another important piece of the puzzle. Getting press in the publications (online and offline) where your guests can be found is a great way to create awareness and also to build trust and authority. If done right, press will create prestige. Oftentimes, it’s hard for your prospects to tell the difference between two high-end operations, especially when both have similarly priced tours, great photos, great reviews etc. But if you’ve taken the time and done the work to pitch media, host FAMs and enter awards contests, and won, that lends a huge amount of cachet to your travel brand. This is a great way of building trust.
As a bonus, getting valuable press also improves your Domain Authority (DA) so your SEO, or search engine rankings, will improve too, bringing more traffic to your site, and more awareness.
Nearly all of this comes down to great storytelling. You need to find those stories that resonate with your ideal guests. Here’s the thing: most businesses go about this backwards; they tell stories about themselves, when they should be telling stories about their guests.
Let me explain: most do something like this: “We’re a 10th generation family business. We’ve got the best service and the best tours have won all sorts of awards. So come see how great we are!” No. One. Cares. That’s not to say a great origin story isn’t important, it is. But, it’s not about you, it’s about your ideal guests.
For this, I recommend the StoryBrand System. All your stories, and wherever you tell them— social media, your blog, videos, PR, etc—should be with your ideal clients in mind, making them the ‘heroes’ of the story. Think of it this way, you’re the guide, leading them on a journey or transformation with your amazing tours.
When it comes to luxury travel marketing, the right combination of strategy, storytelling, tactics and public relations is the key to success. Aventur Marketing has years of experience delivering results and growing bookings for premium tourism businesses. Contact Us today for a free consultation.