New change in luxury tourism: from experiences to sensations
What is the high-end tourist looking for? Why do people who are financially able to choose from an endless list of exotic destinations around the globe opt for small cities like Marbella?
I ask this question every high season, every summer when the influx of this segment of tourism pours into this corner of the world that I hold so close to my heart. And depending on which of my hotel colleagues I ask, remember, these are questions that are asked every day in five-star hotels, the answers change as the trends in high-end tourism are also changing.
On the one hand, we should keep in mind that if a tourist with high purchasing power is searching for good beaches, they’d go to Seychelles instead of coming to Marbella. So, what are the real reasons? I’ve been analysing the sector over the years, and from my professional point of view, I can say there are several reasons, although there are two central concepts, relax, disconnect and enjoy unique experiences.
Since tourism became a global phenomenon, not only because of the reduction in travel costs that allowed potential markets to rise considerably but also because of the emergence of new destinations virtually all over the world, the very concept of travel underwent a major change. The idea of “travelling to learn” is now somewhat dated. Instead, it’s a universally accepted assumption that people travel to have experiences. You go sightseeing to do things, not to see them.
However, at this level of luxury, even the term experience-based tourism is becoming outdated. At least in the high-end sector, where it’s beginning to give way to sensations tourism. I would also go a step further and say it’s heading closer towards emotional tourism, with luxury hotels now starting to work within this conceptual framework.
There are no half measures in this segment of tourism. The time spent at the hotel has to be perfect. It’s all about knowing exactly what the guest expects from their holidays, and nobody knows this better than the hotel staff themselves. We have big data and all the statistics, but we can’t forget about personal treatment.
The image of distant and dull luxury is now a thing of the past. It’s not about the hotel building, it’s the staff who make the difference. For this reason, I like to remember that the very basis of tourism is to take care of people and ensure to establish an emotional engagement between the hotel, its employees and customers.
It’s completely unrealistic to assume that wealthy guests can be impressed by hotel facilities and equipment alone. They already have huge HD TV screens and exclusive designer furniture in their homes. What really makes the differences is the sensations or emotions they experience on their holidays.
What could these be? You have to be prepared for everything in a luxury hotel, holidays have to be experiences that change your life, and that’s why I believe that Marbella is a clear example of tourism innovation in the high-end sector, as its qualified professionals and excellent facilities go above and beyond what luxury tourism expects.