Cultural awareness more important than labels for America’s new elite

Cultural awareness more important than labels for America’s new elite

There is a new cultural and social formation happening in America and travel is poised at the precipice.

A new book by sociologist Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class, argues that rich people are no longer choosing to display their wealth with clothing and accessories, preferring instead to demonstrate their class through non-visible goods and services that are educational.

“The fact that the aspirational class works, and that most of their income is based on the skills they have gained from high levels of education has made “social, environmental, and cultural awareness” the most valuable sources of social capital” Currid-Halkett argues.

Read the article here  

We asked ILTM movers and shakers how the move towards non-conspicuous consumption is impacting the way we sell luxury.

News Views

Media View

"We are witnessing a major shift in spending among educated, affluent, discerning Americans. They’ve increasingly aligned their spending with personal values. According to Boston Consulting Group, of the $1.8T spent on luxury, over $1T is now spent on travel and experiences rather than material goods such as jewellery, watches, and fashion.

Today’s discerning traveller yearns for experiences with more depth, access, sense of place, and distinctiveness. They want to be in the homes and studios of interesting people. They want to explore a destination from a different angle, coming away with a broader and deeper perspective of the places they visit and ultimately of themselves.

According to a study with Myriad Marketing, 82% of AFAR travellers experience a destination by connecting with its people, culture, and history, and 86% intend to meet with and interact with locals. Those surveyed were the most affluent, influential, and well-travelled of all American travellers. To that end, luxury travel companies need to continue to modify their offerings and positioning—moving away from selling the fantasy of travel to celebrating the world as it is in all of its beautiful colours. We all love supermodels atop elephants walking down a deserted beach, but American elites want to know what it is really like to experience a place in a deeper, richer, more fulfilling way. Help discerning travellers step outside of their bubbles and beyond their walls. You will be handsomely rewarded."

Travel Brand View

"We absolutely believe we are witnessing a big cultural and social change among American elites when it comes to their spending habits and travel choices. Oasis’ popularity and growth is a perfect example of American consumers putting a greater emphasis on experiences and cultural immersion rather than physical goods. While years ago, most upscale travellers chose to stay in luxury chain hotels known for their over-the-top service and plush accommodations, today many upscale travellers are choosing to travel with home-sharing options like Oasis. Our guests tell us that they choose Oasis because we provide them with locally immersive experiences without forgoing the hospitality standards that they have come to expect as upscale travellers, such as personalized service, security and hotel-level standards like fresh linens and toiletries. We are expanding rapidly to meet the demands of travellers asking for our services as they travel around the world.

The growing trend of travellers seeking educational and cultural experiences presents tremendous opportunity for travel companies to stand out from the crowd by rethinking the traditional hospitality standards and experiences. Today's tech savvy consumers value ease and convenience, and also seek out unique, authentic experiences that allow them to broadcast and tout their cultural credibility to their friends and family. The key is to really understanding your customer in order to serve them experiences that align with your brand and truly resonate as authentic, not manufactured. The biggest threat is the competition that technology and innovation has spurred in the travel industry over the last 5-10 years. Travel companies must adapt quickly to changing consumer behaviours and preferences, while standing out with a unique point-of-view and guest experience."

Hospitality Personality View

"Now more than ever, cultural and environmental sensitivity and awareness are critical to US travellers, which is a huge opportunity for luxury travel brands. From creating curated experiences with local experts and partners such as swimming with a resort’s resident marine biologist to learning about saving a dying reef, we are definitely witnessing a big cultural and social change among American elites. The affluent in the US have been seeking authenticity in experiences and goods for some time now – particularly in the luxury travel sector, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing. The conversation, particularly around travel, leans much more toward ‘where are you vacationing? Why? And what did you do or eat while you were there?’ rather than ‘What did you bring back?’. For an elite audience it’s 100% about experiences, memories, and being present in the moment."

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