Tour operators and travel advisors are finding new ways to outdo themselves when it comes to offering the next level of exclusive travel experiences to clients with pockets deep enough to afford them.
And the sky is certainly the limit, travel advisors say, as no price seems too high for access to these high-end, once-in-a-lifetime events and experiences.
“Someone can spend $25,000 to $30,000 just to get a spot at a haute couture fashion show of their favorite fashion brand, something that literally has no price tag,” said Jack Ezon, co-founder of Embark Beyond, adding that those figures are just the tip of the iceberg.
Demand for exclusive travel experiences is nothing new. But with the end of the pandemic, ultrahigh net worth travelers began looking for the next level of access, and the industry responded.
“We have been working on things like getting into Art Basel parties, the Super Bowl, the Oscars, the Vanity Fair party, even getting clients to be an extra on their favorite series, for years,” Ezon said. “Post-Covid, unique experiences have become the most sought-after way to connect people … with unique memories surrounding their shared interests and passions.”
Luxury travel brand Kensington Tours’ answer to the growing demand for more extravagant VIP experiences is its recently launched Black Book by Kensington series.
The line of custom travel experiences promises to “unlock” a new world of exclusive access, which also includes getting into a notoriously private Oscars afterparty and walking the red carpet with a celebrity or, for sports fans, watching the inaugural Formula One race in Las Vegas later this year from above the team pit and in the team paddock. The highest-tier option for the Oscars weekend is around $425,000 per couple and for the Formula One experience, about $260,000.
“It is less about the cost of the trip but the ability to provide a seamless experience — from the first inquiry to the client’s return home from a trip that exceeded their expectations,” said Helen Giontsis, president of Kensington Tours.
Luxury Gold, part of the Travel Corporation, is also stepping up its ultra-exclusive game.
As part of what the company called a rebranding, it reduced the number of itineraries it offers from 40 to 30 while also cutting group sizes down to between 16 and 24. Doing so enabled the company to focus on products its clients love and to offer what it calls a more “intimate and elegant travel experience.”
Luxury Gold also rebranded its Founder’s Collection, tours originally crafted by the late Stanley Tollman, founder of the Travel Corporation. Guests on those tours will have an opportunity to meet with friends of Tollman’s, including European nobility and other prominent figures, in historical sites or ancestral homes for an even deeper and more authentic experiences.
Melissa DaSilva, president of Luxury Gold North America, said that even on the tour operator’s regular itineraries, guests have exclusive experiences.
“For us, access means getting to go where most people cannot; it means diving deep into the heart of a destination and seeing the local gems hidden beyond the iconic sites travelers know and love,” DaSilva said. “We’re able to offer these experiences as a result of the relationships formed by our founder and the amazing work done by our operations team who continue to forge new and meaningful relationships.”
QuintEvents, a luxury sports travel and events packager, partnered with Nascar for the first time to offer Nascar Chicago Street Race packages this summer, and it recently started a multiyear partnership with the NBA to create the bespoke NBA Experiences, giving clients “unprecedented access” to NBA events both on and off the court.
Luxury advisor Kaleigh Kirkpatrick, founder of the Shameless Tourist, an affiliate of Avenue Two Travel, said her clients are more than willing to pay top dollar to enjoy their sports in a special way — or enjoy their favorite brand of bubbly in a new way.
“I’m working on a proposal for a client right now where we are privatizing a visit to Billecart-Salmon, their favorite Champagne house,” Kirkpatrick said, adding that another set of clients wants to have VIP shopping experiences at the famous Samaritaine department store in Paris on a girls getaway.
“I do find that clients are demanding more unique tours and experiences,” Kirkpatrick said. “Sometimes privatizing a visit to somewhere special is important or offering exclusive, behind-the-scenes access is appealing to the ultrawealthy.”
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