Selling the luxury experience F

ormer group publishing director at Hearst Magazines Meribeth Parker was

guest of honour at the event. She is now non- executive director for luxury brands including Jimmy Choo and is working with News UK to help relaunch its Luxx brand.

Q. What luxury trends have guided you? A. “Luxury is such a complicated word, we all hear it everywhere,” says Parker. “From a content point of view, obviously the backbone fashion and beauty elements of luxury are important, but increasingly less so.” She quoted YouGov statistics, which indicate the only categories increasing in discretionary spend by the affluent space are leisure travel and fine dining. “People are less interested in stuff and much more interested in experiences – doing things that are bespoke, that have social currency,” Parker says.

Q. Are travel brands doing a good job of talking to luxury consumers correctly? A. “With social media, word of mouth – which has always been incredibly important – has been taken to a whole new level,” says Parker. She adds that while advertising plays an important role for branding, advocates are becoming increasingly important. “Travel does a great job and could do even more in terms of using advocates.”

Q. What are some of the major challenges facing luxury? A. Parker divides the segmentation of the sector into millennials, Generation X and baby boomers. “It’s an opportunity and an extraordinary challenge in the marketplace right now,” she says. “While we hear so much about the millennials, it’s actually the ‘Gen Xers’ and the boomers that make up more than 77% of luxury spend.” Parker said it is vital that brands make sure they are speaking to millennials in the appropriate way, but not losing sight of “where the actual money is… What we also see is that the millennials’ expectation of luxury is quite different,” she adds.

As part of its inaugural Luxury Showcase across London, Chester and Manchester, Visit California brought together US delegates with operators to discuss all things luxury. Jennifer Morris reports

FROM LEFT: James Bell, Turquoise Holidays; Caroline Beckett, Elegant Resorts; Rupert Murray, Aspire editor; Meribeth Parker; Lynn Carpenter, Visit California; and Will Boocock, Original Travel

Q. Are your customers big on social media? A. Will Boocock, head of region Americas at Original Travel, says that while for millennials sites like Instagram are important for inspirational imagery, a survey he undertook shows that few baby boomers have ever read

a travel blog. Parker says: “While social media is incredibly important, you should be focused on different messaging for different sectors and different media. “With digital generally, a website is

a beast that needs feeding, which can undermine it as an actual asset. But it can be incredibly powerful if you get it right.”

Q. How best can destinations work for you? A. Turquoise Holidays co-founder James Bell says that while the business has historically sold California as a stop-over destination, it has now decided to launch a dedicated programme. “We want tourist boards to help us tell a story. We want to find places that are as unique as they can be to us – not necessarily just hotels. It could be shops, galleries; too often it’s about aircraft seats.” Caroline Beckett, senior product manager

TARGET: Searching for the bespoke and unique

at Elegant Resorts, adds: “While we send our staff to California once or twice a year, it’s finding out about those really unique experiences and getting that specialised access for the luxury traveller. It’s about how between us we can all communicate the hottest activities on a regular basis.”

36 21 July 2016

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