Luxury is a state of heart

Expert Opinion
Luxury is a state of heart

Didier Scaillet, CEO of SITE, says a true, authentic experience is the new luxury.


Local experiences have always been an integral part of incentive travel.

Years ago, one group included dinner in their programme with a local family in Cape Town, South Africa, and served Bobotie, the traditional spiced mince dish of the country. And for years, corporate planners and DMCs have been taking groups out of crowded cities, to off-the-beaten-track venues to experience how the locals live.

But such experiential activities have never been in the forefront as they are today, which may have something to do with millennials (or GenX or GenZ) who tend to be about “experiences” and not about “stuff”? Typically they’d rather get wet and zipline in a Costa Rican rain forest than sit down to a five-course dinner at a Michelin-Star restaurant.

To that end, this relates to the fifth of the 10 statements in SITE’s Bangkok Manifesto ( created at the SITE Global Conference in Thailand in January, the Manifesto was developed by incentive industry thought leaders on the industry’s true purpose in the business world today.

The Manifesto’s Statement 5 reads: ‘The definition of luxury has changed. The era of logos and brands is ending. Luxury in the future will be defined by authentic, unique and personal experiences.’

Bob Miller, CEO, One10Marketing, weighed in on authentic experiences being the new luxury, saying, “Luxury is a state of mind that arises when circumstances make people feel special. It’s defined by long-held preferences, is highly personal and often changes. It used to be opulence and extravagance, champagne and caviar, but now it is authenticity and unique personal experiences, craft beer and local cuisine.”

Miller further says that now researchers are trying to understand the shifting face of luxury based on generational differences, personas and life stages. “As the power of individual choice continues to assert itself globally, many of the traditional definitions of luxury are being challenged,” he says.

Make no mistake: The luxury goods market is not going anywhere; in fact, according to research from consulting firm Bain & Company, it will top €275bn (US$305m) this year.

Today’s high-earning consumer wants luxury experiences that sets them apart from their peers, helps them learn, facilitates their overall wellbeing, provides access to one-of-a-kind experiences, and enables them to achieve their dreams.

A recent Skift study also concludes that there is a new and elevated set of themes defining today’s luxury market; themes that emphasise more creative, meaningful, multicultural, internal and personalised customer journeys.

A great opportunity for the incentive travel industry to be sure, says Miller in the Bangkok Manifesto. “Our clients still look for obvious comforts, but the real focus now is on unique access to experiences: Access that guests can’t buy or curate on their own. Access to locations, activities and other people. Authentic, once-in-a-lifetime moments that are truly transformational.”

Luxury is emotional – a state of heart, not mind, says Miller. “But, more than anything, luxury arises when we experience life changing moments that we turn into memories that, in turn, define and transform our lives.”

As one top producing insurance agent said to me recently, “I don’t remember the gifts I received in China, but I’ll never forget the cocktail party we had on the Great Wall, and the lunch we had with a family in a Hutong neighbourhood in the backstreets of Beijing. Learning to make dumplings with the locals is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Stuart Wood is a news reporter across the Mash Media editorial portfolio. He writes for CMW alongside sister publications Conference News, Exhibition News, Access All Areas and Exhibition World.