A recent report from the International Luxury Travel Market states that ‘The luxury travel industry will continue to recover from the financial crisis and demand is expected to grow… sparking a gradual rise in both advance booking time and rates’.

What will also grow however, is the number of companies who offer luxury travel experiences. Some who had previously focused on general travel consumers have taken necessary steps to protect themselves through the recent financial crisis; they have re-evaluated their business plans and are now specifically targeting this resilient market. As a result, competition is set to get fiercer than ever over the next few years.

If travel operators are to succeed they will need to firmly establish themselves as authentic brands that consumers can trust.

A very different kind of market

As this luxury sector recovers, a very different kind of consumer will emerge. Companies will not be able to rely on a large pool of customers ready and willing to buy with little thought to cost. Today’s luxury consumers have higher expectations, they expect impeccable quality and service, they understand value better and research their purchases much more thoroughly. There is also evidence to suggest that luxury travellers are getting younger, explained in part by a rise in affluent young people and young executives worldwide.

Luxury travel operators will need to work hard to engage with this more discerning market. Post recession success will be dependent not only upon superb quality of service, but also strong, authentic branding and a strong online presence and reputation.

At a cost of £280,000 to rent the entire island for a week, Richard Branson’s Necker island is only accessible by the super-rich

Luxury consumers will be looking for brands they can trust which offer personalisation and exclusivity. They will expect exceptionally designed marketing communications, inviting websites and they will be using social media to research and qualify prior to purchasing.

First steps to building a luxury brand

As competition increases companies are urged more than ever to create powerful, memorable and consistent brands. This is especially relevant for luxury brands who can increase their revenue base and brand equity, plus strengthen the base of loyal customers.

There are sizeable differences between luxury brands and other brands. A luxury brand commands a high price which is justified by exceptional quality, selectivity and personalisation. Luxury brand communication is exclusive and addresses the aspirations of a particular group of consumers.

SO Director Jo Stedman comments “In order to build a persuasive luxury brand, travel operators need to assess their companies in order to identify their strongest assets, find a competitive advantage and build a unique brand story around it. This brand story is your reason for being, it is what sets you apart from the competition and it will directly inform and influence the messaging and design of all marketing communications. Design can then be used to great effect to communicate and enhance your story, encouraging consumer trust and representing your company and brand consistently.”

In order to identify a brand story companies that can draw upon their history and tradition should do so. When it comes to getting luxury consumers to spend a lot of money, timeless design sells and brands that can demonstrate timeless, everlasting style and an authentic heritage have an immediate advantage. For those that do not have a strong history, the focus could be quality, originality, attention to detail or even sustainability.

Whatever the message, it should be communicated with authority, simplicity and consistency at every touchpoint.

Connect with your consumers

Done well, your luxury brand will work hard for you. Resulting in successful engagement of your target consumer, an ability to charge a premium and a great reputation

To connect with your target consumers’ pursuit of a bespoke and luxurious travel experience you need to understand the key factors that contribute to their expectations.

The word ‘luxury’ instantly raises people’s expectations. Today’s luxury travel consumers expect the highest level of selectivity and personalisation. All elements of your service chain must work seamlessly, from transport and accommodation to ground services and tours. Before they experience any of this though, they first undertake the research and sourcing. This is your first (and best) opportunity to differentiate yourself.

Luxury travellers are increasingly researching and buying online and first impressions really do count. When a potential customer arrives at your website, do not underestimate the power of the design to attract or repel within seconds. You have just a few seconds to engage on exactly the right level. Your website must immediately communicate the right message to your target consumer and give an assurance that you can deliver on their expectations.

Design is especially important in the case of luxury brands as luxury consumers have frequent interaction with the finely tuned marketing strategies employed by other luxury brands they have exposure to.

Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc) also play a huge part in today’s consumers purchasing decisions and you should use the internet shrewdly to build a good, knowledgable online reputation.

Once you have made a sale it is vitally important that the brand experience does not stop there. Your brand should remain in force at every level. Even internal communications have a part to play in building and protecting your brand, especially today when it is harder than ever to attract and retain staff. A great brand inspires loyalty amongst staff as well as customers.

Summing up and next steps

Whether established, repositioned or a newcomer to the industry, the first step to successful luxury travel branding is a concise understanding of who your consumers are. Only then can you create a compelling brand story to inform and direct all aspects of your marketing activity.

Done well, your brand will work hard for you. Resulting in successful engagement of your target consumer, an ability to charge a premium, a great reputation and most importantly… increased sales.


‘What’s Next: Rebirth of Luxury’ – Mckinsey & Company
‘The Future of Luxury Travel’ – International Luxury Travel Market