The first hotel built on Florida’s West Coast, the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, has been restored and reimagined as the Belleview Inn.
Built in 1897 by Henry Plant, the iconic four-story landmark hosted every living president until it closed in 2009. JMC Communities preserved its most authentic 120-year-old features—among them, the grand staircase in the lobby and the fireplaces—while incorporating a resort-style pool and sundeck and a fully outfitted fitness center.
Additional charms include the Tiffany Room, so called for its Tiffany glass panels from the original building; Mort’s Reading Room—named after Plant’s son—stocked with displays and historical information about the establishment’s legacy; and Maisie’s Marketplace, namesake of Mort’s wife, serving up breakfast and small plates.
In the shadow of Sedona’s red rock formations, The Retreat at Miraval Arizona is a new way to experience a luxurious getaway to refresh both the body and soul.
The resort’s 22 modular, elegant villas and suites with up to three bedrooms combine privacy and community with separate entrances, private pools or spas, indoor-to-outdoor showers and spectacular views. The barrier to nature dissolves via the custom designed, fully retractable floor-to-ceiling glass doors, making the splendor of the Sonoran Desert part of your own personal living space.
Exclusive experiences at The Retreat include Life in Balance Spa wellness services, community art projects and private, in-suite culinary experiences. Continue the serenity you find at The Retreat and bring home items from the exclusive Miraval collection, including bedding, robes, candles and crystals.
Luxury brands often miss the opportunities to reach the highest echelon of travelers by serving down-market experiences. It’s the result of a troubling trend of mass market luxury, standardized luxury travel marketing appeals to both HNW and UHNW individuals, and the homogenization of luxury goods and services across these tiers of wealth.
The roots of these issues lie in a slew of societal, cultural and technological trends unfolding in recent years. The ubiquitous exposure of digital platforms like Instagram and the rise of the sharing economy are some of the most prominent contributors. However, collectively, these factors are manifold.
To efficiently target new customers, and to successfully retain them, the distinct expectations and needs of HNW and UHNW consumers ($1M-$29M v. $30M) must be considered both when creating the luxury travel experience itself, as well as the luxury travel marketing campaign. A luxury brand must understand a client’s level of wealth prior to designing travel experiences.
THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF LUXURY
Jaclyn Sienna India is owner and founder of the luxury travel agency Sienna Charles. She works with UHNW clients, designing unique travel experiences. She notes that luxury travel marketing has become the great equalizer. “Everyone is trying to make hotels and everything ‘luxury’ accessible… hotels are trying to appeal to everyone based on what is happening on Instagram. Now people who are not wealthy can afford ‘luxury’ vacations,” she observes.
Looking the part of luxury is notably easier than delivering such experiences in live settings. India travels 200 days per year, noting properties touting the term “luxury” often lack the service component. “So many people are opening hotels. They can always have the great architecture, the furniture… There are more [properties] that have them than don’t. However, you need to understand and get to know UHNW guests and service them accordingly. It’s the least amount of focus these days, yet experience takes precedence.”
SERVICE: THE MISSING LINK
Jaclyn Sienna India says “everyone is selling and not servicing”. She refers to the disconnect between improvements in hotel marketing imagery and luxury travel marketing, and actual service. “Luxury experiences need to be tailored and custom, [and on most occasions], nothing has been custom about their stay,” she goes on to explain.
Meanwhile, the sharing economy brings its own unique set of challenges. Companies among the likes of JetSmarter attempt to appeal to both the UHNW consumer and any traveler with $2-$3,000 worth of disposable income. India says, “Private memberships are mixing different demographics. A billionaire could sit next to someone who put [the charge] on his Amex. There’s a new resurgence of non-luxury companies trying to get into the luxury game. Airbnb is selling stays at $10,000-a-night villas and yet they don’t even check out their properties. Everyone is trying to get into experiences… [with many companies] at the end of the day, you call and speak to a robot and no service is attached to the experience. No one cares and no one thinks about what they want to achieve with their travel.”
UHNW luxury travel marketing and offerings must excel in service, personalized attention and exclusivity.
MASS MARKET LUXURY (HNW) VS. TOP TIER TRAVEL (UHNW)
Thus the question remains, what distinguishes UHNW travelers’ needs from those of their HNW counterparts? Service. Here are five ways to excel in serving individuals of wealth:
1. Remain Small.
Service is often sacrificed on the path for growth. Luxury hotel brand conglomerates exemplify these challenges. “Smaller lines like The Dorchester, with 8 properties, are getting it right. You lose a sense of who you are and why you started this when you grow and grow,” advises Jaclyn Sienna India. “Clients spend $100k to $1M for travel experiences so we meet them to find out who they are and what they love. You’re always face-to-face working with a professional for other industries, but travel is so anonymous and done online.”
2. Attend to Every Detail.
Sienna Charles has produced bespoke and truly luxurious experiences for adventurous UHNW travelers over the last decade, including building tents in Africa and Israel. In contrast, India underscores the luxury travel marketing strategies of hotels to construct glamping tents for imagery’s sake without the crucial attention to detail. She has personally witnessed a stateside West Coast example lacking indoor restrooms and featuring shared shower facilities.
Other examples, India shares, include “marketing ploys like spa and wellness”. “At the end of the day, they’re still using chemical products in their spas. They’re not really offering a wellness perspective.”
3. Deliver Bespoke Offerings and Experiences.
Carefully assess every partner, collaborator, product and service to guarantee truly luxurious offerings and experiences. This extends to the numerous luxury travel agencies delivering mass-marketed luxury travel. These companies provide automatic free amenities and upgrades on behalf of luxury brands, an expedient route to brand dilution and the loss of true luxury.
4. Make Privacy a Priority.
UHNW clientele expect and require privacy. The wealthiest consumers do not take pictures at resorts due to privacy concerns, and yet many properties pose the risk of other travelers’ documentation habits. These images and videos, in addition to location geotags, are risks that must be eliminated.
5. Market to a Single Tier (HNW or UHNW).
A blanket strategy to please HNW and UHNW clients will almost certainly undermine your goals to attract and retain new customers. Note key differences among the various tiers of wealth. For instance, most UHNW clients require the reassurance that they are the only individuals who can afford their special luxury travel experiences. As India describes, it has become increasingly difficult for the UHNW client to uncover these experiences at restaurants, in hotels and in the sky. Understand clients’ wealth levels and expectations; aim to exceed.
Businesses catering to high net worth (HNW) and ultra high net worth (UHNW) individuals offer increasingly exclusive products, services and experiences in light of the widespread and global democratization of luxury. Private aviation is one of several impacted industries, as private air travel becomes more accessible on a mass scale with the introduction of the sharing economy. Nevertheless, the finest luxury aviation firms tailor communications for clients at the highest tiers of wealth, combating mass market luxury.
ESCHEWING MASS MARKET LUXURY
Whereas some brands revitalize the meaning of luxury by way of exclusive stays at magnificent chateaus, in-person meetings with couture designers and similar gestures, a more discreet approach is required within private aviation.
The market segmentation process begins with a wealth screening and determining net worth, followed by the development of research-based marketing strategies intended to target the wealthiest clientele. When marketing to the HNW or UHNW individual, private aviation companies must first and foremost cater to this individual’s ever-increasing desire for privacy and exclusivity.
Take into consideration Global Jet Capital, a private aircraft leasing and lending solutions firm, which extends personalized financial solutions, business aviation expertise and more to a global client base of HNW and UHNW clientele. Chief Marketing Officer Andrew Farrant attributes flexibility, privacy, security, improved productivity and bespoke random access to aircraft as the foremost needs and desires of the HNW and UHNW individual.
“While this audience may share a certain level of wealth, assuming they share the same hopes, desires, wants and drivers, can lead marketers down the wrong path,” says Farrant. “The key to tapping into the mindset of any audience, including this one, is effective segmentation built on solid voice-of-customer research.”
KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE
Foregoing flight-share services, true luxury private aviation businesses market private “lift as a service” flights and the ability to own. Security, convenience and time-efficiency are among the greatest motivators for purchasing aircraft, whether outright or via finance or lease. Meanwhile, time-efficiency remains the most desirable draw for “lift as a service.”
The bespoke flexibility of business aviation can compress into days a multi-city trip that would otherwise take weeks with commercial lift. “It’s the difference between spending time in airports and security lines and replacing it with time with loved ones – the things that are really important,” says Farrant.
In a market saturated with products and experiences for mass market consumption, only the most steadfast luxury firms will thrive, deploying highly-targeted communications, product differentiation and exceptional service.
ADDRESSING CONSUMER BEHAVIOR AND MARKET TRENDS
Catering to HNW and UHNW clients also requires a well-versed understanding of how they prefer to shop. Companies like Global Jet Capital offer a number of aircraft financing and leasing services, from progress payment financing and operating leases to equipment upgrade financing. Of note is that while cash dominates the private aircraft purchasing space, operating leases are the second highest in demand and a growing trend within private aviation.
The desire for operating leases emerged in response to the 2008 financial crisis. According to Farrant, operating leases allow clients to retain capital, protecting against swings in residual value and providing flexibility if the client wants a smaller or larger aircraft.
“We often find ourselves partnering with clients to ensure they have [a] full appreciation of their ability to protect capital, reduce residual value risk, manage tax liabilities, and gain aircraft disposition flexibility,” says Farrant. “Establishing a full appreciation of these issues can be the difference between a good and bad experience.”
The rise of the digital marketplace—propelled by online giants
like Amazon and Alibaba and carried by a slate of popular brands operating
primarily as direct-to-consumer—has been heralded by many analysts as a death-knoll
for physical retail. By these forecasts, luxury-good storefronts should be
among the first casualties. But is the brick-and-mortar shop really on life
Certainly, there is compelling
evidence to indicate that traditional retail is undergoing a reformation. A
rash of recent store closings and bankruptcies among major chains like Toys ‘R
Us, Sears and Rite Aid has sent a shiver down the spine of investors. That wasn’t
helped any by lackluster Q4 reports from the likes of Kohls, JCPenny and Macy’s—whose
over-zealous bet on a blowout holiday season helped wipe out $34 billion in market
value from the sector.
The fever seems to have hit mid-market
outlets that depended heavily on a physical presence to drive sales
particularly hard. From Victoria’s Secret (which announced in February it will
shutter 53 locations in addition to 30 last year) to ShopKo (which is closing
38 stores and selling off its pharmacy), the wave of businesses on the doorstep
of Chapter 11 points to the challenges facing traditional retail. To be sure,
much of that owes to the emergence of newcomers who outperformed the old-guard,
particularly in the online space—which only further drives home the point.
In the luxury-goods market, vacancies
along Fifth and Madison Avenues suggest a similar trend, and there are plenty
of brands that have gone the way of their blue-collar counterparts. In April,
Italian fashion-house Roberto Cavalli filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy as it
liquidated its U.S. arm. Fashion retailer Pretty Green was placed into administration
in March, and last year J.Mendel filed for Chapter 11 protection.
to CNBC, major retailers have closed more than 4,800 stores through March
of this year. That’s compared to just over 5,500 through all of 2018, which was
down more than 30 percent from a record 8,139 closures announced in 2017.
Yet, for all the hype behind
online retail and the anecdotal evidence against physical retail, the data
still indicates that brick-and-mortar hasn’t given up the ghost just yet—nor is
it likely to do so soon. Over 90 percent of retail transactions were made in a
physical location last year, and more than 80 percent of sales are expected to
still be made in-store by 2025. That reality, many experts caution, recasts the
“The so-called ‘retail apocalypse’
is not ubiquitous. It does not apply uniformly to all retailers, nor to all
types of retail, nor to all geographic markets,” Jim
Dillavou of Paragon Commercial Group says. “Indeed, the retail that is
dying is the retail that should die. E-commerce is actually doing something
important and healthy for retail: it is forcing investment, improvement and
innovation in a marketplace that has not changed in decades.”
What about the dip in leases
along luxury corridors in places like Manhattan? As Gene Spiegelman, vice
chairman and principal at Ripco Real Estate, tells Real
Estate Weekly, it is more of a sea change than an emptying river.
“Disruption of the traditional
retail model exacerbated a real estate market that was already overheating. Not
unlike other financial bubbles, the micro-bubble of high-value urban retail
real estate burst by the end of 2016,” Spiegelman says.
He points to the spate of luxury
brands migrating to Hudson
Yards, the new mixed-use development on the far west side of Manhattan,
which is also the most expensive real-estate development in U.S. history. The
development has attracted a bevy of luxury names, including Balenciaga, Hermès,
Cartier and Dior. Flexible lease options have also drawn in e-commerce brands
like Mack Weldon and LovePop to test run brick-and-mortar operations.
The health of physical retail
depends largely on who you ask. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle.
Brands that have failed to create a strong digital presence have suffered the
consequences and forfeited their market share to savvier newcomers. At the same
time, online behemoths including Apple and Amazon are investing
heavily in retail locations.
What’s clear for retail in an
otherwise murky market outlook is this: Successful businesses need both a
strong online capacity, an extraordinary experience for customers in-store and
the ability to evolve with consumer preferences.