I’m a luxury traveler.
But what does that mean? The immediate image that comes to mind may be first-class flights, opulent hotels, and a general air of grandeur, and while all that may be true, the question is much more complex and nuanced. The reality is that as the definition of luxury travel has evolved and expanded, so has the profile of the luxury traveler, creating many different types. In my 15 years of travel, I have encountered all kinds of travelers and subsequently, have plugged luxury travelers into SIX tenuous characterizations, keeping in mind the inevitable overlap between the different categories.
While the generation to which you belong may contribute to your characterization — Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, Millennials, and Gen-Zers — there’s many more factors that determine what kind of luxury traveler you are.
What kind of luxury traveler are YOU? Did I miss a type?
1) THE EXPERIENTIALIST
The kind of luxury traveler whose experiences are focused on authenticity, exclusivity, and enrichment, all the while steeped in adventure and local culture. Often crowdsourced, the experiences are self-planned with a carefully curated collection of companies who practice conscious consumerism, harness the powers of the latest technologies and media platforms, prioritize excellent customer service, and offer unprecedented personalization. Consequently, especially with the constant disruption and embrace of travel startups, loyalty is not easy to come by when it comes to brands, and ample incentives must be in place to command commitment. With a strong hold in the millennial demographic and often considered the brainchild of the modern era, the Experientialist seeks to forge deeper emotional connections with story-telling brands, behind-the-scenes people, and emerging destinations. There is little interest in cookie-cutter experiences out of a guidebook, and the focus of travel is on personal growth and self-discovery. From the grand aesthetics of a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris to the aromatic flavors of street food in Mexico City, the Experientialist bridges the richness of both worlds into a redefined idea of luxury, effortlessly maneuvering through the satisfaction each brings. The mantra: substance with style.
2) THE TRADITIONALIST
The kind of luxury traveler whose experiences are full of ostentatious displays of wealth and are validated by others’ reactions of envy, fostering an inflated sense of self-worth. Expectedly, loyalty to iconic luxury brands such as the Four Seasons is the name of the game with a sweeping mantra: the more expensive, the better. The Traditionalist highly values convention, conservatism, and materiality; expects an always-present concierge to be waiting on them; leans heavily towards typical luxury destinations such as London; and prefers conspicuous consumption. Moving from country to country in great style, the Traditionalist feels a strong sense of nostalgia for the Golden Age of travel and tries to incorporate those same values today. With a focus on white-glove service with chauffeured cars, five-star resorts, and private jets, the Traditionalist places great emphasis on the spectacle and appearance of the experience, and any departure from what society deems to be the best is unacceptable.
3) THE DREAMER
The kind of luxury traveler whose experiences never leave the confines of their comfort zone and whose travel dreams are nothing but a virtual reality. Constrained by personal finances or fear of the unknown, the Dreamer is an armchair traveler who spends hours perusing glossy travel magazines and soaking up all the photos and stories published on blogs and social media channels. With daydreams of luxuriating in private infinity pools with a flute of Taittinger champagne in hand or wandering down the exquisite Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, the Dreamer sees the world in style — all from the comfort of their home, of course.
4) THE MISFIT
The kind of luxury traveler whose experiences are the result of months of saving up and splurging on the one-off experiences, be that an iconic luxury hotel, first-class flight, Michelin-starred restaurant, or all of the above. Often seen looking for deals at all-inclusive luxury resorts, the Misfit is characterized as having champagne tastes on a beer budget. Waiting for special occasions and indulging in infrequent spurts of luxury, the Misfit has a heightened sense of wonder and gratitude that fuels his/her appreciation for the finer things. Oscillating between both the budget and luxury worlds, the Misfit seeks to maximize and account for every dollar spent, regularly makes comparisons between both worlds, operates in the gray zone with no one foot firmly transplanted in either world, and never truly feels comfortable in the lap of luxury. In fact, the Misfit doesn’t feel like they completely fit in either world, and considers themselves neither a budget traveler nor a luxury traveler.
5) THE COVERT
The kind of luxury traveler whose experiences appear budget-friendly on the surface, but in reality, are a closeted set of champagne and caviar tastes that inadvertently shine through. Scoffing at the extravagance but secretly indulging in it, the Covert does not want to be bogged down by the purported negative connotations and pretensions that many often associate with luxury travel, but still finds it difficult to deny his/her inner bon vivant. They believe that luxury travel is somehow at odds with responsible tourism and clings on to the devalued notions that are suggestive of triviality, nouveau riche, and sinful indulgence. If the Experientialist focuses on life-affirming experiences that lead to self-discovery, the Covert seeks society’s acceptance and pays heed to its perceptions — similar to the Traditionalist, in that respect. Although both the Covert and the Misfit find themselves amidst the competing tensions of the budget and luxury worlds, the Misfit is limited by his/her own financial circumstances, while the Covert chooses to publicly support society’s critique of luxury as wasteful abundance, but secretly embraces it.
6) THE OPPORTUNIST
The kind of luxury traveler whose experiences are planned around frightening headlines, regional strife, and political turmoil. Fueled by the low rates and off-peak benefits of airlines and hotels, the Opportunist fearlessly capitalizes on unsettling situations and travels to destinations that are in the midst of political, social, economic, or environmental crises, making luxury travel much more affordable. Often, there are travel warnings and/or alerts issued in these destinations that advise against non-essential travel — a signal to which the Opportunist pays extra attention and exploits.
NOTE: This is meant to be light-hearted and I fully realize that it’s riddled with stereotypes and sweeping generalizations. These profiles are merely the product of my own observations and interactions. I’m a 1+2 hybrid.