It’s been pejoratively described as the ultimate sign of a mid-life crisis: spending thousands on a luxury break with learning at its heart. Those with about £4k to spare and a yearning to learn Spanish can sign up for a week’s language training in a boutique hotel, 7-course meals and a butler included. Around the world, there are similar luxe learning experiences on offer for the wealthy to learn anything from language, photography, yoga, skiing or mindful breathing.
Although there’s certainly a 5-star element to these trips, for many participants it’s also the intensity of the programme that appeals. A luxury learning experience usually means you’ll get one-to-one tuition and a highly personalised programme of study, usually in an immersive environment.
This pretty much guarantees you’ll learn efficiently and it’s particularly helpful to get a boost to your language skills. Extra-curricular activities are also specially designed to give you a sense of getting a real holiday, and with top-notch accommodation, you should feel rested as well.
It’s a highly efficient way to get the most out of your break. If you’re a wealthy but time-poor individual, it’s probably likely to be more productive than trying to make it to evening classes twice a week back home.
The phenomenon of the 5-star learning holiday comes out of another major consumer trend – that of valuing experiences over possessions. Consumers are placing increasing emphasis on having memorable (and Instagramable) experiences in their social lives and on holiday rather than amassing the latest designer goods.
Part of this includes investment in the self; this can include self-care such as personal wellbeing and explains trends towards higher spending on things such as beauty treatments, dieticians and personal trainers. It also encompasses self-improvement, whether it’s by investing in life coaching, joining meditation workshops or just buying self-help books and downloading self-help podcasts.
Investment into oneself is often seen as one of the defining characteristics of Millennials; part of this generation’s legendary emphasis on self-care.
One study said over 90% of Millennials were making commitments to improve themselves, and committing part of their budget to do so.
But personal development is not a phenomenon that’s purely confined to this particular age group. There’s also evidence that a wider age range of consumers is generally moving in that direction, perhaps inspired or influenced by Millennials in their circle.
One retreat provider says that their immersive learning breaks seem to attract women, particularly those in their 30s-50s. Immersive European language retreat provider Luxury & Language focuses in particular on offering extended breaks to an older age group, who are perhaps more able to commit to 1-3 months of daily tuition in somewhere like France or Italy. Fluenz, which runs Spanish language programs in Mexico City, has catered to executives at Google as well as clients from the UN.
Although luxury learning breaks aren’t in everyone’s budget, there’s really something for everyone at this level of outlay. And if there isn’t already a break on offer that fits what you want, you can usually get someone to design a custom break for you according to your preferences.
Although this level of luxury tends to be a high-niche area of the travel industry, there’s certainly a wider interest in learning holidays and that’s affecting the tourist industry as a whole.
Mass tourism used to be one-size-fits-all with inexperienced tourists, from 1960’s Britain or 2000’s China, embarking on their first trip abroad as part of a tour group with a standardised program of events. With tourism now much more normalised for a large segment of the world, there’s increasing diversity of holidays on offer as more sophisticated travellers seek out new experiences. It’s possible to include learning experiences into any traveller’s budget, not just the luxe ones.
Getting a personalised experience is also a significant trend in the travel industry whether travellers want to learn anything or not on holiday.
In the luxury learning arena, this is a key part of the offering and ensures maximum learning efficacy. But customers are increasingly expecting a personalised offering right across the spectrum of the holiday experience.
It’s also a way for providers to engage with their customers, particularly if they can offer the perfect travel experience based on audience needs. Technology such as AI is really supportive of the travel industry, personalising their offering whether it’s the marketing aspects or the delivery of the holiday itself.
If you’re trying to cater to the high-net-worth traveller, it’s important to understand their mentality. Wealthy travellers aren’t just interested in luxury for its own sake anymore – it’s more about offering the best experience. Travellers at all budgetary levels are interested in connecting to the culture they enter and seeing or learning something new and the top end of the market is no different.
Personalisation plays a major part in this. But it’s not just the high spending traveller that wants to learn or experience a break tailored to their particular needs and interests. Personalisation is key to engaging with customers at any budget level or holiday type.