The president of a luxury lifestyle management company says millionaires are avoiding 'cookie cutter' trips in favour of immersive experiences — and it's changing how the ultrawealthy vacation

Mint Images via Getty Images

From luxury motorbike road trips to customisable African safaris, ultrawealthy travellers are no longer seeking “a cookie cutter product” when it comes to vacations, according to Richard Lewis, the US president of luxury lifestyle management service Insignia.

Lewis has spent 15 years in the luxury travel and hospitality industry, with previous high-level positions at both Ritz-Carlton and Virgin Atlantic Airways. He told Business Insider that the idea of “transformational travel” has already manifested itself as essential to his company’s elite clientele.

“Our clients like their stable hotels, like the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton,” Lewis said, “but what we’re starting to see is that desire for an immersive experience.”

Richard Lewis InsigniaCourtesy of InsigniaRichard Lewis is the president of the US arm of Insignia, a luxury lifestyle management service that was founded in 1996.

“People have a much clearer indication of what they want,” he said. “They go where there’s authenticity to the hotel. They’re in for properties that are cheeky and smaller – a little bit more eco-friendly. They want to immerse themselves a lot more with the local culture and what’s going on in local environments.” He also suggested that travellers are looking for unexpected, never-been-done-before experiences.

Lewis told Business Insider about a recent vacation Insignia planned for clients that began with a stay in a boutique luxury hotel and then progressed to a road trip on motorbikes out in the middle of nowhere. Insignia enlisted four experts to escort the client on their trip: “a big survivalist,” a wilderness expert, a Michelin-star chef, and a well-travelled documentarian who had been on the frontlines of war zones to serve as a campfire storyteller.

Lewis called it an “eye-opening” experience for the clients, who, by the end of the road trip, were asking the escorts about different charities and foundations they could get involved with to “support the stories and elements they had learned about.”

Ultrawealthy travellers are looking for a transformative, emotional experience to bring home

The type of dramatic and glamorous transformative travel experience that Lewis described is coveted among the rich right now.

In fact, six out of the 15 top resorts in the world in 2019 were African safari-oriented resorts, according to Condé Nast Traveller’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards.

African safariLondolozi Images/Mint Images via Getty Images

Chris Roche, the business director of a Botswana-based luxury safari company, told Business Insider’s Katie Warren, “We sell [people] the ability … to reconnect with nature and, as a result, reconnect with themselves and their partner or kids or whoever it is they’re travelling with.” (Roche’s high-end company, Wilderness Safaris, operates at an average cost of $US8,000 for five nights.)

There is even a Transformational Travel Council, which was founded in 2016, that defines transformational travel as “intentionally travelling to stretch, learn, and grow into new ways of being and engaging with the world.”

Roche said wilderness safaris fit that bill perfectly: “[Travellers] see this and they say, ‘I can do better. I can be a better version of myself.’ And I think people come here and they get inspired to do that.”

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