HNW travel is not so much about luxury as it is “involving themselves in unique and authentic experiences, People are looking to get under the skin of a particular area. We help to take them of out of their norm," notes high end travel advisor Chad Clark.
Spring Break as portrayed in such movies as “Girl Happy,” “Where the Boys Are” and “Spring Breakers,” is a non-stop party in which unleashed college students engage in innocent and not-so-innocent antics. High Net Worth travelers approach Spring Break from a more thoughtful vantage point. An increasing number of wealthy households are taking the opportunity to make the most out of this comparatively small vacation window to create lasting experiences.
“Experiential travel is what it’s all about,” Chad Clark, of Chad Clark Travel in Scottsdale, AZ, told Millionaire Corner in a phone interview. “It all goes back to when the financial crisis hit—9/11 had a lot to do with this, too—and people reevaluated what was important to them. Instead of the big houses and fancy cars, it became all about wanting to make the most of that valuable time spent with family and friends.”
Clark is a high-end travel advisor or “designer of experiences” (the term “travel agent” is so 20th century). He sees a “big-time paradigm shift” in what his high net worth clients are seeking from their vacations. It is not so much luxury as it is “involving themselves in unique and authentic experiences,” he said. “People are looking to get under the skin of a particular area. We help to take them of out of their norm.”
For couples, this may mean taking cooking classes or attending wine tastings. Clark recently arranged for a couple to take a helicopter tour of Bryce National Park in Utah that was topped by landing them atop Tower Butte for a champagne toast.
For families, it may mean getting close to wildlife in Costa Rica and seeing nature at its finest, Clark said.
Time is an issue in Spring Break planning. Travelers are bound by the seven-to-ten days they have to work with. “(For most) Southeast Asia won’t be great for Spring Break,” Clark said, “but Hawaii might be.”
Costa Rica and Hawaii, in fact, are strong lures for the high net worth traveler this year. Costa Rica beckons with its wildlife tours, zipline adventures, fishing, and villas, complete with private chefs, Clark said. High net worth visitors to Hawaii come for the surf lessons, swimming with manta rays or whale watching. “Four Seasons properties are very popular.”
High net worth Spring Breakers are not above more traditional destinations and activities, but greater wealth allows for greater access. “We had a group of clients in New York,” Clark recalled, “They wanted to go to a Broadway show, but they couldn’t decide which show to attend. So instead, we brought the Broadway show to them. We rented a restaurant and after everyone finished dinner, we announced the entertainment: Past Broadway leads performing songs from shows such as ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Les Miserables.’”
Disneyland, too, benefits from exclusive treatment, such as an in-park concierge, or line-skipping fast track passes to all the rides. “Best investment I ever made,” Clark said with a laugh.
Other popular Spring Break destinations this year range also include San Francisco and St. Barts in the Caribbean. The Amangiri resort in Utah is also very popular this year. “It is so unique, the design is incredible and it offers a lot of active adventures,” Clark said. “Or you can just chill out and spend time in the spa. It’s a real hidden gem.”
No matter the season, high net worth travelers are looking to travel advisors for what’s new and what’s hot. “People don’t know what they don’t know,” Clark said. “So they are leaning more on travel advisors to provide them with that insight. We have to be good listeners to determine what they enjoy. There are loads of unique, authentic, and local experiences beyond a hotel room and a bed that properties and travel advisors are willing to talk about. It becomes addictive, and (for the high net worth traveler) they’ll be excited to see what’s next.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.