THE ENDS OF THE EARTH
MAXIM Australia|May 2020
What true ultra-luxury bespoke adventure travel means now...
JARED PAUL STERN
Want to hop on a private jet, fly to an exotic destination and have an over-the-top vacation? All it takes these days is a decent credit limit. Thanks to a sort of dumbing down of luxury travel in recent years, what was once reserved for the elite traveller is now accessible to almost anyone, as brands try to appeal to a larger audience and, as a result, end up alienating top -tier clients.

“Luxury brands often miss the opportunities to reach the highest echelon of travellers by serving downmarket experiences,” as WealthX, a data company that curates intelligence on wealthy individuals from around the world, notes. “It’s the result of a troubling trend of mass market luxury, standardised luxury travel marketing [that] appeals to both high net worth [HNW] and ultra-high net worth [UHNW] individuals, and the homogenisation of luxury goods and services across these tiers of wealth.” The distinction is an important one as the HNW category includes those with a net worth of US$1 million to more than US$29 million while to qualify for UHNW status you must have US$30 million or more to your name.

Take for example a recent article in National Geographic UK that gushed that “Luxury travel operators are increasingly going to the ends of the earth to curate completely personalised trips to inaccessible destinations…. Travel agents have been elevated to travel designers who can arrange access to places that would be out of bounds to most of us.” We picture said “travel designers” with sleek offices dotted with lots of Italian leather chairs but little in the way of true bespoke offerings.

Exactly the kind of hype Wealth-X attributes to “a slew of societal, cultural and technological trends” that have unfolded in recent years, including the “ubiquitous exposure of digital platforms like Instagram and the rise of the sharing economy,” wherein every individual wants an Instagram feed that mirrors that of their favourite celebrity. All of which has led true bespoke adventure specialists to redefine the very concept of luxury travel.

These days, luxury, says London-based Momentum Adventure founder Matthew Robertson, “is about knowledge. We’re able to open doors to the inaccessible and make it possible. We strive for our clients to have an intrinsic experience.” Momentum specialises in true luxury bespoke adventures that are tailored to each client’s exacting desires, some of which can cost US$1 million or more and are therefore only within reach of the UHNW set. Many of Robertson’s clients turn to him after they’ve exhausted the limits of luxury travel agencies — sorry, “travel designers” — and their imported office furnishings. But the actual amount spent or even the flag planted on a remote peak isn’t as important as making the experience truly once-in-a-lifetime.

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