Despite a weak stock market and a slowdown in luxury real estate sales, new over-the-top dining experiences and vacations—from six-figure private jet trips to meals in the thousands—are bombarding consumers who have cash to spare.
“Ultra-high net worth people are still tremendously wealthy and saw their assets increase during the lockdown when the stock market went up astronomically, especially in the U.S.,” says Milton Pedraza, founder and CEO of research and consulting firm the Luxury Institute, which focuses on high-end products and experiences. “This is the driver behind luxury brands going even more upscale.”
Pedraza says the luxury consumer mindset in today’s shaky economy contrasts with that following the stock market crash in 2008. “Back then, conspicuous consumption was out, and people hid their wealth because they didn’t want to seem ostentatious,” he says. “With Covid, they very literally stared at death and realized that life is finite. They want to seize the day and aren’t afraid to spend their money.”
Late Pandemic Bounce Back
Many of the recently launched experiences are travel-related, indicating that the upscale sector of the industry has bounced back from its pandemic slump. According to data based on US$49.5 billion in transactions from the luxury travel network Virtuoso, future sales of travel in 2023 are pacing 47% higher than 2019. Further, 74% of Virtuoso clients say that a travel experience that they want trumps price. They also plan to increase their previous year’s spend of US$20,700 per person by 34% to US$27,800 in the next year.
ROAR AFRICA is an example of a travel company with opulent new trips, such as its Sand, Sea, City & Safari Aboard Emirates Executive Private Jet voyage. Scheduled for May 2O24 and priced at US$165,300 a person, the voyage includes stops in five African destinations including a safari and vineyard tour in South Africa, exploring desert dunes in Namibia, and discovering the biodiversity of Madagascar.
Meanwhile, its Wildest Safari on Earth, priced at US$149,200 and also aboard the Emirates jet, is a two-week getaway in 2024 that hits Africa’s iconic sights, such as Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and Rwanda, where guests can trek to see gorillas.
The trips come on the heels of ROAR AFRICA’s first private jet safari last year and another in the summer of 2022. Founder and CEO Deb Calmeyer says she created the itineraries because her clients told her that they wanted to travel but do it in a safe and hassle-free way.
“They didn’t want to stress about canceled flights, delays, and lost luggage and were willing to pay for the peace of mind and convenience of a private plane,” she says.
From the South Pole to Bora Bora
A private yacht voyage to Antarctica from the luxury yacht expedition brand EYOS is another example of a high-priced escape. Seven nights onboard on the newly renovated MV Nansen Explorer starts at US$300,000. Featuring seven cabins, the vessel has an Ice-1A class, allowing the ship to sail to remote icefields that other ships can’t reach. Amenities include kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, two zodiacs, a gym, and a dining room where chefs serve guests multi-course meals paired with wine.
With a cost of US$385,000, The Ultimate Ski & Sea Experience is a collaboration between the St. Regis Aspen Resort, the St. Regis Bora Bora, and the private aviation company XO. It includes five nights at each hotel and private flights as the mode of transportation.
New York’s Baccarat hotel has two choices for deep-pocketed consumers.
Maison Prive, at US$55,000 a night, includes a takeover of the property’s 12th floor, comprising 11 rooms that can accommodate up to 30 guests. The package includes access to a slew of amenities offered with each room: a dedicated concierge, high tea in the Grand Salon, a US$1,000 gift card to Saks Fifth Avenue, a spa treatment, and a Baccarat crystal keepsake gift.
In late November, Baccarat launched a Crystal Tea for US$3,000 a person. The menu includes Petrossian’s highest quality caviar, white Alba truffles baked in gougeres, an Iberico ham sandwich, and a Kobe beef tartare. To drink—besides tea, of course—guests can imbibe two glasses of Cristal champagne. And when they’re done, a Baccarat crystal tea set with a teapot and glasses is theirs to take home.
The New York Japanese restaurant Masa, known for its lavish omakase menu, raised prices earlier this year. A table seat now runs US$750, a US$100 increase, while a spot at the bar is US$950 a person—US$150 more than before.