Experience Life as a Local, While on Holiday
Source: The Peak Magazine / Karen Tee / 14 October 2016


With iconic landmarks, fine dining and couture shopping galore, there are endless reasons why Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world. But when Ted Fang, founder of investment firm Tera Capital, headed to France, the usual tourist attractions barely registered on his itinerary.

An aviation and design enthusiast, Fang, who is the founder of hospitality company Frontier Group, planned his trips around exclusive visits to the Airbus and Dassault Falcon jet production facilities. “I wanted to see for myself the process of how jets are built,” says Fang, who was treated to a private tour of Dassault’s Bordeaux facility last year. “It is quite a sight to have such a high-tech facility right in the middle of the wine country. The level of technology and know-how that the company has accumulated is truly amazing and the visit gave me a very good idea of what the people at Dassault think about when designing jets.

“These visits give me deeper insights into French craftsmanship, design and ideas. Their creative process is amazing – just look at their products.”

From indulging in individual passions to seeking out immersive experiences while on vacation, the new breed of luxury travellers such as Fang redefining what it means to go on a holiday. A 2014 White Paper by American Express on travel trends reshaping the industry found that travellers were “specifically looking to immerse themselves in the destinations they visit and to travel like a local”.

Christine Galle, founder and director of travel marketing agency Heavens Portfolio, echoes this sentiment. When the company was launched in 2005, experiential travel and niche retreats were rare occurrences. Then, travellers preferred pre-planned tour group holidays or striking typical tourist destinations off their checklists. But over the last two years, Heavens Portfolio has seen a 25 per cent year on year increase in experiential offerings by its stable of clients such as The Oetker Collection and Oberoi Hotels. Galle says: “Travel now goes beyond the picture-perfect beach. It is very much linked to learning, discovering, getting close to nature, tribes, culture and truly living the destination, bygetting up close with the locals.”

This jump coincides with the increase in demand for immersive travel experiences over the last two to three years, say luxury concierges and travel agencies. “Affluent travellers have voyaged quite a fair bit around the world especially for work, which means that they have been there, done that and are bored of visiting the same places,” observes Caroline Lam, executive director of Quintessentially Lifestyle Singapore. In recent times, the concierge company brokered a private dinner for one of its members with the Dalai Lama, organised homestays in Cambodia and gave a traveller the opportunity to be a race-car driver for a day in Italy.

Lam adds: “They crave experiences that inspire them and resonate with them on a deeper level. Travel is increasingly seen as a tool that allows them to be more dynamic and informed, and ultimately, one that sets them on a path towards self-discovery.”