by Andrea Doyle | May 22, 2014

Luxury Is Hot

Milton Pedraza
"Luxury continues to grow," says Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a New York-based independent and objective luxury research company and boutique consulting firm. "It's growing at a rate of about 10 percent in the U.S. Plus, the luxury market will continue to grow as more people become affluent." Pedraza references a recent prediction made by Bill Gates who surmises that, by 2035 there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. 

Luxury means different things to different people. Pedraza defines it as, "the best of design, the best of quality, the best of craftsmanship, and the best of service. In other words, it's the best of whatever is being offered in any category." 

Luxury and premium-level brands are natural motivators, he adds. "When a company wants to show its employees they are valued there is nothing that works better than a first-class travel reward or
top-of-the-line products. When someone does something special, the reward ought to be special. You want that person to feel incentivized, empowered, and inspired to go on and achieve the next target, goal, or objective. You must reward the best with the best." 

Although luxury goods and travel took a hit in 2009 when the AIG fiasco erupted, that is no longer the case. "The luxury goods market has grown significantly and will continue to grow. The stigma attached to it by some in 2009 is gone," explains Pedraza. 

When a group has the opportunity to personalize a luxury product, it adds to its uniqueness and exclusivity, creating the feeling that you're having an extraordinary experience, and eliciting the emotion of feeling special.

Customized experiences created for a certain destination or activity have added impact. Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa, edging the Colorado/Utah border and billed as the world's first and only discovery resort, offers an option for custom cowboy boot or hat fittings during horseback rides, or dinners at Red Cliff Camp. "We have Native American artists who offer beading classes where the spouses have taken home the jewelry that they made," explains Erik Dombroski the director of sales and marketing. "We also offer a program where a photographer will document a group's entire event, then edit it, and present a photo montage on the last night of their stay. Companies will then send a customized memory stick or digital picture frame to their attendees with the photos to remember their trip." Gateway Canyons, created by Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks, features 58 guest rooms and suites, 14 Palisade Casitas and more than 12,000 square feet of event space.

Gotta Wear Shades

Incentive's sister publication, Successful Meetings, recently hosted an educational fam trip for qualified MICE professionals at the Villas of Grand Cypress Golf Resort in Orlando. During that event, "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades," a song by Timbuk3, played in the heads of many of the attendees as they checked out the Maui Jim custom-fitting station, a favorite part of the opening reception for most. Expert representatives were also on hand to custom fit attendees with sunglasses. Maui Jim remains a pioneer in the concept of high-quality customizable incentive gifts. 

There have been instances where Maui Jim has arranged for an invitation to the fitting to be printed on a cleaning cloth that's left in each attendee's room. In other programs, empty sunglass cases are left with an invite that says something similar to, "You've done a great job all year. Come down tomorrow to get your gift." 

"We exhibited at the Motivation Show in 2000 and realized that, instead of just giving out glasses we had to create an experience," recalls Maui Jim's Hatch. "What differentiates Maui Jim from others is that all of our company employees who attend every event have been trained with the 'aloha spirit.' We specialize in seven-star service," he says. Maui Jim custom-fitting stations are also becoming increasingly popular for international events. "We recently did a fitting at the Great Wall of China," says Hatch. He admits there are now more players in the customized gift area, too. "It's great; it creates competition."