5 Questions with Andrew Harper: Where Vacations Are Headed in 2018 and Beyond
Sometimes in the process of news gathering or carrying out coverage, a defining moment happens to a news agency or blog. Welcome to our new Beyond Bylines series: Five questions about the big stories you’re covering.
There’s nothing more serious — and more relaxing — than taking time off.
We’ve all got our processes nailed down: Figuring out where we’re going, whether we’re taking the kids along, scheduling the time off from work, putting in the extra time so our teams aren’t impacted by our absence, and packing for our destination.
I covered tourism and hospitality for more than a decade. So this subject — and the questions we asked — largely were from professional background with a nod to personal curiosity.
We spoke with Andrew Harper CEO Crista Bailey about the magazine and its future direction. From vacation hot spots to editorial direction, here’s what Bailey told us about the Great American Vacation.
1. How does Andrew Harper decide on its places to travel anonymously?
We conduct research constantly, as well as pay attention to word-of-mouth recommendations from people we trust. Given the fact that new luxury hideaways usually do not want to stay secret, we also receive a lot of press releases. Those that catch our eye are added to a “Hotels of Interest” list for further discussion. Each year, we do our best to cover the world — visiting multiple continents — to ensure that The Hideaway Report (a member-exclusive, monthly publication) content is well-rounded and our Andrew Harper Collection guidebooks have the most up-to-date information. We also determine our travel destinations by understanding which are most important to our membership. Certain areas — Tuscany and Provence, for example — are of perennial interest.
2. Talk with me about hotels. What’s your definition of luxury?
Luxury’s definition has certainly changed over time. Yesterday’s luxury was about opulence (chandeliers, high-thread-count linens, Michelin-starred restaurants). Today’s luxury is more about experience. How does the hotel make you feel? The surroundings, the personal service, the interaction with the staff, the feeling of exclusivity. A property may also be luxurious because it is unique, remote or relatively unknown — Alila Jabal Akhdar in Oman, for example. Luxury can also revolve around a “wow” factor of amazing architecture and design. Many of the world’s greatest architects and designers now regularly work on new hotels and resorts. Overall, the definition of luxury is more fluid than it was in the past — and that’s a good thing.
3. The multi-day itineraries are really unique. What goes into the planning for such a trip? How does a place get selected?
Some trips naturally form an itinerary: for example, a driving trip through North Carolina or through the West Country of England. Other itineraries are created after many hours of in-depth research, both before we leave and on the ground in a destination. When creating an itinerary, we seek to highlight the most compelling aspects of a destination, keeping in mind that most travelers have limited vacation time. In order for a traveler to devote precious time off to an itinerary, it should be special. So, we focus on memorable sites and activities that are not in every guidebook. As an example, few people know that the bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore has even better views of Venice and far less of a wait than St. Mark’s.
4. What was the hottest vacation spot in 2017? What do you think could be in the running for 2018?
2017 was all about the lands of the north: Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, the Canadian Arctic. We see no sign of this trend disappearing anytime soon. People are aware of the fragility of certain regions and have a desire to see them before they change forever. In Iceland, our members will charter helicopters to visit glaciers or to see wildlife. In these cases, people travel for the specific experience, even when no or few hotels of Andrew Harper standard exist.
In 2018, lesser-known European/Eurasian countries — Romania, Georgia — appear to be up and coming. People want unique experiences, not least because they are aware that classic European destinations are often overrun by tourists. Ethiopia is another country of growing interest among affluent Americans.
5. You’re transitioning the company from print to digital-first. What is the driver behind that strategy? Does it have anything to do with advertising?
Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report started in 1979 as a print publication. We’re making moves to a digital-first offering because that is the world we live in, and more importantly, it is what the incoming membership and newcomers to our brand, especially Gen X and millennials, tell us they want. As the definition of luxury is more fluid and changing, so is our audience. We will provide our content in a format embraced by new members, as well as respecting the wishes of our core membership base, some of whom have been with us for multiple decades. Rather than an advertising-driven decision, this is an experience-driven decision for our membership, as well as to successfully scale as a company. The advertising piece will follow-on to our success in building a digital-first membership brand.
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Christine Cube is a senior audience relations manager with PR Newswire and freelance writer. Follow her at @cpcube.