Forget Champagne and infinity pools: High-end travelers today want to make an impact on the places they visit, according to a luxury safari operator

Written by Katie WarrenBusiness Insider US

  • Luxury travelers in 2019 want more than just Champagne and infinity pools, according to the business director of a luxury safari company.
  • Chris Roche, the business development director at Wilderness Holdings, which owns luxury safari company Wilderness Safaris, told Business Insider that big-ticket travelers in 2019 have high expectations of their travel experiences.
  • They want authenticity, they want to make a positive impact on the places they visit, and they want to be inspired to be better versions of themselves, he said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Luxury travelers today are no longer satisfied with Champagne, caviar, and infinity pools. In 2019, they’re looking for impact, according to the business director of a luxury safari company.

“They want authenticity and genuine engagement, they want to feel like they’re a meaningful contributor to all of this, and they want to be inspired,” Chris Roche, the managing director for business development at Wilderness Holdings, which owns luxury safari company Wilderness Safaris, told Business Insider.

Wilderness Safaris’ Magashi camp in Rwanda. Wilderness Safaris

Wilderness Safaris, which was founded in 1983, operates customizable safaris in seven African countries including Botswana, Kenya, and Rwanda. A typical safari costs about $8,000 per person for a five-night stay, but costs vary by country and type of lodging. The company bills itself as a sustainable ecotourism operator that combines luxury hospitality with conservation.

According to Roche, the experiences they offer align perfectly with what high-end travelers are looking for today.

Luxury travelers today want authenticity and genuine hospitality instead of formulaic service.

Travelers today want to meet real people, according to Roche.

“They don’t want the polished, you know, silver service with some guy wearing a cummerbund and he’s got a towel over his arm,” he said. “… You want to meet a person, you want to hear about their background, you want to know how they came to work in that space, and where they’re going beyond that.”

Roche says one of the highlights for guests at Wilderness Safaris is connecting with the staff.

At one of their camps in Rwanda, for example, a couple of guests told Roche about how the camp’s bartender, a local who’d never worked in a luxury establishment before, had brought the guests their drinks and then poured himself a drink, sat down on the barstool next to them, and they talked about his life.

“I met them in Kigali afterward and they said, ‘That’s what made it different. That’s what made it real,’” Roche said. “… It’s not about service by menu or by rote. It’s about genuine hospitality.”

Travelers want to have a positive impact on the places they visit.

Overtourism is a growing problem in 2019, with frequent reports of popular destinations being destroyed by the sheer number of visitors and tourists damaging ancient monuments or protected spaces.

Read more: 13 places around the world that are being ruined by tourists

Yet according to Roche, luxury travelers in 2019 want to have a meaningful, positive impact on the places they visit and the people there.

Roche recounts the story of Maria, a Rwandan woman who was left widowed after the 1994 genocide. Wilderness Safaris provided her with a sewing machine and hired her to make napkins, tablecloths, staff uniforms, and other textiles for their camp.

Wilderness Safaris staffers at the Magashi camp in Rwanda. Wilderness Safaris

When they hear her story, “guests are almost always moved to say, ‘How can we help Maria?’” Roche said. “And so they’ll ask the lodge manager. And if the lodge manager’s doing their job, they’ll say, ‘You know, there are a thousand Marias here.’”

Those efforts to give back to the local communities extend further, too: Wilderness Safaris employs locals to work at their camps and lodges; buys fresh produce and other products from local communities; and works on water projects, such as helping provide technology for people to expand their capacity to collect rainwater.

The company also runs conservation camps for children, where they teach them about the environment and health and nutrition.

Luxury travelers in 2019 want to have a meaningful impact on the people and places they visit. Wilderness Safaris

And finally, Roche says, people are looking for inspiration in their travels.

“They see this and they say, ‘I can do better. I can be a better version of myself,’” Roche said. “And I think people come here and they get inspired to do that.”

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