AFAR is the under-the-radar top travellers’ guide what top people know and recommend – and it also manages to assemble a really great group of networkers, says the gal. See some of these luxury-oriented names, above. Top row are AFAR’s Annie Fitzsimmons and EVP Revenue Director Ellen Asmodeo-Giglio; middle row, Assouline Editor Esther Kremer and Robert B Chavez, President/CEO Hermès of Paris Inc; bottom row AFAR Founder Joe Diaz and former President Banana Republic Jack Calhoun, now Senior Advisor, McKinsey.
The group was talking, on 28th May 2020, about travel habits of ultra net worth individuals in the months to come. The rich will be the first to start travelling again, said Joe Diaz, pointing out that during March and April consumer interest in the AFAR online content had doubled (he had launched AFAR to offer superb unique content with differentiation, and to create relationships with like-minded souls – AFAR is for fluid global citizens who travels the most, spend the most and network the most). But, he stresses, online will never replace real travel.
Bob Chavez shared challenges of back-to-real. How to cope with social distancing at Hermès real stores? Well, the company side-stepped having social distancing outside and inside stores by going along the ‘By Appointment Only’ route (yes, just like the British Royal Family, who hand out ‘By Appointment’ warrants, which always indicate the higher-than-VIP pinnacle). Shoppers hungry for a Hermès bag can now only get into a store by booking a time. And guess what, said Chavez, the average By Appointment Only spend is three to SIX times the typical average spend… Obviously, says the gal, that rise is considerably boosted if an Appointed asks for a Himalaya Birkin, handmade from Niloticus crocodile with over 240 diamonds and 18-carat hardware!
Looking ahead, Jack Calhoun foresees a demand for less ‘stuff” but better. In general, when it comes to travel, see a demand for authenticity and less ostentation (he is on the board of IHG’s autonomous Kimpton hotels, which certainly meet both those requirements). Travel is so SO important, said Esther Kremer. During the lockdown, it is Assouline’s travel series that have been selling best – latest books in the $95 range include Athens Riviera and Zanzibar, but if you want even more perfection, the publishing house offers Uzbekistan: The Road to Samarkand, $495, and South Pole: The British Antarctic Expedition 1910 ($1,050) and much more.
Yes, every participant in that virtual round-table is multi-hatted (Annie Fitzsimmons also works closely with ILTM, for instance, and Assouline partners with Netflix, and Coca-Cola and other well-known brands, sometimes to help brand penetration or on other occasions to celebrate such events as anniversaries). AFAR is similarly global: its round-up of celebrity ambassadors include one based in Buenos Aires and two in Melbourne.