Results of luxury travel agents think tank

Each year, a select group of emerging travel advisors is chosen to attend the Rising Stars Lunch at ILTM in Cannes, the largest luxury travel forum in the world. These agents — hand-picked for their impressive clientele of affluent young travellers — are then flown to the Côte d’Azur to share their insights at an exclusive lunch with Nathan Lump, Editor in Chief of Travel + Leisure and Editorial Director of Meredith Corporation’s Luxury and Lifestyle Group, and Jay Meyer, Senior Vice President of Travel Category Sales and Luxury Brand Development at Meredith Corporation. Also in attendance: 50 senior executives from key travel agencies, cruise lines, independent luxury properties and global luxury hotel groups.

Over the course of a two-hour discussion, these rising star agents discussed the state of the market today, thereby helping hotels and cruise lines identify what some of the biggest challenges may be for their brands in the next five years. The agents also help these companies gain a fresh perspective on staying relevant to this new breed of travellers. 64 Rising Stars have been through the program in the past five years. A number of topics were covered, including geopolitics and their influence on the leisure traveller, bridging the generational divide, hottest destinations, global warming, and how to stay relevant.


The desire for authenticity was a major shift in the zeitgeist that began decades ago, driven by a major boom in global travel that made our consumers, particularly at the high end of the market, better travelled than ever before.
As they became worldlier, they became more comfortable with difference, and more comfortable with stepping out of their comfort zone. What they wanted was the opportunity to get closer to what was real. We live in a time when all sorts of issues—from the fragility of our planet to the crudeness of public discourse to the pressures created by intensive workplace cultures and always-on technology— have us thinking a great deal about the importance of wellbeing and deeper meaning in our lives.

The Rising Stars were asked: Is “transformative” travel the new “authentic” travel? And is it here to stay, or is it just hype?


“That word seems to be more important to us than it is to our clients. If I asked a client, ‘do you want to be transformed?’ they would wonder why I was asking such a question. We put pressure on ourselves to offer a transformative experience to our clients because you never know when it’s going to occur. It could be a family beach vacation, and everyone is playing a board game together and just having a wonderful, simple time. That could be transformative, it doesn’t have to be a pilgrimage or a trip to the Galápagos.”
Rhona Wendler, McCabe World Travel

“If a travel experience is authentic, most of the time it is transformational—I don’t think that it is the new authentic. I think that they are both here to stay because the more people have those authentic experiences and are transformed, the more they’ll want to do more things like that in the future.”
Molly Meldon, FROSCH

“Transformational travel is a completely personal thing. If it happened on every single trip then we wouldn’t appreciate the times when it happened. So, while we try to hold true to the cliché of giving every customer that one opportunity for transformation on each trip, we can use ‘transformational travel’ this year, and next year, another word can come across.”
David Scaff, American Express Travel & Lifestyle Services

“Humans naturally set expectations for the experiences they have in life – often influenced by the media and external sources. More often than not, the expectations aren’t accurate. I thought Brazil would feel a lot less safe when I visited. Wrong. I thought it was going to feel a lot more like a party. Wrong. I had no idea that Sao Paolo was a melting pot of international culture. I think transformation of perspective is largely tied to those expectations. Experiences transform perspective, and the more of these experiences you have, the greater the transformation.”
Megan Peri, Plaza Travel

“To be transformed by travel, you should have an experience that changes your perspective on the bigger picture in your life and then bring that perspective home with you. In a sense, all travel is transformative because we learn with each trip we take.” Jacqueline Morgan, Travelink American Express

“Exposure to different cultures shapes your personal life by allowing you to connect more easily with other people. Taking this into consideration, I think it is a misnomer to say that clients seek transformational experiences, as this was a cool buzz word last year. As we dig deeper, I think they want meaningful experiences – and if that meaningful experience is transformational, then a travel advisor has well exceeded their initial intention.”
Kristiana Capati Choquet, Ovation Vacations