Affordable Luxury Q&A: Padraic Gilligan, FICP

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We spoke with Padraic Gilliganvice president of industry relations for Ovation Global DMC to learn his thoughts on affordable luxury.

Prevue: How is the luxury market evolving in 2013 for corporate groups? 

Padraic Gilligan The Luxury Market is evolving in fragmentary fashion. Firstly, there are issues around the very definition of luxury due, mainly, to radically different ways that “luxury” is perceived by different workplace demographics. For example, Babyboomers (aged 49 and over) tend to value VIP treatment, opulence and over-sized suites while Gen Y workers (under 30) prefer collegiality, authenticity and education. Secondly, there are big questions around the validity of luxury with some corporations steering away from any ostentation in programme design while, for others still, delivering unbridled luxury remains the key focus for their reward programme.

How are planners shifting their luxury programs to meet modern trends?

Planners are responding quickly and creatively to the ever-evolving marketplace and to the newly crystallized notion of luxury as outlined above. This can be seen in a variety of ways starting with destination and venue selection. For example, planners who run international programmes are now considering Latin American destinations like Brazil and Argentina because they appeal to Gen Y’ers for their edgy authenticity and urban appeal. In the past these programmes might have gravitated to sun and sand locations but Gen Y’ers demand more than passive relaxation. And meetings and events held at city destinations are not perceived as negatively as those held at resorts by media and the general public.

In the past, luxury might have been associated with fully loaded programmes where all breakfasts, lunches and activities are hosted by the corporation. Today, experienced programme qualifiers value time over money and thus their sense of luxury is a balanced programme that allows personal time and choice in the selected destination in addition to hosted group events.

How can planners use cultural venues and events to create a heightened luxury experience?

A: Recently I was privileged to work with a corporation that held a Gala Dinner at the Palace of Versailles, outside Paris. It was one of the most luxurious experiences I have ever witnessed, that touches strongly on notions of privilege and luxury, while providing unique education and historical perspective. Thus, it’s an experience with true cross generational appeal for the entire demographic spectrum of qualifiers today. The Palace of Versailles is not inexpensive, but there are cultural venues all over the world that can be rented for modest fees allowing planners to create truly unique experiences.

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