Immersive Travel: An Interview With CEO Of Luxury Frontiers Luca Franco on Experiential Sojourns
One of the more significant trends of the past couple of years has been the growing interest in experiential travel and destination immersion, allowing travelers to participate in more intuitive, authentic and adventurous sojourns. Luxury Frontiers has taken on this trend by offering its clients the opportunity to stay in luxury tented suites around the world to really get a feel for local living. Its five projects are: Lemala Kuria Hills by Tourvest in Tanzania; Musangu Lodge in Zambia; the Shakawe River Lodge in Botswana; a resort add-on for the Gran Hotel Son Net in Mallorca, Spain; and a full refurbishment of the Belmond Eagle Island Lodge in Botswana.
Most recently, Luxury Frontiers announced a partnership with award-winning Nayara Hotels to create the Nayara Tented Resort which is comprised of 24 accommodations, each featuring a master suite with en-suite bathroom as well as an adjoining tent that can be arranged as a lounge or a second bedroom. Opening in the first quarter of 2017, each tent will be 945 square feet and will sit on its own platform furnished with an outdoor living area and a plunge pool filled from nearby hot springs.
This is the first foray into the Americas for Luxury Frontiers; however, projects in the pipeline include major alliances with Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Abercrombie & Kent, Six Senses, Belmond, Wilderness Safaris, Explora and Aman. JustLuxe recently interviewed the founder and CEO of Luxury Frontiers, Luca Franco and asked him about his mission and vision regarding experiential travel.
JustLuxe: How was this idea originally conceived, and how long did it take to create the first complete set of luxury tents?
Luca Franco: Experiential design is the starting point. It is not about lodging, it is about the experiential journey. After finding success in the field of luxury resort project development in 2011, I decided to dedicate my energy and resources to a true passion: experiential travel. I wanted to create a business, sensitive to the natural environment, yet capitalizing on experiential travel trends.
JL: Have you had people think this is a sort of glamping idea? What do you say to them as regards the different experience you provide in contrast to glamping?
LF: We stay away from glamping (or glamorous camping) and from everything it means. The Luxury Frontiers Team has designed and developed some of the world’s most distinguished luxury tented resorts and other unique, experiential travel products. We provide a holistic approach across all stages of the development process for luxury tented suites and treetop living rooms, from conception through to operational handover.
JL: To my knowledge, the Luxury Frontiers model is one that combines an outdoor experience of nature with an indoor sense of luxury. How well has this idea been received? And which destinations are most compelling for this idea?
LF: For us it is about turning five-star resorts into five billion-star resorts. We bundle outdoor experiences with preservation values, unexpected experiences, and personalized enrichment and engagement.
JL: Please explain the type of tent residences that are available. What is the basic square footage, number of bedrooms, other amenities or included assets?
LF: All our projects are customized to the project, local climate conditions, seasonality, guest profile, target markets, usage, specs, budget, etc. Eco-sensitivity is critical for us. Our sustainable design features (depending on site and cost considerations) are locally and sustainably sourced building materials (e.g. certified forest products); on-site water filtration and mineralization systems to reduce/eliminate need for bottled water; aerobic sewage treatment systems; rainwater capture system for use in irrigation, pool, cooling systems. Just a few of many.
JL: What is the feedback you receive from families who have experienced Luxury Frontiers?
LF: It is life changing for children and adults. It is a multigenerational immersive travel experience. Immersive travel is all about crafting life-defining moments and we see it developed on a deeply intangible element, emotional connection to a place, people, culture, family, loved one, strangers and newfound friends. We also see immersive travel moving in the direction of travel experiences beyond infrastructure, hospitality services and amenities. After all, immersive travel is and will continue to be a return to humanity, a distancing of self from all preconceptions, and an eagerness to embrace new places with all the senses. For those who understand this dimension, we are able to craft tangible and intangible experiences that will continually speak to the heart of traveler.