Imagine bathing in Bordeaux wine, listening to Andrea Bocelli sing in his hometown, meeting royalty or sampling a wine-pairing dinner with bottles dating from two centuries ago.
These alcohol-inspired trips are a new concept by new venture The Experience Company, which officially started its tours in June 2013, and what CEO Julien Yung Mameux called “a new generation of travelling”.
"People are attached to social media all the time – on Facebook, on Whatsapp – they need a talking point, something special, something exclusive, which is why they look for experience so their trip can materliase into something more than a photo of The Eiffel Tower.
"We already knows what that looks like,” he said, adding that The Experience Company’s focus on alcohols stems from the Chinese’s growing love for both travelling and drinking.
Since last Christmas, mainland Chinese became the largest group of students enrolling in the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.
"People are tired of sightseeing: rather than just grazing a place with a travel book, they want to really understand and interact with a location – understand the culture of the vineyards, for example, talk to the owners, and find out how it’s all done behind the scenes."
Whether alcohol-focused or not, these experience-generated travel agents have been gaining ground in Hong Kong, a movement spearheaded by the likes of A to A Asia to Africa Safaris in 2002 – which, as its name dictates, takes travellers to the Southern continent with an itinerary that includes hot air balloon rides and animal sightings – and Heavens’ Portfolio, which include a roster of exclusive resorts.
As people become more well-travelled and attached to social media, guided tours – which are now thought to be too “touristy” – made way for the wave of self-organised trips.
Now, this new breed of exclusive and connoisseur voyages is the new standard for travel, especially for the affluent segment.
“People don’t want the standard stuff anymore: they want to experience something beyond Paris, a road less travelled if you will. They want to immerse in the area, become experts and really have something to show and tell,” said Yung Mameux.
Currently, The Experience Company is advertising just by word-of-mouth, occasional blog posts and a Facebook account.
Yung Mameux said he wants to host wine-tasting events to promote the company by the end of the year, and, eventually, open brick-and-mortar shops in Hong Kong and China.