Penthouse View

Journeys of enlightenment | Nicholas Priest, The Luminaire

We are delighted to be talking to Nicholas Priest of the travel brand, The Luminaire to find out how a new generation of travellers are looking for more than just a luxurious experience.

The Luminaire, Nicholas Priest, Chief Marketing Officer

The Luminaire is a brand that strives to create journeys of depth and enlightenment, while promoting a deeper connection to the world around us. Before we jump in and hear more about how you are re-writing the experience of travel, we would love to hear a bit more about you.

You have a very impressive list of luxury brands on your CV, at what point did you realise luxury travel was an area you wanted to focus on?

Luxury travel was initially accidental. When I was a student, I was waiting tables and was asked by someone I served if I wanted an internship at NetJets, the private jet airline. So, after a couple of years as an intern during the holidays, I was offered a job after I graduated!

For luxury consumers at NetJets, but also at the hotel brands I’ve looked after like Aman and One&Only, quality time is very precious, and they’re exposed to so much choice that they’ve developed a highly discerning view on experiences that will enrich their lives. So as a marketer that’s a particularly exciting challenge to tackle – to tell stories and design experiences that make a lasting impression on an audience like that.

Given the important work you are doing around sustainability, have you always had an interest and desire to protect the natural world?

I think sustainability has to be more than carbon offsetting. That’s important too, but it’s one of the reasons I’m proud of our vision at The Luminaire. The idea behind The Luminaire Foundation is to conserve the cultures, people, and places that are featured in our journeys. For example, we made a contribution to the conservation of Renaissance-era manuscripts and to make them digitally accessible to all. A meaningful way to shine a light on the subjects we explore.

When you are not focused on work, where is your favourite place to be?

At the moment, Portugal is a wonderful place for us. I lived in Lisbon for a couple of years early on in my career, so I have a strong connection to it. Now, that city is evolving so quickly and a few of our friends have moved there, so it’s wonderful to explore more of the country.

Closer to home, our two-year-old thankfully loves a good pub, so a little riverside spot with friends, kids and wine is certainly a happy place!

The Luminaire, Egypt

The Luminaire works with an impressive list of esteemed naturalists, artists, historians, and archaeologists, what would be your ideal adventure and who would you take as your guide?

I’m fascinated by Egypt but have never been. We have a fabulous archaeological journey that I’m hoping to try soon.

But I’m a biologist by education, so I’d have to confess a strong pull to the natural world. I think exploring the wilds of Borneo with a conservation biologist to support on research into biodiversity would be a dream come true. I’d want to accompany exploring the wilderness with a very comfortable bed for the night, of course!

Our Travel Designers at The Luminaire are currently working on some more journeys to explore the natural world, so I’m excited about that.

We love the name, The Luminaire, what’s the story behind the name?

It’s rooted in the Latin word ‘luminare’, which has several meanings including ‘that which gives light’ or a window. We were drawn to it because it’s tied to the idea that travel experiences we design at The Luminaire shine a light on the interests and passions of culturally curious travellers.

For those looking for their next adventure….

The Luminaire, Tessa Hung, Florence

Launched in 2022, you founded The Luminaire alongside, Adam Sebba. At what point did you realise you all had a shared vision?

A number of luxury brands are demonstrating that there’s a shift to a post-experience era. The idea that true luxury is not experiences, but personal growth and knowledge. Jean-Michel Gathy is a well-known hotel and resort architect who I’ve worked with at Aman and One&Only and he was recently quoted as saying: “When you have made it in life, the only things you really want are comfort and knowledge”. So, Adam and I both have past experience in luxury travel and saw huge opportunity in creating a luxury travel brand that places the emphasis on culture and curiosity.

The Luminaire, Wyoming

Adam has been quoted as saying, “Our mission is to make intellectual travel cool” how do you create appeal across the generations?

The Luminaire reveals the world through a new and exciting lens, reinventing cultural travel for a new generation. Our travel is about tapping into curiosity and learning more about a passion, an interest and ultimately having an experience you will remember.

Not only do we partner with experts, but we also form alliances with some of the world’s leading cultural institutions to form a collection of curious minds. For example, we have recently announced the first luxury dinosaur dig, where guests will work alongside world-class palaeontologists from the natural history museum of the Netherlands, Naturalis, to unearth the bones of a diplodocus in Wyoming.

The Luminaire also explores more traditional subjects such as art or history through a fresh and contemporary lens. Our journey to Florence unearths the role of male beauty as inspiration behind some of the Italian Renaissance’s greatest artworks, with many of the era’s most notable artists implicated in a legal process established to clamp down on homosexual activity in the city: The Office of the Night.

The Luminaire, Florence

Your ethos is about creating journeys that expand the mind, how did you go about finding the right experts to partner with?

That’s a great question! Our Head of Marketing Robyn Davis and Head of Product Erik De Vos work together to design our travel experiences. Once we decide on a broad subject we’d like to explore, Robyn begins the search for a dynamic subject matter expert. We use a variety of channels to do this, and social media has a powerful role to play, especially in finding younger experts who are amazing communicators and at the cutting edge of their field. We’ve found that they are excited about designing a travel experience that brings their subject matter to life in the most visceral and engaging ways, and almost always with privileged access to places and objects for a touch of magic.

When you start the planning process for a new adventure do you start with the location or the expert?

Very much the expert. We design travel experiences around them and follow where in the world they want to take us. That’s the only way this works and always results in the best experience for our guests.

The Luminaire, Japan

I am sure your Travel Designers love a challenge; do you have to encourage your clients to think about travel in a different way or are they helping you craft your offering?

A little bit of both. Most of our guests book the journeys on our website as we’ve designed them. But several of our guests have been very specific about travel plans to explore subjects they’ve been passionate about for years. A Japanese ceramics collector springs to mind! And that’s so rewarding for us – the passion is infectious. And then there are other guests whose journeys get more elaborate over time as they want to explore the subject in more depth.

You did a number of surveys at the beginning, and I think even you were surprised by the shift in client priorities. Moving away from a focus on the luxury amenities a hotel might have, to more experiential elements that deliver more fulfilling experiences. Do you think this shift was due to covid or are there other factors at play?

The research we commissioned showed that luxury travellers are craving experiences that cultivate a deeper understanding of the world. We found that more than 50% of customers cited ‘satisfying their curiosity about the world in an accessible manner’ as THE most important consideration for travel, with traditional luxury travel priorities around room comfort or expansive spas being deprioritised, in favour of substantive, enriching experiences.
So, we think this is a natural evolution of luxury travel over the decades. The role of Covid is more likely to have expedited this shift, rather than driven it.

The Luminaire Foundation is all about protecting the places we share; this is a vital piece of the puzzle. How are you navigating the need for sustainable travel and getting to the core of the local communities you visit and the best way to protect them?

Again, our experts are key here. The relationships they hold with subject experts in each destination, and with cultural institutions, means The Luminaire is introduced to people, places, and cultures to direct support under the Foundation. It’s rewarding for us, for our guests, and the experts to make this impact on the places we visit. We’re excited to build on this more in the future.

For more information on The Luminaire and to plan your next adventure:
The Luminaire Website
The Luminaire Instagram
The Luminaire LinkedIn