For most travelers today, luxury has become defined as much by the experience and authenticity of a trip as the opulence or amenities of accommodations.
Still, kind of like flying first class and then having to move back to coach, anyone who has been fortunate enough to stay in some of the world's finest hotels likely has a hard time going back to more budget-focused travel.
That doesn't mean luxury travel has to be five-star or above, especially when it comes to adventure. The lines between upscale and luxury have, after all, become increasingly blurred over the years. But as a self-professed hotel snob, I was thrilled to see this week's announcement by Intrepid Travel of a new line of premium tours.
While not billed as luxury, the company said the tours will use four- and four-and-a-half-star hotels. Combine that with their outstanding guides, unique experiences and sustainability focus, and the new product, in my mind, checks all the necessary boxes for luxury travel today.
I traveled with Intrepid on a women-only trip to Jordan two years ago. It was one of very few work trips in many years that did not include upscale or luxury accommodations. And I have to admit that walking into our hotel in the heart of Amman, I was initially jarred by the simplicity and longed for a luxury hotel with a bar where I could get a glass of wine during Ramadan.
But the bed was comfortable, the simple shower had hot water and the staff could not have been friendlier. Even better, we were very near the heart of all the nighttime action that happens during Ramadan when Muslims break their daylight fast. While in Petra, we once again longed for a bar and other luxuries of one of the grander hotels down the road.
But when all was said and done, the last thing I think about when I look back on that trip is the sparse accommodations. Instead, I remember our knowledgeable, friendly and very candid guide. I remember the unique experiences, such as cooking at the home of woman who runs a restaurant that employs only women, meeting one of Amman's top matchmakers for arranged marriages, coating ourselves in mud before soaking in the Dead Sea and sharing a tent in the desert with a fellow traveler from the U.K. who has become what I am confident will be a lifelong friend.
While Intrepid Premium is not billed as luxury, if you combine Intrepid's core values with the premium product's promise to offer mostly locally owned, sustainably focused but still upscale hotels, I'd say the company has positioned itself well to compete in for the post-pandemic luxury travel world.