In a globalized world, it can be hard to find a restaurant, coffee shop or even a hotel room that doesn’t remind you of back home. For a growing number of travellers, though, the sameness is a bit of a turn off. They crave “authentic” experiences and want a taste of local culture.
Now luxury hotels around the world are doing what would be once unthinkable; they’re offering their pampered guests glittery excursions. In five star places in cities from San Diego to Istanbul, hotel staffers are helping guests venture to dive bars, down home restaurants and funky, residential neighbourhoods that the affluent might never dream of visiting at home.
Especially popular are hands on opportunities to shoot, spear or shuck your own meal, escorted by area experts. Hunting and fishing are making a luxury comeback, capitalizing on the fascination with local ingredients. The hoi polloi are definitely part of the appeal now. At the St. Regis Aspen Resort, a $2900 program includes a beer and Thug yoga, a class outside the resort with local snowboarders and skiers.
The trend’s roots extend to hotel architecture and design. When the W. Hollywood was built five years ago, designers didn’t shield al fresco diners from colourful denizens streaming from the adjacent Hollywood and Vine subway stop. Elsewhere, hotels are abandoning the cookie cutter looks that distinguish a worldwide brand in favour of reflecting the locale, warts and all.
“Luxury isn’t what it used to be”, said Sandra Micek, Hyatt’s senior vie president, global brands. “We think of contemporary luxury as being defined by personal experiences. It can be eating at a taco shack on the beach and seeing an exhibit at a museum. That combination is interesting.”
Of course, at some point, it may become difficult to determine if these itineraries are real attempts at cultural understanding or voyeuristic voyages. Is there really anywhere “authentic’ anymore? Travellers and hotels seem willing to find out.
This article originally appeared on Fortune.com