Experience Radar: Luxury Brands Are Creating Immersive Lifestyles And Dark Tourism Ramps Up

At The WXO, we want to connect the dots across the Experience Economy and across the globe – so each week, we’ll be bringing you our round-up of the experiential stories that we think reveal something interesting, relevant or transferrable about the Experience Economy.

Welcome to the latest Experience Radar, where we’re catching some waves at the Hotel Clicquot in Noosa, being immersed in an apocalyptic film in Manchester, and rifling through Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe in London.

1. Luxury Brands Are Creating Immersive Lifestyles

Headline and above image; Illusionaries at Crossrail Place, Canary Wharf ; The Blue Box Café at Tiffany & Co, Manhattan

It’s not enough to buy the bag or drive the car these days; today’s consumers demand no less than full immersion into the luxury lifestyles of their favourite brands. As reported by Forbes, leading lux brands like Aston Martin and D&G are creating immersive experiences that allow their fans to step into and live inside their meticulously crafted worlds, which is helping them to reach new audiences and create customer loyalty through tangible experiences. High-end hospitality is the new paradigm in luxury retailing, so we can expect to see more branded hotels and cafés popping up in shopping hotspots, from the Prada Caffè in London to the Palazzo Versace Hotel in Dubai.

Champagne brand Veuve Clicquot has long understood the importance of creating a lifestyle brand and is known for its quirky packaging innovations. At Veuve’s Sunny Side Up Café in Piccadilly you can chow down on short rib burgers paired with golden goblets of prestige cuvée La Grande Dame, while in Oz, fans of the brand can catch some waves on Veuve-branded boards at the Hotel Clicquot in Noosa. Meanwhile, The Blue Box Café at The Landmark, Tiffany & Co.’s re-imagined flagship in Manhattan, gives a new meaning to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, playing on its past via dishes devised by Michelin-starred maverick Daniel Boulud that will inspire a new generation of Holly Golightlys.

2. Selling Serendipity In The Age Of Re-Enchantment


Welcome to the age of re-enchantment. According to Wunderman Thompson, the appetite for awe and collective desire for thrilling experiences that make us feel alive has never been greater. Whether its delight, exhilaration or even fear, people want to feel heightened emotions after the mind-numbing boredom of the pandemic years. Seeking to recapture the joy lost during Covid, which can provide us with much-needed escapism during the cost of living crisis, consumers are craving to feel part of something meaningful that’s bigger than them, and are in search of uplifting experiences that give them hope. Brands have a golden opportunity to cater to this trend by delivering more emotional intensity in their activations to help their fans transcend the everyday.

Whether it be through the awe-inspiring power of generative AI or by tapping into the surreal to help jaded consumers find wonder in a chaotic world, the rise of tech has created a need for surprise and serendipity. With rising rents and inflation to deal with, people are seeking escapism through uplifting experiences that help them to remind them of more carefree times. Factoring fun into the customer experience offers a triple win for brands, delivering pleasure not only in the moment but also in its anticipation and recollection. In the age of re-enchantment, brand metrics will include emotions as consumers calculate the value brands are adding to their emotional lives.

3. Dark Tourism Trend Is On The Rise

House of Terror, Budapest

The trend for ‘dark’ tourism is on the rise, offering travellers ways to process complex emotions and prepare for future challenges. For some, being confronted with their worst fears can be cathartic and can offer a safe space to process anxiety. Interest in museums like the House of Terror in Budapest; a memorial to the victims of fascist and communist regimes, is growing. The space is designed to make you feel uneasy, and includes stepping into prison cells and witnessing films of executions during a slow lift ride, which heightens the sense of entrapment. Engaging with the environment where atrocities took place is a powerful way of improving our understanding of these tragic events.

As reported by Thomas Bristow in Cherwell, experiences like the House of Terror “force you to contemplate suffering and humanity in a way you haven’t before”. For Bristow, the appeal of dark tourism lies in the sense of grounding it gives you. Dark tourism locations bring us closer to death, and are unique in their ability to educate, serving as a stark warning of things that should never be repeated. “Dark Tourism has an important place in the travel sphere. These places allow us to understand what we hope to be the limits of human cruelty, and the only way to build a better future is to learn from the past,” Bristow writes. Being close to death helps us appreciate the value of being alive.

4. Nested Cinema Will Heighten Viewing Experience

Vera’s Not Alone film installation, Dr Pavel Prokopic

A cutting-edge new cinematic experience that claims to be the first to fully immerse its participants in its story will premiere at the University of Salford’s MediaCity campus this month. As reported by Prolific North, apocalyptic flick Vera’s Not Alone is the brainchild of Dr Pavel Prokopic, who has harnessed cinematic techniques to blur the line between the real and the imaginary. Prokopic’s multi-layered ‘Nested Cinema’ concept will make its debut on 27 June. The world within the film is brought to life in the room the movie is experienced in via cutting-edge light and sound tech, while VR headsets help to bring the viewer even deeper into the story.

The film will be screened inside an atmospheric space within the Development Lab of the University’s MediaCity campus. “This is a world first. The whole concept of Nested Cinema is a completely new approach in which you bring your audience through multiple layers to experience film in a way that will be fully immersive. It combines the advantages of using virtual reality in the performance and utilising lighting to creating a unique environment,” Prokopic said. “I hope each audience member gets a more profound experience of the film as a result,” he added. The goal is to take the movie on tour. 

5. London Gets New Experiential Art Hub

Illusionaries at Crossrail Place, Canary Wharf

London is carving a niche as one of the globe’s most exciting experiential art hotspots as news reaches us that the UK’s first story-based immersive art experience is opening in the capital on 22 June. As reported by BlooLoop, Illusionaries is a temporary experiential art hub at Crossrail Place in Canary Wharf showcasing story-based digital art. According to Illusionaries’ creative director, the venue explores human consciousness through stimulating exhibitions, establishing a new standard for digital art. The cutting-edge attraction is kicking off its run with an audiovisual experience called ‘Memories of a Dead Poet’, directed and animated by Iranian artist Arash Irandoust.

“It’s a tale told in three parts born out of an interest in the universal nature of the human experience, which takes inspiration from the stories and emotions that unite us,” Irandoust told BlooLoop. The 40-minute art odyssey includes otherworldly imagery and immersive soundscapes across three galleries. The journey begins in the Epilogue room, which features a 360-degree projection introducing visitors to the titular character and themes of greed, jealousy and fear. The second space is filled with infinity mirrors that serve as the window to the protagonist’s journey of rebirth, while ‘Primordial gardeners’ is an escape room using sound and offering calming acoustics, mist and visual projections.

6. Fostering IRL Connections With Strangers

The Breakfast app

While the ever-evolving tech world has helped to streamline our lives, it is also leading us to feel more disconnected than ever to our fellow humans. “The relentless focus on optimisation has actually optimised away our ability to be present, to be surprised, and to be available to each other”, Belgian-American psychotherapist Esther Perel said during her talk on ‘Artificial Intimacy’ at SXSW 2023. As reported by Wunderman Thompson, people are yearning for new ways to build community and emotional wellbeing, and savvy start-ups are responding to this need by facilitating enriching encounters with strangers.

In a bid to tackle the current human connection crisis, Peoplehood, a venture from the founders of SoulCycle, has created a communal space where the lost ritual of meaningful conversation can be revived during hour-long guided Gathers, where participants can share their stories with strangers. Portuguese app The Breakfast, meanwhile, aims to help people facilitate nourishing conversations with strangers by connecting users with interesting new people to meet over breakfast in a similar way to a dating app. The app is currently available in New York, Lisbon, Berlin, Kyiv and London and allows users to pick breakfast buddies that are either similar to them in character, or very different.

(Interested in gaining some design tools to turn strangers into friends? Our WXO Campfire on 14 June is a PlayLab takeover, where we’ll be sharing and putting into practice tips on this very topic. WXO Members can RSVP here.)

7. Sex & The City Experience Lands In London

And Just Like That… It’s Been 25 Years, A Sex and the City Experience, London

To coincide with the launch of season two of And Just Like That, British Carrie Bradshaw fans are in for a treat as Warner Bros Discovery and Sky are cashing in further on the franchise with the launch of a Sex and the City experience in London. Marking 25 years since the start of the original HBO series, which followed the trials and tribulations of New York-based sex columnist Bradshaw and the romantic pursuits of her three pals, as reported by Grazia, from 20-25 June S&TC fans will be able to immerse themselves in Carrie’s world.

With tickets priced at £5, visitors will be able to sip Cosmopolitans (Bradshaw’s favourite cocktail) while walking through the show’s most memorable moments and scenes, including Carrie’s brownstone apartment steps. The immersive experience will include photo opps aplenty for the Gram, including inside her infamous walk-in wardrobe, and at her desk where she hammered out her columns. The experience is the latest in a growing number of immersive tourist attractions where fans can step inside the worlds of their favourite TV shows, from Friends and Fawlty Towers to Squid Game.