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A ROYAL TEA FIT FOR ROYALTY, or how to create high end luxury experiences

As immersive experience creators, we get hired by a wide variety of people, from companies to social institutions to private clients, each with their own very specific demands that we need to fulfill to perfection. This has quickly taught us to be very adaptable, very fast. And nothing requires as much adaptability as the high-end luxury market.

Two years ago, we started a partnership with Secret Journeys, a Paris-based company who creates high-end private touristic experiences for elite customers; we provide them with professional actors with extensive historical knowledge to add a dash of immersion to some of their historical visits so their clients can, for example, meet Gustave Eiffel while climbing his tower.

Impressed with the quality of our offers and the talent of our performers, Philippe, Secret Journeys’ CEO, soon had another ambitious idea : to create a joint partnership with a 5-star hotel in Versailles and offer a one-of-a-kind immersive touristic experience for their prestigious clients. And it so happened we already had the perfect experience for such a venture: an intimate one hour and a half encounter with the most famous Queen of France and one of her favorites!

The Audition

We were excited at the prospect of adapting our Royal Tea to such a luxurious location - the hotel, steeped in 18th-century luxury and staffed by people in period costumes, would provide the utmost level of immersion and make participants feel like they were truly having tea in the gilded rooms of the Versailles palace, something that would be virtually impossible in any other setting!

We were convinced we belonged there… but we still needed to convince the hotel. So we set up an audition so that the director and top staff members could actually participate in the experience and see our skills for themselves.

We were not yet accustomed to this level of luxury back then and I won’t lie, we were all quite intimidated by the sheer splendor of the hotel. As our actresses got changed in a private salon, nipping out now and again to grab another delicious macaron from the china plates strewn around the place, we wondered if our costumes were of enough quality, if our bespoke board game looked too amateurish, if all of us would look posh enough to convince them we belonged here.

We needn’t have worried. Poised and elegant, confident in their historical knowledge and their charms, our actresses (me included) stole away the hearts of the hotel’s director and managers, and by the end of the performance they were determined to add our experience to their catalog as soon as possible!

The Design

We were always very conscious about the need to tailor our (already refined) experience to the luxury market: it would need to be both lavish and intimate, to make the clients feel awed and still flatter their egos. Thanks to the hotel, we have access to the participants before the experience even starts. We therefore professionally printed gold-trimmed invitations to slip under the guests’ doors ahead of time to formally invite them to have tea with the Queen ; likewise, we provide a personalized handwritten letter to the hotel after each experience so they can give this missive from Marie-Antoinette to their guests before the end of their stay.

The hotel also agreed to structure our experience around their high tea, so that guests can enjoy their delicate petits-fours while playing our bespoke Game of Goose with the Queen (more info on our game can be found here). As we mention often, we always make sure to play on all the senses in each of our immersive experiences, and taste and smell are two of the strongest senses to leave lasting memories ; being able to use those senses with such refined foods and beverages definitely enhances the immersion even further!

Finally, in order to impose upon the guests how momentous this encounter is, we decided that the Favorite (the cheeky Duchess of Polignac or the demure Princess of Lamballe, depending on clients’ preferences) would welcome them ahead of the Queen and teach them the appropriate etiquette when meeting with royalty; she would also help them craft their make-believe identities by having them choose their own fake titles of nobility. However, we soon discovered this introduction might be superfluous, as you will see.

A Constant Adaptation

Each Royal Tea we’ve run has been different from the last, with each new client a total surprise that our actresses need to adapt to in the blink of an eye. Like the Russian family who wanted Marie-Antoinette to bring in a birthday cake (“It’s the first time I’ve ever carried a plate!” remarked the Queen good naturedly)... and then left her standing up for over an hour, seemingly content to have her and her favorite as background decoration for their celebration.

Or the Indian aristocrats who had met actual real life royalty on their tour of Europe, and very generously insisted on treating our actresses to their lavish three-course meal, throwing our tea-time on its head!

If we sometimes feel a bit out of our depth, however, the clients are none the wiser. The Indian gentleman actually thought for a moment that the Queen was the real deal, the highest compliment I could have wished for!

Which brings me back to the fake titles the Favorite was supposed to help guests choose. It soon became obvious that a lot of our clients, far from needing fake nobility titles, would actually have real nobility titles that our actresses would need to memorize instead!

Through it all, one of the most fascinating aspects of working for this kind of high-end clientèle has been the dichotomy between the roles we play, and the status of the people we play those roles for. In all our experiences, we always follow the saying “the client is always right”, but never is it more evident than here. We may be playing royals, but the clients are the ones occupying positions of high power in real life. Our actresses must always act regal but never forget to show just enough reverence so the clients feel the respect they are due.

An Ongoing Success

Every time our experience is booked, we are only certain of one thing: we cannot be certain of anything. Our actresses boldly go in blind every time, not knowing what whim or fancy they will have to adapt to, but confident in their ability to rise to any challenge. And we, as experience(d) designers, are constantly tweaking the experience and thinking of new additions to it to ensure it’s as close to the clients’ dreams as possible.

Though it is not always a piece of cake (pun intended!), we’ve always managed to satisfy our clients fully and deliver the unforgettable moment they were hoping for. Our clients’ enjoyment is our ultimate goal, so if they are all smiles and effusion by the end of the experience, we know we have succeeded! And we cherish the opportunity of meeting such diverse and fascinating people, sharing unique moments with them in a place worthy of fairytale princesses and tragic Queens.

Do you work with tourists or other clients who might enjoy such a unique experience? Contact us today to discuss how we might serve their, and by extension your, needs !


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