Insights: The new face of luxury travel
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Insights: The new face of luxury travel

Insights: The new face of luxury travel

From sustainability to revenge travel, here are the key trends driving luxury tourism

Gulf Business
Luxury travel

I believe luxury is about freedom. It’s about being able to choose from anything that is available, to pick something that fits our needs and makes us feel good. When looking at luxury travel, we need to step back and look at what is happening in luxury in general and to understand that discerning consumers are looking for high, intrinsic value more than ever, and that goes way beyond price consideration.

The answer to ‘what is luxury?’ is constantly evolving, particularly true when it comes to travel. Just 20 years ago, everything was packaged up in one way, and one way only – a beautiful hotel, with glamorous finishes, in an exotic location would suffice. But times have changed.

Today, travellers in every segment are actively seeking out meaningful experiences and services designed just for them, meaning that those of us in the travel industry need to deliver a more personalised experienced for everyone, every time.

How do we do this? By listening and involving customers in the conversation. Brands today understand that customers might have a better idea, and are embracing the fact that they are not in control of the entire conversation. Brands initiate ideas, but then use various models to engage, exchanging messages and ideas. They add value by giving information on how it can be done better.

In a way, we are doing what’s most natural to us – it is like going back to the days when people exchanged stories around a campfire. Of course, big travel brands want to guide certain conversations, but they’ve never been so open to clients’ opinions and advice.

This is especially true in the world of luxury travel, where the sky is the limit. Ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) want bespoke experiences that are unique to them, customised with their individual preferences in mind, particularly when it comes to exclusivity and privacy. From travelling in a private jet and enjoying the endless possibilities available in the cabin, to staying in a private villa with a bespoke day-to-day itinerary and a private chef creating personalised menus, it is all about catering to the individual’s needs.

Most important of all, they want someone to make it as easy as possible for them – UHNWIs are extremely busy people so, taking the pressure off and allowing them to escape from the stresses of daily life, where they can enjoy the moment and make memories, is the real luxury.

The digital era

The pandemic has had an impact on the channels used to sell luxury products, so there are fewer in-person experiences and more digital channels and tools. This means that there are new systems and flows in the power of influence to make people purchase something.

What has also changed significantly is that luxury brands have had to become part of the new cycle. There have been some big headlines over the past few years – politics, pandemics, natural disasters, economic shifts – and all of this meant that there was less space for brands to broadcast their story and talk about themselves.

To establish an iconic brand for UHNWIs it is critical to avoid the hype. While the narrative of disruptive technology has been captivating marketers’ imagination for a few decades, it has never been so important for luxury travel brands to embrace digitalisation to support their expert human teams in creating an even better personal service.

For Vistajet, it is about faster jet booking systems delivered via an app; a private dining solution to reduce food waste; critical technology to manage the complex logistics of the second-largest private aviation fleet in the world, reducing repositioning flights and time in the air: all of this means improved service and cost reductions for clients.

But this is only the start. While a brand may be confident that they have nailed the recipe for their current customers, things change quickly, and savvy brands will already be preparing for another significant behavioural shift as the spending power of Millennials and Gen Z increases.

Staying relevant for the next-gen

Millennials and Gen Z accounted for the entire growth of the global luxury market in 2022, according to Bain and Altagamma’s latest study. Younger generations will continue to assert their position as critical growth levers for the luxury travel sector in 2023 and beyond.

Luxury spending among these generations is expected to grow three times faster than other generations and this is a sphere of influence already evident when it comes to travel, especially when you look at the flurry of collaborations with like-minded brands.

While hotel brands have been doing it successfully for years with luxury bathroom products and retail items sold in lobbies, and the more recent trend of premium luxury brands such as Bulgari and Armani developing their own luxe hotel brands, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

With a clear correlation between luxury brands’ clientele and values, it is no surprise that we are now seeing a raft of interesting and – most importantly – symbiotic luxury brand-travel collaborations, with many promoted via social media platforms that are typically the domain of Millennials and Gen Z.

A great example of this is Eden Rock – St Barths, who have launched a series of exclusive collections over the last few years, with this year’s partnerships ranging from a capsule collection by Bäumer Jewels; a hand-crafted fedora from Parisian milliner Maison Michel; a limited-edition collection of flags, beach towels and totes from New York-based artist Daniel Arsham; and a bespoke Hublot watch – ‘The Big Bang Unico Eden Rock – St Barths’, with only 25 made.

Social responsibility

We see social responsibility and sustainability re-shaping everything in travel. It will remain a dominant trend throughout the coming years, with travellers increasingly demanding the best of both worlds – unforgettable experiences that are also responsibly considered.

We’re not just talking about the environment, but broader ESG (environmental, social and governance) policies, including workers’ rights and protection of the value and supply chain.

This is by no means limited to travel, as all luxury brands are asking themselves how they can change the way they do things so that consumers start to look at their consumption patterns differently and reconsider the value of their travel decisions and the impact they will have long after their trip.

Revenge travel

The above, a term coined by the travel industry, is also driving the luxury travel agenda in 2023. Travellers are planning new adventures to satisfy their desires to travel better than before to make up for time lost during the pandemic.

UHNWIs are choosing to go deeper rather than just skim the surface, to get to know more of a single country instead of ticking off five in one go, to treat travel as a search for understanding that will have a lasting impact on the places and people they visit. In luxury travel, we will experience a steep rise in the desire for wellness practices that hold lifelong benefits for both health, people and the environment.

Matteo Atti is the chief marketing officer at VistaJet and Vista. He also teaches luxury business development at the International University of Monaco

Read: Inside luxury travel brand Rimowa’s first store in Dubai

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