As 2016 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on changes we have seen in the luxury travel sector this year, and more importantly what new developments we might anticipate in 2017. With that in mind I wanted to look at a few developing trends that I believe we all need to take into consideration as we consider the short-term future of the luxury travel market.
I’ve selected six trends from two market research firms on the future of travel, including “2016 Future of Luxury Travel Report” by Resonance, and “The Future of Travel” by Qubit. Here’s a summary of those trends, as well as my thoughts on each of them.
Travel as Transformational
Resonance’s survey finds luxury travelers are seeking transformational experiences that allow them to learn new things and shift the way they view the world. This is an augmentation of the experiential travel trend that has been the focus of luxury travel for the past few years. High-end travel suppliers are actively developing programs that include special events, speakers and educational courses that deliver unique knowledge and insight for travelers. I believe this trend will only grow, although a word of caution, it will be ever more challenging for travel suppliers to find new experiences that truly resonate with their customers.
Art Becomes the New Cuisine
Culinary and dining experiences have long been a major focus for luxury travelers, but Resonance predicts that art will become the “new cuisine”. The group’s research finds that a significant percentage of luxury travelers are developing a taste for art in their travel plans, and not just in museums or galleries, but also at festivals and in the places they stay. Indeed, I’ve seen a surge of new hotels featuring curated art programs where the property itself becomes the art gallery.
Wellness Evolves to Wellbeing
One of the next luxury travel trends being observed is the elevation of the current focus on wellness at spas, resorts, cruise ships and destinations; to a more all-encompassing focus on “wellbeing.” Spa vacations are evolving into immersive programs involving health, relaxation, mindfulness and spiritual healing. An increasing number of resorts are delivering experiences designed to transform guests’ total “wellbeing”, providing a sense of comfort and happiness. I see this trend growing even more as people look for havens from the pressures of the modern world and seek more opportunities for personal growth.
From Multigenerational Travel to “Togethering”
The growth in multigenerational travel has been the biggest trend in tourism for several years. It is changing the accommodation configuration of resorts and second homes as the wealthy demand increasingly larger facilities in order to share quality time with their extended families and friends, what Resonance calls “togethering”.
Destination clubs, traditional luxury hotels and resorts will all have to respond to remain attractive options for this clientele.
More Demanding Digital Travelers
High-end customers are using a wide variety of devices in all stages of the travel planning process, including smartphones and tablets across different channels to plan, book and share their vacation experiences. According to Qubit, travel suppliers and advisors must recognize how to connect with these travelers on a personal level and enhance their experiences with the brand on these devices. That means travel brands must adapt to deliver a first-class customer experience in a digital environment, where there are fewer human interactions. This is going to be a challenge for high-end luxury brands and luxury travel advisors.
For the Travel Advisor this means staying in touch and monitoring the client throughout the trip and using the technology now available to do this.
Disruption From Sharing Economy
Disruptive new products such as Airbnb, onefinestay, and Uber have created a new sharing economy that has profound long-term implications for the luxury travel market. In the case of Airbnb and onefinestay, they are leveraging the “togethering” trend noted above with multi-generational travel at the high-end with access, competitive pricing and tailored accommodation for this market. According to Qubit, these companies are applying technology and enhanced customer data to develop deeper interactions with the guests, and established luxury travel vendors will need to focus on the customer experience and mirror these same technologies and initiatives in order to compete more effectively. I believe if they do, they can beat the threat posed by the shared economy.
I hope this snapshot of travel trends sparks some thoughts and ideas for future discussion. As always I welcome your feedback on what’s changing in travel today. Let’s keep the conversation going!