Pandemic triggers the appetite for tailored luxury travel escapes
Since time immemorial, travel has been a luxury. And so will it continue to be. The ultra-luxury segment was an emerging trend in the premium travel space, but it has gained momentum in the post-lockdown era.
Keeping the altered environment in mind, travel and hospitality brands around the globe have added varied safety measures and well-being to their services, while continuing to offer the reassurance of authentic travel experiences.
As the changing dynamics at both ends of this spectrum merge to redefine travel, it also sets the stage for a new era of conscious luxury. Taking a deep dive into some pertinent trends that are shaping this renaissance, here are some insights:
Meaningful connections with bespoke experiences
The pandemic made people realise the significance of having a close circle of loved ones around for significant interactions. Luxury has also transformed into cultivating meaningful connections. Discerning travellers are increasingly seeking out bespoke experiences to allow for a deeper connect with oneself and those who ultimately matter. Destination resorts are providing guests with avenues to channel their creativity such as interactive glass-blowing sessions in Italy, making handwoven baskets and collecting highland treasures in Tennessee, dot painting workshops with the artists of Uluru and learning botanical water colour art in Indonesia’s picturesque settings.
Serenity of space
Stuck in the same space for months made people want to break away from routines and taught them the value of self-revival. Here, luxury is being redefined as being able to find one’s own comfort, balance, and serenity of space for the wealthy, rather than just celebrating grandeur or expensive indulgences.
Magnified focus on personalisation
Perceptive hospitality now provides travellers gratifying experiences with a magnified focus on personalisation. Experiencing a destination through a series of shorter visits with exclusively tailored experiential themes each time is a rising travel trend. This includes innovative wellness such as aqua yoga or walking meditation, curated destination dining with family in scenic settings, dolphin cruises in dhoni boats or guided snorkelling safaris.
Making time for mindful travel
Luxury travellers are increasingly accessing experiences that thoughtfully give back to nature and the local communities. Progressive initiatives could include sustainable farming being done by a few resort brands across destinations like India, Maldives, Oman, Thailand and more. Guests can take educational farm tours, learn farming techniques, and attend culinary master classes.
Domestic travel as the new Indian luxury hospitality
Luxury travel in 2021 is going to be domestic travel. Luxury travellers are looking for new destinations within the country and embracing micro-vacations. Hotels in Goa, Mussoorie and Mahabaleshwar are doing very well post the lockdown. Instead of two to three international trips a year, people are now opting for five to six domestic vacations.
This has become crucial today as it is playing out in every aspect of a luxury customer’s hotel stay experience. Everything has become contactless. The mobile key lets customers access to the room via the code on their phone. Essentially, the phone is the key to their rooms. Guest requests are also being processed through online chat for ordering food and other services to rooms.
Ultra-luxury personalised experiences
Private island buyouts, charter planes and remote destinations are buzzwords among the affluent. Billionaires, movie stars and oligarchs tend to prefer anonymity and exclusivity on their holidays. Sample these vacations: a leading Indian business family chartering a plane to Cheval Blanc’s private island in the Maldives, a top Bollywood celebrity renting an INR 2.2 lakh-a-night luxury villa on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills through Airbnb and Lady Gaga’s INR 7.3 lakh-a-night Airbnb villa in the California desert.
The segment’s demands manifest in the form of super premium all-suite hotels above the five-star positioning, heritage wings, private entrances, exclusive helicopter and private-jet transfers, butlers, and strong brand credibility for hygiene.
So, where, are these celebrities, sportspersons, heads of state and industrialists holidaying? Maldives is synonymous with this clientele. At the top of the spectrum is the Cheval Blanc Randheli Private Island, a four-bedroom villa where you are the only one on the island. The Soneva Kiri hotel in Thailand requires you to take the hotel’s own plane and land on the private Soneva landing strip before enjoying one of the villas. The top end of this hotel’s offerings is a six-bedroom villa priced at almost INR 10 lakh per night. Ciragan Palace Kempinski in Istanbul boasts a heritage wing with lavish suites, which is disconnected from its five-star property. Presidents, kings, and Hollywood stars have holidayed here and enjoyed the comforts of a restored Ottoman suite and a royal hammam.
ULTRA LUXURY TRAVEL STATISTICS
Does the appetite for luxury travel still exist after a year of lockdown-induced stress? Let us look at a recent survey by AITO, the Specialist Travel Association, for some insights.
89% of respondents say they would take the same or a higher number of holidays once travel was safe again.
Among those showing the most appetite for travelling soon, London had the biggest share with 85%.
Those aged between 50 and 59 are showing the most appetite for luxury travel soon.
Those aged 60-69 and 40-49 also showed more appetite for travel soon than those in their 30’s, with 82% and 83% respectively.
77% of people in the 70-79 bracket said that they would travel again.
In the foreseeable future, the next benchmark for hospitality providers globally will lie in the idea of rebuilding thought-provoking journeys. In the meantime, luxury travellers will continue to explore these new beliefs and desires in this renaissance that is deeply rooted in responsible travel.