Last November 4-6th marked the 40th World Travel Market annual tradeshow at the ExCel London. Attended by over 50,000 representatives from the tourism and travel industry all over the world, the three-day event not only allowed participants to network, but also to discuss what factors and trends have shaped this year, and the year to come.
The global luxury travel market, which is expected to generate $1.6 Billion (USD) by 2026, accounted for around 63% of the overall market revenue for North America and Europe for 2018. (source: Allied Market Research’s report on Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast , 2019-2026)
The main takeaway during luxury travel discussions at World Travel Market are what HNWI (High Net Worth Individuals) now require in their travels: They want it to be memorable and epic.
If we are to trace the origins of epic journeys, it was during the Age of Discovery (also known as the Age of Exploration) when humans first experienced this kind of glory and ‘high’ from travelling and exploring the world. Famous European explorers such as Vasco de Gama, Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan set out on journeys that forever changed not just their lives but the history of the world.
We need not look too far to see how revered our original explorers are. Just over 2,000 kilometres south of London, at the northern bank of the Tagus River estuary in Lisbon, Portugal lies the Monument to the Discoveries / Navigators. Built in 1939 to honour the Portuguese discoverers, it stands majestic with all explorers looking onward and forward ready to discover unknown lands.
Fast forward to today, and almost all piece of land has already been explored—not to mention photographed and documented, and luxury travel as we know it has long evolved. (in case you missed it, focus on experience and adventure have been the leading trends in luxury travel over the past years).
In place of epic lands and discoveries, travellers now aspire and try to get epic experiences and adventures when they travel.
April Hutchinson, editor of TTG Luxury, who led the discussion, “Epic Travel: The New Must-Do Luxury Experience” at World Travel Market last month has this to say about the luxury travellers and the kind of epic travel that the seek:
“They work hard, and travel hard, exploring the limits of what they are capable of, pursuing a real passion, or sometimes taking the whole family to remote places for incredible trips. These trips involve intense levels of logistic nous and imagination from the organisers, who will often go on a reece and run the whole trip beforehand. The rewards are high for all concerned, but it’s not the kind of travel to be taken lightly.”
EPIC TRAVELS TODAY
Let’s bring forth Antarctic Cruises as an example. Cruises to Antarctica and the Arctic circle are not exactly new as commercial cruises and tours have been operating for decades. The difference now is that these expedition cruises are not just popular within the adventure market but luxury travel market as well.
Companies like The Luxury Arctic Travel Company are combining luxury with the target market’s thirst for epic adventures. They explore all options when it comes to transportation in the Arctic and Antarctica such as boat, helicopter or snowmobile if necessary (or requested by travellers). They have also collaborated with luxury lodges, camps, hotels and flights to ensure their travellers are still comfortable at the end of the day. Their focus is on smaller boats and keeping groups to a minimum to ensure all passengers get a very personal experience.
If cruising is not your thing and you’re more of a hiker / trekker, then it may well worth be knowing that in Israel, “Inn to Inn hiking” has gained popularity with luxury travellers over the past decade. Simply put, ‘inn to inn hiking’ is like backpacking with a bit of ‘help’. Travellers hike from one lodge to another during the day, carrying just their day packs. Meanwhile, logistics are being carried on behind the scenes: the rest of the travellers’ suitcases and belongings are transferred to the next hotel. And at the end of a day full of trekking, the travellers can look forward to a fine-dining meal.
All these exemplify how brands are responding to the rising trend of travellers combining luxury with adventure in their travels.
MOVING AWAY FROM ‘LUXURY’
It seems that in general, luxury brands still provide luxury products and services, but do not like to be associated with the word ‘luxury’. As Jacques-Olivier Chauvin (CEO of Fauchon Hospitality) said, “If you define yourself as luxury, you are not luxury.” Chauvin previously worked at Louis Vuitton, where he said that the word ‘luxury’ is banned. (source)
Another brand that is veering away from its reputation as a luxury brand is iconic jewellery company Tiffany & Co., whose CEO Alessandro Bogliolo said in November at the Luxury Summit in New York City, that they no longer wish for Tiffany to be associated with the word luxury. When talking about the jewellery company, they prefer the word “legendary” to be first in mind.
This movement away from association with pure luxury transcends all products and services—whether it is a brand selling handbags, jewellery, or providing hospitality and travel, it just goes to show that consumers seek depth and meaning behind their purchases.
Luxury consumers now endeavour to fill their lives with experiences and not things, and it’s more important for them to have stories to tell than material things to show.
It’s a great time for brands to truly get to know their audience because in order for you to provide something legendary and epic, you need to know what drives and compels your market to seek them.