Trade Pulse | 2017-05-24
Opulence Redefined

Luxury travel is the fastest growing segment in the tourism sector. TravelScapes lists the hottest trends which are taking luxury travel market by a storm



Ritika Kumar

The travel and tourism industry has realised the immense potential luxury travellers have for business. It is interesting to note that luxury tourists or the one with more disposable incomes have always been the flag bearers of newer innovations which set the standard for the upcoming generation of first time travellers. For instance, spas which were associated with high-end luxury some time back have become a pre-requisite for every four-star property and some first-class and business class lounges of international airways too. The constant changing needs of luxury travellers have put the industry on its toes, pushing it to reinvent and raise the bar high with newer itineraries, experiences, technological advancements and customer services.

Indians and Chinese are leading the way 
Do you know that the world is looking up to India and China to drive this industry? According to a study published by Colliers International, China is home to 1.4 million high net worth individuals (HNWI), with 146 million working class nationals, representing 19 per cent of the working population, and 90 million urban blue collar workers. Counted together, they represent almost 29 per cent of the population and are the most likely to travel. 

Meanwhile, India has 433,000 HNWI, with 59 million considered urban middle and educated urban and 97 million counted as urban blue collar workers. Together, they represent almost 31 per cent of the population that is eligible and likely to travel.
According to a new report by Amadeus, a global travel technology provider, India’s luxury market Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13 per cent is higher than any of the other BRIC nations, and is the highest of the 25 countries explored.  

“Asian luxury travellers have a unique set of motivations and needs – understanding what drives their travel behaviour and providing a personalised experience will be critical for travel providers,” said Hazem Hussein, Executive Vice President, Airline Commercial, Amadeus Asia Pacific in the report by Amadeus.

Experiences over materialistic gains
A human desire is for more rewarding experiences which provide a facilitator to come up with improved quality and service in travel and tourism industry. The burgeoning new middle class of Asia with higher disposable income is looking fordifferent experiences which take them out of their living room existence. According to Amadeus report, “Driven by India’s impressive luxury market growth, South Asia’s luxury travel market will expand at a faster rate than any other region explored.”

At the recently concluded Arabian Travel Market, Dubai, Experiential travel was the buzz word.

“Travellers are increasingly looking beyond conventional leisure programmes and itineraries and actively seeking out atypical experiences that deliver a true taste of local culture. This growing trend is now on the radar of the region’s tourism chiefs as destinations face increased competition for their share of the more traditional travel segments and are increasingly looking to diversify their proposition into new and niche markets which require product differentiation and innovation,” said Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, Arabian Travel Market.

“People do see experiential travel as luxury. You offer them something that they normally don’t do and that brings to life to their imagination and their wonder. Yes, the hotel is housing them and feeding them. But especially the people who are on a holiday are usually the one who would want different experiences. And yes they find new information too from media but they are also asking much more questions at the property,” said James Britchford, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, India, Middle East & Africa at InterContinental Hotels Group.

New Luxury is real time 
For millennial and generation Z, luxury is having the convenience of getting service at their beck and call. While speaking at ‘The Future of Luxury Travel’ summit at the Arabian Travel Market, Anthony-Challinor-Cole, General Manager Elegant Resorts Middle East reiterated the same thought by giving an example. “If I am in San Francisco and want include a quick Yoga class to my packed schedule, my hotel’s concierge should be ready to find the best for me at that moment,” Challinor-Cole said. 

According to new study by GLION institute of Higher Education, the year of 2017 will see hospitality businesses focusing on making the most of emerging technology so that they aren’t left behind. The scope and application of new tools are extraordinary which drive hospitality trends catering to the millennial consumer who is connected and looking for authentic yet personalised experiences. 
The social media revolution has made it a necessity for the travellers to have a digital presence on all the major social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat. There are these 196.16 millionb active Facebook users in India who left behind US which has 191.3 Facebook users.  The desire to share their story with the world right here, right now have forced social media giant like Facebook to include ‘stories’ on Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp.  

This behavioral pattern shown not only by millennial but all the age groups across the board has opened a window of opportunities for the luxury service providers.  Hence we also see a rise of influencers who are have become a top on the checklists of hoteliers, aviation industry, and restaurateurs for online promotions. The budget on social media marketing is going north in the expense graph of major luxury players in the market. 

“You must keep focused on what you do best, but at the same time remain agile and responsive to the changing market dynamics. Digital technology is a disrupter that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Ten years from now, there could be a different way in which people experience hospitality. While your promise of service delivery must always be consistent, you have to be aware of outside influences and changing market demands,” said Azeez Narain, Associate Vice President, Taj Hotels, Resorts, Palaces, Safaris, Indian Hotels Company Ltd. 

See it before it disappears 
A new trend which has emerged in the luxury market is to create urgency for the destinations which might disappear due to man-made or natural circumstances.  An example for such disappearing sites is the magnificent Great Barrier Reef in Australia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is dying due to rising temperature of the sea and ocean acidification. Visiting Antarctica before it melts or Maldives before it submerges by rising level of sea are new marketing campaigns which are fast getting momentum. Such travel experience was always a part of the discerning travellers bucket list but their threat of its disappearance is so real that the traveller would rather catch it now which also gives him/her bragging points. “Yes people are thinking about what will happen if these places aren’t there anymore. Cuba is one such destination which is gaining the reputation,” said Challinor-Cole.

Curation is the key
Luxury is subjective just like beauty which truly lies in the eye of the beholder. For someone it could be a private million-dollar cruise on a yacht while for someone else it could be enjoying  a home like feel at 30,000 feet  above , while flying in the first class cabin of an airline. A traveller would want to different experience as compared when he is with his family. The key lies in curating personalised experiences for your guest without him telling you to do so at the same time maintain the wow element every time. “For Etihad Airways, luxury travel is very fluid expectation. It is about in touch with your guests and being able to personalise their experience. Luxury for somebody in economic class cabin is going to look very different to business class cabin or the residence in Etihad airways. So it is about tailoring all those finer details to deliver the real luxury experience,” said Linda Calistino, Vice President, Guest Experience and Delivery, Etihad Airways.

“I think aviation industry has gone through quite a significant journey over the last 20 years. People are travelling more and they are expecting more and the expectation that we can deliver their everyday life at 38,000 feet so that’s why we have wifi connectivity, being able to have bespoke menu, being able to choose your journey—that’s where the future of luxury travel is going and Etihad airways is trying to bring back all of with this with a touch of glamour,” Calistino added.

The age of Bluxury travellers
Bluxury is where business meets luxury. According to major industry player in travel research Amadeus’s recent report ‘Shaping the future of Luxury Travel’, bluxury travellers will form the biggest chunk of luxury travel which is about 31 per cent. These travellers who are practically living  out of a suitcase, have travelled miles for a business obligations, in out of meetings— look for a well deserved time out. They are up in the hierarchy and have the money to spend hence are looking for everything first class without any hiccups. Since they are always running against time they would rather fly down their family after a business meeting to spend some quality time. Seeking to provide a more efficient and prompt service to its guests, Ramada Hotel & Suites Ajman recently signed a partnership with ProntoResolved. “Our property is pleased to partner with ProntoResolved in providing enhanced service to our clients, thus generating higher ratings in several platforms. In addition to its systematic and effective process, the software also enables us to have a paperless, sustainable operation, which is in line with our green vision,” said Iftikhar Hamdani, General Manager, Ramada, Ajman.

Based in Florida, ProntoResolved is user-friendly software which manages propriety complaints and handles special requests. In addition, it allows hotels to have a paperless operation by electronically streamlining guest service issues and requirements. The software takes in and resolves the requests in a timely manner; then generates reports and tracks the proficiency of response of the departments involved.

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