The worldwide luxury travel market is growing – fast. From 2005-2015, luxury travel growth outpaced the average growth of the industry as a whole, and in just three more years total spending from luxury travellers will hit around US$1.2 billion.
Affluent tourists are spending more than ever before, and the industry is changing because of it. We’ve rounded up some of the best research on the world’s big-spending globetrotters, and this is what you can expect from them in 2017.
Flocking to Cuba and Other Changing Destinations
The past several years have seen more than a few popular tourist destinations experience sweeping political, economic and environmental changes that risk altering their sightseeing appeal forever.
According to the Virtuoso Luxe Report 2017, an annual report by one of the largest luxury travel networks in the world, Cuba tops the list because of its improved trading and tourism relationship with the United States – that’s a good thing, right? Perhaps not for luxury travel, says the report. Increased trading and tourism risks to change a lot of what made Cuba so charming as a destination in the first place, homogenising it with much of the surrounding area and dampening much of its bright, vibrant historic feel, the report says.
The Great Barrier Reef, Antarctica, Venice and the Maldives are also in danger of permanent change or damage – upping their tourist appeal.
Luxury Travellers Turning to Nature
Listed as one of nine key travel trends in 2017 by My Travel Research, High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) with over US$1 million in liquid assets are looking to engage with nature directly and get off the beaten track. Mindfulness and wellness retreats are the name of the game here, with destinations such as the Galápagos Islands, Iceland and the Antarctic taking top spot for HNWIs looking to replenish the mind, body and soul.
Iran Entering “Golden Age” of Tourism
After its historic nuclear agreement with the United States ended more than a decade of harsh economic sanctions, Iran is set for a massive tourism boom in 2017, according to a report by J. Walter Intelligence titled “The Future 100”. This year, the country’s first foreign-branded luxury development in decades will open as a five-star beachfront resort on the edge of the Caspian Sea.
Several additional hotels opened in 2016, and more than a few luxury hoteliers are earmarking areas around Iran’s multitude of religious tourism sites and snowy mountains for future high-end developments, says the report. Watch for various regions around Iran to become trendy getaway spots for the affluent and influential this year – before the masses start rolling in.
Private Jets to Multiple Destinations
Ultra-high-net-worth-individuals are increasingly booking private jets to multiple destinations (sometimes intercontinentally) during a single vacation, according to a recent travel trends report by private jet company JetSmarter. An uptick in adventure-seeking affluent travellers combined with high mobility planes means one destination is just not enough these days, according to JetSmarter CEO Sergey Petrossov. People want to experience completely different locales in one go. Diversity is key.
Increasing numbers of HNWIs are taking their vacations day-by-day, moment-by-moment, according to Jack Ezon, president of Ovation Vacations in New York during an interview with Travel Marketplace Report. That doesn’t mean they aren’t spending big, Ezon reported increasing numbers of honeymooners spending upwards of US$100,000 on vacations that amount to nothing more than arriving at a destination and wandering, under his guidance, to a different location, site or city each day with no real overall plan in mind. It’s the same philosophy behind backpacking, just accomplished with the convenience of chauffeured transport, champagne and luxury accommodations.
The term “Bling-and-Go” was coined by Lorraine Abelow, founder and president of Abelow PR, a New-York-based firm representing some of the world’s best boutique luxury hotels and hospitality brands. In recent years, Abelow says, demand for classic “Bling-Bling” travel – experiences based solely on decadence, indulgence and comfort – has waned.
Now, luxury customers are leaning towards life-changing experiences. They want to delve into the territories of ancient hill tribes, discover remote natural sanctuaries and explore the depths of local art and culture first-hand – and they are willing to put in some leg work to do it.
That’s not to say these travellers skimp on luxury amenities, says Abelow. Rather, they look for the highest level of luxury possible while also learning something about themselves and the cultures they explore.
While gigantic, crowded cruise ships across the ocean are pretty much a no-go-zone for HNWIs, unless they own the boat in question, boutique luxury cruises down historic waterways could not be more “in” right now, according to the Virtuoso Report mentioned earlier.
Journeys across rivers like the Elbe in East Germany, Mekong in Southeast Asia and mighty Amazon in South America offer a relaxing, customisable getaways with lots of sightseeing, no unpacking and top-shelf luxury amenities – just wait, and let the sights come to you.