5 Defining Characteristics of Luxury Travel Today

With affluent travelers becoming more careful about where they spend their money, the travel industry needs to re-learn the rules of providing travel experiences

By: Luca Franco, Managing Partner, Luxury Frontiers

Posted on: April 9, 2015

While luxury travel can take countless forms, from alpine ski trips to tropical island getaways, there are several key attributes that help explain the most successful luxury travel products today. This article highlights five such characteristics.  

“Experiential” Travel is the name of the game
More and more travelers desire to unplug from the routine of their daily lives and experience new things on the way to self-fulfillment and discovery. As AFAR magazine explains, “Experiential travelers want to dive deeper into authentic, local, culture, connecting with people from other cultures in ways that enrich their lives and create lasting memories”. Distinguishing aspects of this type of travel include an emphasis on personal enrichment and learning (activities often led by experts), authenticity (experiences which reflect local environment, culture) and active participation.  

Exclusive and personalized experiences
In this context, exclusive does not necessarily mean expensive: it means unique, extraordinary and personalized. It could be a safari walk across the Serengeti plains led by a traditional Maasai guide or a night spent sleeping in a comfortably furnished treehouse surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature. The 2014 MasterCard Affluent Report observed that there has been “a shifting tendency among the affluent to seek and discover authentic experiences as opposed to purchasing and owning physical luxury items.” And, in fact, consumers increasingly signal their social status through consumption of memorable and exclusive experiences rather than material goods. 

luxury travel ideas holiday in tent

Influence of internet and social media
When it comes to their travel choices, people (and Millennials in particular) look for “something extra” and the “cool factor” rather than the boring and ordinary. The pictures they share with their social networks have a snowball effect in influencing subsequent travel choices of their family and friends. As such, customers have become a very powerful marketing tool for travel companies by spreading images and impressions of their experiences and interactions with travel brands. The most successful companies will be those offering the most authentic, inspiring, and out of the ordinary experiences – which are highly ‘Twitterable”.   

Growth of multi-generational family travel
Families are busier than ever and often geographically dispersed. Opportunities to come together are limited by time and distance, and sharing vacation experiences in new destinations has become a great way to bring multiple generations together to forge new and lasting bonds. Multigenerational travel has been named the biggest travel trend by the Virtuoso luxury travel network for four consecutive years. The primary drivers of multigenerational travel according to a 2014 Wall Street Journal article are the “baby boomers with money and a hankering for meaningful experiences”. 

luxury travel with family

Importance of Sustainability and Wellness
A distinctive demographic group that has emerged over the past decade is called Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS). According to the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) in a 2007 study, LOHAS consumers represent approximately 19 per cent of the adult population in the US and they have even greater influence (as they are trendsetters). They are motivated to buy products and services that are environmentally conscious, sustainable, socially responsible, and/or healthy for themselves and the planet. With the emergence of the LOHAS consumer, then, it has become increasingly important for hotel owners and operators to demonstrate to consumers how they are minimizing their ecological impacts and contributing to a more sustainable travel industry.  

luxury wellness travel spa treatment in tent


luca franco luxury frontiersLuca Franco has worked with leaders like Strategic Hotels and Resorts, Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, Bulgari Resorts, Park Hyatt, The Stein Hotels, Icehotel, Marriott Vacation Club International and more; managed a diversified real estate portfolios for the Ferragamo Group and Fingen Group; and served with LLPI and contributed significantly to the successes of Exclusive Resorts, Private Escapes, DCP International. He has deep expertise in mixed-use developments and a track record of success in hospitality and residential projects around the globe with brands such as Four Seasons Hotels, Lungarno Hotels by Ferragamo Collection, Rio Quente Resort, Ritz Carlton Herzlija Hotel & Residences, Israel, Lake Como in Italy, Auberge Residences at Element 52, Colorado, US and more. With Luxury Frontiers, the team has developed luxury resorts and tented solutions for leading luxury hospitality brands, such as Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, Abercrombie & Kent, Six Senses, Orient Express (now Belmond), Wilderness Safaris, Explora and Amanresorts. Follow him on twitter at @luxuryfrontiers

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