From a desire to reach the wilderness to the need to “steal business back from Google”, luxury travel experts from across the sector gave their predictions for the market in 2019 at WTM London.
Kate Warner, product and PR manager for Black Tomato, told attendees at the “Luxury travel in 2019: how to stay relevant to the affluent traveller” session, moderated by ttgluxury editor April Hutchinson, that clients were now less concerned about the “stamp collecting” style of travel, but more interested in revisiting countries and exploring further.
Warner said a focus on “pulling out the story of actual people in destinations” stemmed in part from travellers’ desire to “go back time and time again to visit different destinations to get to grips with the local population”.
“We are seeing trends towards Europe, but for more undiscovered regions like Georgia and the Caucasus, and Russia post-World Cup,” she said.
“Clients are also revisiting countries they know well, but heading to new regions, such as the north of Iceland.”
She said wilderness travel was a trend, one echoed by Lisa Cooper, director of trade and representation, KBC PR & Marketing, speaking on behalf of British Columbia.
“The difference with luxury is people wanting to do things they never have – people are getting more greedy,” Cooper said. “That picture of a man standing on a mountain – people want to emulate that. They want to go hiking and be in the wilderness.”
Warner and Cooper agreed families were becoming more adventurous too.
“It’s veering away from the kids’ club – people want to get their children into sustainability programmes so they’re getting the best education out of the classroom,” said Warner.
Cooper added: “It’s not so much that we have five- or six-star hotels, it’s about spending a good amount of money on a decent holiday.”
Anna Masing, acting head of food, beverage and hospitality at Stylus, said: “Instead of having a villa for two weeks, people are having a private festival, which makes sure those moments of sharing are deeper.”
Masing added that due to a change in work patterns, such as a growth of the gig economy, travel businesses needed to be prepared for one consumer wanting two different types of “time spaces” – for example, a last-minute getaway one year and a two-month holiday the next.
Cathy Tull, chief marketing officer, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said it was important for brands and destinations to really look at opportunities that are relevant.
"We’re still doing TV commercially, but also getting cuts from that which could be relevant on social media. Having these materials in the right place at the right time is important, as it allows people to imagine themselves there, in that experience," said Tull. "We were involved in a very high profile and successful art project last year too; a really interactive opportunity that was international in scope."
It was a more digital take on the year ahead from Chris Donnelly, founder of Verb Brands, who warned: “Main advertising platforms like Google are stealing away part of the [online booking] journey from brands themselves. Google Hotels – released about six months ago – is not allowing too much relevancy, it’s just [about] money. [The future] is about playing a smart game of relevancy against the OTAs. But it’s still possible to do that well.”