What luxury buyers are watching out for in 2018

The speed of change in the luxury travel market takes the breath away. ILTM buyers and ILTM Collection’s director Alison Gilmore describe its impact to Raini Hamdi and give their take on the what to watch for in 2018

 

Amit Kalsi, founder & CEO, Experiential Travel Journeys, India

1. Describe 2017 in three words
Unpredictable, adaptive, evolving

2. How does this impact you?
The world has become unpredictable. When I say this I am referring to unexpected natural or man-made incidents, which continued to dominate the travel landscape in 2017 (natural calamities, acts of terror, political tensions, etc). This has led to a growing need of adaptive approach in our handling, planning and forecasting strategies (destinations, trips, experiences) for our discerning clients.

Such incidents are sure deterrents and can have short or longterm affects. We need to work around them or offer alternatives, and bounce back when the situation improves, and this can happen with a continuous source of reliable information on destinations we promote and sell and with help/support of our DMC and hotel partners.

The world of travel is also changing rapidly with new entrants in luxury travel, for which we need to adapt our strategies and offerings: Examples, luxury home stays, luxury villa rentals, Uber and the likes, hotel concierge revamped teams becoming effective DMCs, credit card concierges, rise of travel networks and communities, etc.

3. What’s the most outlandish piece of business you had in 2017?
Discerning clients in India are exploring the world, from established destinations to remote corners. This is very satisfying to me as a travel designer since this authenticates the fact that the Indian outbound market is maturing, tourists are becoming travellers, they are travelling deeper, they are exploring destinations and discovering experiences outside their comfort zones. They are moving away from being typecasts and willing to discover what can be achieved in complete safety, reliability and accessibility.

I have not yet come across a request which cannot be executed, or something which is outlandish enough to be mentioned.

4. What’s the biggest lesson for you about luxury travel in 2017?
The biggest lesson is that luxury travel is always evolving, always redefining itself, never settled or stagnant in its appeal or reach.

With new products, new destinations, news ways of explorations and discoveries, it’s all new every year. I have been selling luxury travel for many years, but with every client, destination, product and experience, I get a new perspective on the market. This excites me to a great extent. Authenticity, uniqueness, time and space, attention to detail, experiences, privacy, flexibility have all become synonyms to luxury travel.

5. Your assessment of business in 2018?
Business will continue to grow. But we need to keep a close watch on global and travel industry developments, and continue to alter/amend our offerings strategically. Discerning luxury clients are more sensitive to destination news and developments, as compared to mass-market package tourists.

Clients will continue to travel, but we need to feed them with inspirations, alternatives and newer experiences. Fortunately as outbound travel designers we can do this, but it’s surely a challenge for inbound operators who face deeper challenges in case their destination gets affected.

I am also very positive due to new investments, new openings in remote locations which were earlier deprived of, to name a few: Bisate Lodge, and One & Only (2018) in Rwanda; Miavana in Madagascar, Jabali Ridge in Ruaha National Park Tanzania; Wild Coast Lodge Yala in Sri Lanka, Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana in Cuba, and a long list of new openings listed in 2017 and beyond. Such developments give us growing options to offer inspirations and revive growth to destinations.

6. What are the pros and cons of ILTM having three Asian offshoots, Japan, Asia-Pacific and China?
Moving to Singapore will offer a more Asia-wide perspective among exhibitors and I think a wider Asian buyer database. Singapore as a venue is also more neutral, accessible and have fewer hurdles (cannot survive without VPN override).

ILTM China can focus more on China (worldwide exhibitors seeking best of Chinese luxury travel buyers), since in terms of numbers, China surely surpasses all other markets including India, and hence demands a luxury show of its own.

The biggest lesson is that luxury travel is always evolving, always redefining itself, never settled or stagnant in its appeal or reach.

 

Eldi Lau, head of sales – travel, Quintessentially Travel Group, Hong Kong

1. Describe 2017 in three words
Transformational, celebratory, personal

2. Kindly elaborate why
TTransformational 2016 was the year of experiential travel which saw vacationers looking for ways to tap into native cultures, meaningfully interacting with locals and becoming more than ‘just a tourist’. This year, transformational travel has emerged as a key motivator, building on the idea of experiential travel but with vacationers seeking experiences that are motivated and defined by a shift in perspective, self-reflection and development, as well as a deeper connection with nature and culture.

Celebratory Whether a 60th birthday celebration in Marrakech (complete with exclusive use of Villa Des Orangers, a desert camp dinner, snake charmers and fire eaters), an eight-week trip following the sale of a business, or even reliving a honeymoon 30 years later, more clients are marking special occasions or lifetime milestones by experiencing new or much-loved destinations with family and friends.

Personal Travel has never been more personal; it empowers travellers to achieve what they want during their trip. Discerning travellers are now seeking trips that are tailored to their interests and abilities, and are venturing all over the globe to find them. What might be ordinary for one client, may be extraordinary to another, so by understanding our clients’ likes, dislikes, and how to anticipate their needs allows us to make their journeys special and unique to them.

3. What’s the most outlandish piece of business you had in 2017?
To celebrate a joint 50th birthday, one of our clients wanted to travel the world by the alphabet. Abu Dhabi, Brazil and Chile have been completed so far (at press time), and family and friends will be joining the couple in various destinations over the next 12 months.

4. What’s the biggest lesson for you about luxury travel in 2017?
Luxury is such a broad term, and means different things to different people. But across all its definitions, the moments people treasure tend to be those unexpected personal touches or rare experiences that hold emotional value. Luxury is becoming redefined, with its focus being on the creation of unforgettable memories over just property aesthetics.

5. What is your assessment of business in 2018?
Leisure travel will be motivated more by the need for rest and relaxation, spending time or reconnecting with loved ones, exploring new destinations and seeking authentic experiences.

Business and incentive travel will become more popular than ever, with more companies creating travel experiences to reward staff and loyal customers to increase their return on investment.

Geopolitical issues (threat of terrorism, Brexit, etc) will impact travel decisions.

‘Last-chance tourism’ will rise, due to those destinations that are rapidly changing or even disappearing (Cuba, the Arctic, Lanai, Venice). This sense of urgency may also encourage more conscientious travel, so sustainable tourism and eco-friendly travel choices may become more popular.

Demand for international trips will increase both in popularity and length of travel.
Upscale trips will thrive and sell out earlier than in previous years.

More requests for business and first-class travel, as well as non-stop flights.

6. What are the pros and cons of ILTM having three Asian offshoots, Japan, Asia-Pacific and China?
Pro: ILTM becomes more specific and dedicated as an event, which is great for opening up new business opportunities as more international sellers will want to participate.

Con: Some sellers might only be able to join one event due to a limited budget.

To celebrate a joint 50th birthday, one of our clients wanted to travel the world by the alphabet. Abu Dhabi, Brazil and Chile have been completed so far (at press time), and family and friends will be joining the couple in various destinations over the next 12 months.

 

L.Hammond, independent incentive travel consultant, Singapore

1. Describe 2017 in three words
Connected, redefined, simplified

2. Kindly elaborate why
In this digital age, travel planning and customer interactions need to be available on a mobile basis, anytime, anywhere, as speed of response, immediacy is crucial for staying ahead.

Redefined in terms of what it means today to be luxury by the totality of rich exclusive experiences and how these experiences need to be redefined and personalised. Luxury does not mean one thing to everyone.

Simplified in that luxury travel is going back to the core values of simple luxury living, i.e. eating simple clean, farm-to-table food, nothing overdone. Just good in
its core.

3. What’s the most outlandish piece of business you had in 2017?
Sorry, nothing outlandish…

4. What’s the biggest lesson for you about luxury travel in 2017?
Personalisation

5. What is your assessment of business in 2018?
Pros: More travel opportunities for consumers than ever before; including more creative offers from luxury hotels.

Cons: Diluted definition of luxury, safety of travel in terms of terrorism.

6. What are the pros and cons of ILTM having three Asian offshoots, Japan, Asia-Pacific and China?
Pro: The biggest advantage of the multiple shows is the opportunity to deep dive into the opportunities of that culture, giving focus for planners and suppliers to more effectively explore possibilities for that region.

Con: More time away for travel planners and suppliers.

 

Alison Gilmore, director, ILTM Collection, based in London

1. How is the luxury market evolving and what’s the impact on providers?
Since the birth of ILTM 16 years ago, we have seen customers grow more demanding and standards becoming higher and higher. Even outside the luxury sector, consumers are looking for added value in whatever form it takes. Brands are having to evolve, think smarter and anticipate future consumer demand. We live ‘virtual’ lives where we all think our next travel goal is to reach Everest Base Camp or to float in a hot air balloon over the Nullarbor Desert because that is what we have seen in incredible Instagram posts or YouTube videos. Our expectations are high, and not only travel suppliers but travel advisors know that they not only have to meet these expectations but exceed them.

The fact that the industry has anticipated this demand is the reason that luxury travel is continuing to grow and grow – we are groundbreakers, instigators and as long as we continue to raise the travel experience bar higher and higher, our industry will continue to evolve.

2. Will ‘luxury’ travel become more mainstream?
We actually believe the upper end of mainstream will become more luxury.

3. Will there be a lot more luxury travel agencies as a result?
We are now in a world where everyone has the potential to be a luxury travel planner but relationships will still be key.

Trust is still the word we hear most often so, as the world of luxury consumer travel is diversifying, so is the world of luxury travel agencies, inbound and outbound.

4. What is your take on luxury travel in Asia-Pacific for 2018 and beyond?It is clear that travellers from each sub-region and country have their own preferences and unique demands when they travel. This is the thinking behind launching an event targeted at the Chinese HNW traveller (ILTM China, Shanghai (October 31 to November 2, 2018) as well as relocating ILTM Asia to Singapore (May 21-24, 2018, see Gasp!) to widen the reach of this event.

The recent earthquake in Mexico City just a week before ILTM Americas came at a time where it was right to bring the world of travel not only together but to Mexico: the event was defined by a strong feeling that more travel not less is vital to transforming the world we live in.

We actually believe the upper end of mainstream will become more luxury.

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