A regional survey by Marriott International has coined a term to describe a new generation of travellers set to disrupt the industry over the next few years – Native Explorers.
It recognises a tribe of affluent millennial and Gen Z travellers in Asia-Pacific who are bucking the trend by traveling in reverse order to generations before them.
The survey across Australia, China, Japan, India, Singapore, and South Korea was commissioned to better understand the attitudes of affluent millennial and Gen Z travellers and help luxury brands meet their evolving aspirations.
While their predecessors may be saving up for more costly longhaul travel later in life, Native Explorers are already well-travelled at a younger age, with one in four notching up no less than two continents outside of Asia-Pacific by the time they hit 26.
Despite having the means, Native Explorers claim they will be spending their travel dollars closer to home for at least the next two years, as 85% believe that they have yet to fully discover all the region has to offer.
With their sights firmly set on holidays closer to home, Native Explorers rank Japan (52%), South Korea (42%), and New Zealand (39%) as their top three travel destinations. They are also seeking out the new in familiar hotspots such as Australia (39%) and Thailand (32%) through a culture-centric lens.
Although one in four Native Explorers would prefer to beat the jet lag and pick nearby, fuss-free holidays, their sense of adventure shouldn’t be underestimated: 43% look for nature escapes and wellness experiences and 36% are looking for hidden cultural gems they have yet to discover.
“Globally, we’re seeing an undeniable shift among travellers towards more meaningful, one-of-a-kind experiences in both new and familiar destinations. This is particularly evident in Asia-Pacific from our findings on Gen Z and millennials’ travel patterns and behaviours,” noted Bart Buiring, chief sales & marketing officer, Marriott International Asia-Pacific
Luxury defined by authentic connections and experience, with craft still key
Native Explorers are redefining what luxury travel means – from elusive and exclusive to meaningful connection and experiences. As they transition towards understated and authentic holidays, one in three respondents (37%) called out human connection, genuine hospitality, and being part of a community as critical components of luxury travel.
Majority (58%) believe once-in-a-lifetime experiences and pinch-me moments are what make the luxury travel experience. Top picks include VIP access to sold-out concerts of their favourite artists (52%) and exclusive culinary workshops with celebrity chefs (36%).
Craftsmanship remains crucial to luxury travel, with over 50% believe service excellence and state-of-the-art facilities are key tenets. Personalisation remains a key deciding factor in choosing a luxury hotel, with 32% expecting bespoke services such as a dedicated travel advisor, and 32% preferring to stay with hotels that offer tailored itineraries and customised amenities.
Explore destinations through luxury hotel comforts
Caught between their desires to discover and luxuriate, nine in 10 respondents prefer to explore the destination with assistance from their luxury hotel, rather than research and hire a local guide of their own. Almost half (45%) prefer to sample local cuisine through the property’s gourmet dining, 39% want to experience the local culture through the hotel’s curated programming, and 34% are keen to try local wellness rituals available at the hotel spa.
Native Explorers’ thirst for cultural discovery extends to their accommodation choices, with a majority (76%) of respondents opting for hotels and resorts with destination-inspired concepts. Brand affinity remains key for Native Explorers with approximately one in three opting for destination-inspired abodes under an established luxury brand.
To meet these reimagined travel desires, Marriott International has plans to take its portfolio of eight luxury brands to the region’s most popular travel spots such as Sydney and Bangkok and emerging destinations like Fukuoka, Japan and Jiuzhaigou, China.
“With young affluent travellers in Asia-Pacific gravitating towards under-the-radar holidays and culturally-rich itineraries, we’re expanding our luxury portfolio in the region’s most sought-after destinations like Nara, Sydney and Jiuzhaigou in China with a target of opening 12 properties in 2023 alone,” said Buiring.