Luxury travellers, driven by a strong appetite to explore, serve as the catalyst for travel recovery across Asia and the globe
The eagerness and confidence to traverse the globe among luxury travellers is palpable, as many have moved away from material extravagance to seeking more emotional fulfilment through the creation of cherished memories with loved ones through quality travel time.
Mark Wong, senior vice president, Asia Pacific, Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), told TTG Asia at the recent ILTM Asia Pacific 2023 that the appetite for travel among the region’s luxury travellers is “voracious”. This is reflected in the group’s average daily rate (ADR) performance – while worldwide ADR has climbed 35 per cent against 2019, that figure in Asia-Pacific is 71 per cent.
Reflecting on the altered approach to travel, Michelle L Woodley, president, Preferred Hotels & Resorts, said: “The world has changed significantly in recent years, and the importance we now attach to our well-being and the well-being of our families is reflected in our travel decisions. Leisure breaks are no longer about pure escapism or a time to switch off, but rather, an opportunity for travellers to reconnect with loved ones, culture, and themselves.”
Booking behaviours are also reflecting a greater demand from luxury travellers for more meaningful, community-led experiences and wellness-centric programming, she added.
Additionally, Preferred has noticed an increase in length of stay – now up to 4.5 nights instead of three – which Woodley said has “positively impacted its Asia-Pacific properties in India, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan”.
This desire for reconnecting with the outdoors and quest for quality travel experiences have also been noticed by Wong, who shared that luxury travellers are “pursuing restorative and recuperative benefits more than ever, and searching for a greater connection to themselves, their families and the world around them, leading to a rise in multi-generational holidays”.
That is why SLH’s portfolio of private islands like Raiwasa Private Island in Fiji; the remote Wa Ale Resort which boasts barefoot luxury and a stellar sustainability programme; and Chalets at Blackheath, tucked away in Australia’s UNESCO-listed Blue Mountains among one million hectares of national parkland, have risen in popularity.
Similarly, Paul Jeffels, luxury travel consultant of Thailand-based 360 Private Travel – who handles the Singaporean and Hong Kong luxury outbound market – noticed that reconnecting with family all over the world and combining that with a multi-generational side trip is currently a “huge market”.
There has also been a marked shift back towards the reliance on travel agents.
“Time wasted doing nothing during the pandemic has made luxury travellers focused on maximising enjoying and reducing hassle, which is why our guests are going back to travel agents to plan their itinerary. SLH’s voice reservations division has seen a two-fold increase in calls,” Wong said.
Linda Law, general manager Hong Kong, 360 Private Travel, agreed: “Our clients in Asia are all eager to travel, are now willing – more than ever – to work with a professional travel advisor. Many of them are also open to trying out different (destinations or itineraries) as advised by us.”
As to countries luxury travellers are gravitating towards this year, travel agents provided a mixed bag of responses.
For Elgin Xiao, private designer with Singapore-based Intriq Journey, exotic Egypt has “picked up very fast this year”, while stalwarts Japan and Italy remain favourites.
Law’s Asia-Pacific clients are also opting for Japan and Italy, along with other European destinations like Switzerland, France, and Spain. This observation reflects Heaven’s Portfolio’s summer bookings, with Italy, France, Switzerland, and the UK looking strong, noted Christine Galle-Luczak, founder and managing director of the company, which represents various properties in sales and marketing.
Meanwhile, Jeffels’ Singaporean clients are opting for adventurous destinations like South America, while those from Hong Kong prefer “familiar” options like Japan and Thailand – specifically Phuket and Bangkok.
As for SLH, the group sees Croatia, Norway and Morocco entering its 2023 top destinations list, alongside the top three perennially favourites Italy, Japan, and the Maldives.
This shift towards less popular destinations could be attributed to luxury travellers eagerly wanting to check items off their bucket list.
Preferred’s customers are planning and booking aspirational or bucket list trips to destinations or destination hotels that focus on exclusivity, insider knowledge, and personalised itineraries.
Galle-Luczak is also seeing the younger affluents (ages 18-34) prioritising bucket list adventures, with 30 per cent having done so in the past year. The pandemic has “emboldened the philosophy of ‘you only live once’, so many affluents are moving their bucket list items forward”, she reasoned.