Wealthy travellers around the world are increasingly drawn to Asian destinations, which have plenty to offer, from new and refreshed hotels to wholesome experiences
Further East, one of the most-watched luxury travel tradeshow in Asia-Pacific, has made one thing very clear when its latest edition was held in Seminyak, Bali in November 2023 – the future of Asia-Pacific’s luxury travel landscape is burning bright.
International luxury travel players who spoke to TTG Asia at the event expressed glowing optimism for 2024. Despite geopolitical uncertainties in 2023, luxury travel players enjoyed a quick business rebound – and as the region is largely regarded as a safe destination, it is expected to continue drawing well-travelled individuals.
Paul Levrier, director of Asia Concierge, said luxury travel had grown fast post-lockdown, and the pace of growth “has taken everybody by surprise”.
Levrier said: “When we set up this company for the (luxury) market, we did not realise how strong the demand (for Asian destinations) would be, despite the region’s reopening lagging far behind North America and Europe. Demand for bespoke, high-end and high-touch (travel to Asia) is stronger than anyone could have predicted two years ago.”
Such strong interest in Asia among wealthy travellers is reflected in the surge in renovations of big name hotels, opined Levrier, who believes that properties are fighting to deliver an even better product.
Several of such refreshed properties had participated in Further East 2023. Amandari in Bali, for example, has updated its hardware with 10 new residences. The Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort and Spa Nusa Dua Bali, recently emerged from a total revitalisation.
Imperial Hotel Tokyo is undergoing guestroom renovations, and will build a new Tower Building to house apartments and condominiums.
Andreas Grosskinsky, Indonesia country director of Asia Concierge, added: “We have seen one-and-a-half years of business for Bali compressed to a single year. Bali has just been a destination that got a lot of good vibes in 2023.”
Grosskinsky shared that the US is a big market for Asia Concierge, and love for Bali has been especially strong.
Official arrivals data supports Grosskinsky’s observation – at press time in December, Australia, India, China, Germany and the US made up the top five source markets for Bali tourism.
However, with more of the world opening up for tourism and Bali’s continued high hotel occupancy rate, Grosskinsky said travel interest for Bali in 2024 could slip. Vietnam and Laos, he said, could be the destinations to watch.
Having delivered yet another successful event, Serge Dive, founder and CEO of This is Beyond, the owner of Further East, expressed confidence that the luxury travel market would grow “bigger and better” in spite of geopolitical pains.
“The market has always been immune towards economic downturns. When the economy is great, (the wealthy) work hard and do not have time for a holiday and do not see their families much. It is only during the difficult years that they can finally take off with their families.”
Casting his projection for Asia, he said: “About 40 per cent of the human population is in Asia and I think 50 per cent of new hotels in the world have been built in Asia. That gives you an indication of growth.”
Dive added that Asia’s brand of sincere hospitality will help to drive up the number of well-heeled travellers “wanting to visit Asia”.
Experiences lead the way
Levrie has seen a shift in the way people approach luxury travel.
“Before, people would want a nice hotel and a nice car, that’s it. Now, it is all about experience, authenticity, and high-touch. This requires industry players to be more creative. It is no longer just the scope of products on offer, but also the quality of service outside of the major tourist areas,” he stated.
Grosskinsky added that hurried itineraries that feature a new destination every two nights are out of the picture. Travellers now want “anchor points” that appeal to them, where they would spend five wholesome nights before moving on.
Hotels are in on the experience game too, and have developed unique programmes to entice luxury travellers to stay on longer.
Aman properties in Indonesia have crafted local experiences that their foreign guests can partake in. At Amanwana in Nusa Tenggara, a whale shark conservation experience is offered with Konservasi Indonesia Foundation. At Amanjiwo in Borobudur, Magelang Regency, traditional archery and fortune-telling the Javanese way are available.
Radit Mahendro, regional director of marketing Indonesia, said Chinese guests at Amanjiwo in Borobudur, Magelang Regency, have turned out to be big fans of cultural discoveries; Chinese travellers were once perceived to be inactive.
Another trend to watch is the rise of family groups. Chandima Wickremasinghe, director of sales and marketing of Taj Hotel Maldives, said such profiles are turning up even in the Maldives, long known as a honeymoon destination.
Joali Maldives, which used to be an adult-only resort, has added a kids club and offers family packages.
Wickremasinghe also noted a growing interest in holistic wellness during vacations. Healthy meals, physical fitness and mental exercises are on travellers’ to-do list.
Sustainability dominated discussions at Further East 2023, especially with regards to the “carbon footprint of travel”, pointed out Dive.
He noted that airlines, hotels and other travel organisations are now taking steps to tackle the issue.
Sunga Watch, an environmental organisation based in Bali, is protecting and restoring rivers all along Java to stem the flow of plastic waste into the ocean.
Gary Bencheghib, co-founder of Sungai Watch, said: “We activate local communities to take part in eradicating plastic waste by using simple technology and cost-effective ways. We make them proud of keeping their rivers clean.”
The organisation also recycles and reuses plastics to make products such as building materials and furniture. It communicates with big companies on cutting the production of single-use plastics and with authorities on supportive policies and regulations.
Potato Head Family, which enforces zero-waste operations in its hospitality business, is working to create sustainability awareness through products, activities, and experiences offered at its facilities.
Ronald Akili, founder and CEO, added that he is also keen to revive environmentally damaged tourism areas, like Kuta.