Against the exotic green backdrop of The Conduit Club, an esteemed panel of guests debated the future trends of luxury travel. Chaired by Fox Communications, attendees were told that luxury travel is expected to be worth more than $2.5 trillion by 2025 and remains a continually growing industry.
The evening kicked off with Globetrender presenting a selection of predicted trends for luxury travel in 2020, including ‘immortality retreats’, ephemeral hotels, enlightenment journeys, ‘paid for peril’ experiences and space tourism (unsurprising following Virgin Galatic’s recent announcement that it will begin flights this year). Radical sabbaticals for the super-rich are also increasing and involve individuals taking months off from work, typically motivated by stress, burn out, to celebrate the sale of a company, to learn something new or to help with conservation efforts.
Another predicted trend for 2020 is ‘psycho personalisation’, which is where precise and detailed profiles of people are collected around their mental state and what makes them emotionally connect to things/experiences; rather than what they simply like to eat and drink. An example was given of screens on aeroplanes that recognise nervous flyers and show them relaxing entertainment.
Verb Brands presented on marketing trends, noting that Instagram continues to be a big channel for advertising. The agency did, however, highlight that it will become harder for brands to reach more individuals through Instagram as it increases the number of paid for adverts. Verb Brands also noted that luxury brands should be mindful of how they appear on Google’s purchase functionality, so as to maintain their brand power and luxury feel, and should be wary of allowing people to book directly through Google (as this takes the purchase off a company’s own website). Luxury travel adverts should be treated as a science rather than just creative storytelling; for example, brands should analyse and segment their target audiences and identify what data sets they have. Adverts should be unique, authentic and not following cliché trends.
The panel then debated what ‘luxury travel’ means to them. Responses centred around the theme of experience quality, rather than quantity, with luxury “no longer [being] just staying in a posh hotel or eating in a Michelin star restaurant”. Luxury travel is, instead, a more thoughtful and personal experience, full of amazing and unique moments. Today’s luxury travellers want a mental and physical challenge, full of distractions, so they have no time to think about work.
When looking at airlines, the panel noted that they are traditionally conservative and take a long time to implement new designs. Therefore, whilst there is a general trend in airlines moving towards better quality seating, more privacy and more space, this will take time to implement. The focus is on improving business class experience, as demand for first class is diminishing. The aspiration is for airline seats to operate as living rooms, dining rooms and beds. Airlines are also looking at potential spare capacity, such as using spare cargo areas as a cinema. Lower cost airlines are now flying further, which presents new challenges, and brands will need to change their planes for these longer journeys.
The evening’s conversation then turned to sustainability, which remains a global concern and which is predicted to continue to dominate the industry. The panel noted that sustainability efforts are being pioneered by hotels, with unsustainable options steadily becoming limited for ultra-high net worth individuals. The panellists remained hopeful that once the luxury sector shows that sustainable travel is popular, this will filter down to mass market travel.