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It's All About Exclusivity And Experience Quotient

From designing pop-up experiences in private locations to fitness tours to culinary voyages— here’s a look at the big trends reshaping luxury travel

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Peter Good, from Johannesburg’s Mootee Bar, will all of September serve rum-based blends — an exclusive cocktail masterclass with food pairings — in the backdrop of spectacular sunsets at the One&Only Le Saint Géran in Mauritius. Taking up residency at La Pointe, the chic feet-in-the-sand bar located on the edge of the resort’s private peninsula, Good will offer tourists a real uber luxury dining experience on the Indian Ocean.  

In India the luxury traveller has many unique options too. Cox & Kings, for instance, offers the Deccan Odyssey,  a journey to destinations that showcases India’s history as well as scenic and diverse landscapes on a luxury train,  across mountains, deserts and the wild. On the itinerary are magnificent trips christened Maharashtra Splendor, Maharashtra Wild Trail and the Hidden Treasures of Gujarat. 

Marco Groten, GM, Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali, reiterates a trend of always seeking “unique and surprisingly different experiences” like “some unforgettable moments on limestone cliffs a hundred metres above the Indian Ocean, with views of picture-perfect aquamarine ocean vistas and glorious golden sunsets.” Alila Villas Uluwatu offers bespoke experiences on wellness, arts and crafts and eco-friendly excursions. 

The luxury travel industry is changing in more ways than one, with a new generation of millennial travellers looking for experiences. On demand are exotic bespoke experiences inspired by exotic destinations. 

Rajeev Nangia, India Director, Monaco Government Tourist Bureau, expounds: “Exclusivity and experience quotient are going to be the driving force in the future,” he says. “Luxury could be to fulfil an unmatched desire or an experience encompassing surprise, customisation and personalisation,” says Nangia, “leaving an impeccable impression.” Essentially, the luxury traveller seeks exclusive holidays that focus on self-goals. 

Says Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, Bird Group, “Wellness itineraries, bucket list adventure activities, private jets to ferry between islands will be what the uber-rich will continue to spend on, in a big way.” 

Rajeev Kohli, Joint Managing Director, Signature Tours by Creative Travel, believes that Indians are now travelling at a much younger age, as India evolves from a ‘saving nation’ to a ‘splurging nation’ (YOLO). “People from Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns have the money to splurge and are more aspirational to try out exotic and engaging locales,” he says. Sandeep Dwivedi, Chief Operating Officer, InterGlobe Technology Quotient, corroborates the trend. India’s booming upper middle class, he says, was exploring luxury travel. “The travel industry has been gearing up with a set of fresh trends in this opulent category of travel like glamping (camping with resort-style amenities) to experience an essential blend of nature in the lap of  luxury,” says Dwivedi.

Here is a list of some consumer experience trends that will define luxury travel in 2019:

Exceptionally exclusive: According to Hassan Madah, Director, Israel Ministry of Tourism – India & the Philippines, people want exclusive experiences away from the crowds – like a personalised pop-up holiday in the rarest of places undiscovered by others. “An experience at the Ramon Crater in Israel’s Negev Desert is fast becoming a tourist experience – hiking or rappelling adventure – or even sleeping outside the crater overnight in a tent is a treat,” he says. The Africa Experience in association with Explorer Travel India, promotes the boutique camp, Koro River Camp and Koro Island Camp organised in remote Central Tuli Block, in Botswana. “These tailor-made luxury tented safari experiences offer complete exclusivity and privacy, with a completely different perspective on nature,” says Payal Satish, Managing Partner, Explorer Travel India.  

Going local: Travellers find luxury in local experiences and expanding social impact experiences.  Airbnb offers over 12,000 experiences across more than 180 cities around the world with bookings from over 73 different countries. Says Chris Lehane, Head of Airbnb Global Public Policy & Communications, “Experiences make travel magical again by immersing guests in local communities around the world offering unique engagement led by local experts.”

A leading trend in tracing food history and culture is the new format of social tables planned annually by Tanushree Bhowmik under the banner of ‘ForkTales’. It has helped her curate food pop-ups by sharing myths, legends and food lore from the sub-continent, bringing strangers together over food at destinations like Jorhat in Assam or even Bengaluru. “Such dinners are not about food but a curated journey characterised by story-telling – history, mythology and lore related to them,” she explains.

Kapil Sekhri, Director, Fratelli Wines, hosts vineyard trails in Akluj, Solapur, Maharashtra offering various packages from day visits to renting a vineyard. He feels more youngsters are opting for wines as their choice of beverage. “They are inquisitive to know about the beverage and travel to vineyards to learn about it. Sparkling wines is the fastest growing in this category,” says Sekhri.

Jet set holidays: Private yacht holidays are catching up fast, like a luxury cruise on a river or even the ocean, in an all-inclusive package with great dining options and a private butler. “Once considered the precincts of celebrities, sailing holidays are a big draw for Indian travellers. By way of a digital detox while onboard, you don’t need to own an expensive yacht and pay for its maintenance, just get one from a charter company and they will take care of the rest,” says Bhatia. On the same theme, Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas has launched a private jet experience in partnership with MJets, for an incredible voyage around the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Emirates has recently unveiled a multi-million dollar upgrade of its Boeing 777 aircraft including its highly anticipated new First Class private suites – sleek design features inspired by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. “India is rising as a huge luxury travel market. According to a market study, as many as 44 per cent travellers from India increased their travel spends in 2016,” informs Essa Sulaiman Ahmad, VP, India & Nepal, Emirates Airlines.   

Karan Anand, Head Relationships, Cox & Kings,  considers cruise trains a new era of comfortable luxury rail journeys. “The trend of relaxing rail journeys has been growing wherein the vintage carriages are the most beautiful on the rails, food and service is superb and it gives you a lifetime experience as you watch the changing countryside roll by,” says he.

Sunil Gupta, MD & CEO, Avis India says booking trends point to a rise in demand for luxury cars too.  “Chauffeur-driven service with an increase in the booking numbers for luxury cars, made us introduce high-end cars in our fleet, with the likes of Maybach S-350 and Maybach S-500,” he says. 

Techno-friendly nomads: Connectivity and tech-enriched services have become mandatory for luxury travellers as they need every bit of information on their fingertips. “Social elites seek access to people and places that can elevate their social status on the social media channels. Many travel companies and hospitality specialists are looking to make the most of this opportunity,” says Dwivedi. Many travel specialists, he says, have already engaged with AI and chat bots to deliver the service to their customers. “Boutique properties with many Instagram-worthy spots and DIY experiences are making their way to luxury itineraries,” corroborates Bhatia. “In fact, social media and Instagram in particular, have fuelled the growth of the luxury travel market, globally growing at a CAGR of six per cent,” he says. 

Concept of breaks: A break up with a beau calls for an extravagant massage at Spa Metropole by Givenchy for ultimate rejuvenation, or shopping at the Monte-Carlo Pavilions at the Golden Circle and Place du Casino, or watching the evening set in, sipping coffee at Café de Paris in Monaco! Wellness breaks or divorce breaks are tapping into the transformative power of travel to help people ride over difficult times. Kohli says honeymoon and celebration holidays like babymoon are turning popular among young Indian couples. Women incidentally, can travel upto the 24th week of pregnancy.

Fitness fad: “Staying fit in the digital world is no longer an option, it’s a matter of life and death. More people are opting for adventure and fitness travel as it is a good source of rejuvenation and health,” says Jonathan Walter, Founder of Flying Fox, which offers a unique combination of zip line and trekking tours in Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttarakhand and even Africa.  Adventure tour expeditions in the Antarctica, skiing in Austria, driving on frozen lakes in the Russian winter, sky diving etc., will always be popular. But this year, you may if you wish, pedal across cobblestone villages with celebrity Milind Soman in a curated journey by The Q Experiences. 

Skill trails: Acquiring a new skill at a destination you visit from the world’s best mentors is the latest craze. Says Anand, “From diving lessons in the Maldives or Gilli islands under diving experts, learning to make local delicacies from experienced chefs while on a culinary tour, the upmarket travellers are ‘going too far to learn’ in its true sense”. Designer Geetika Agrawal created Vacation With An Artist – a creative journey, where seasoned travellers learn a new skill from an artist. From 3 October 2018 to 14 January 2019 Mandarin Oriental, Paris offers luxury accommodation with VIP access to theBasquiat & Schiele, Art at Fondation Louis Vuitton, an exhibition of  two revolutionary artists. Airbnb offers an experience to Vintage Viewfinders where guests get a tour of a professional photographer’s museum, unravelling stories of the most iconic cameras.  

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