“Oh! How I miss the beach. But no, the Balinese vacation happened last year. Let’s explore a different place this time. How about a historical destination like Angkor Wat or Venice?”
These were the kind of conversations that people used to have while deciding their vacation plans until December last year. While the pandemic global lockdown changed plans for everyone for 2020, 2021 planning has taken a very different twist altogether.It’s no longer about deciding between Bali orPhuket for a beach destination versus Angkor Wat for some historical explorations, the criteria for most travellers planning vacations now is if it’s safe and are countries open for travel. If yes, count us in!
The first predictions of future luxury travel trends by the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) shows a distinct change in character for travel planning among enthusiasts. It hosted influential private travel designers and retail travel agencies from around the world to gauge views and establish how the world of luxury travel will work for the rest of 2020 and beyond.
Taking the road less travelled
The demand for staycations and domestic travel seems to be more as compared to long hauls and international travel. International travel being dependent on host countries is still a riskier proposition than travelling domestically where the certainty of travel policy is much higher.
Luxury travellers are setting new trends and gathering more information on luxury automobile travel as their preferred choice for their first holiday post lockdown. This leads us to believe that the latest trend calls for more domestic luxury travel in the early stages of the return of leisure trips.
There is a crucial shift in behaviour which includes almost 73% of travellers planning to stick closer to home. The need to not take unnecessary health risks is of paramount importance for high-end travellers wanting to spend their first leisure time with family. More and more people have already booked family travels where some occasions for travelling include visiting relatives and family celebrations.
Britney Magner of Royal Travel and Tours in the US said, “As the luxury travel market rebuilds outside the US, many of my clients are flying domestically, but also driving to explore our own country in the most affluent way.”
Not rubbing elbow with strangers
There has been a paradigm shift in the mindset of travellers. More and more people are actively seeking out less crowded trips. They have become mindful while searching for utmost privacy and calm. Private Villas as against hotels and resorts, private jets as opposed to commercial business class are slowly becoming their preferred choice.
“The first trips will be closer to home as families start to come together again, and the research also showed a huge preference for private villas. The use of private jets is also high up on preference as it can be taken at short notice and allows for group travel within family and friends,” said Alison Gilmore, ILTM Portfolio Director.
And Andrew Steinberg of Ovation Travel also in the US added, “Most high-end clients are looking for villa product as it provides a clean, private controlled environment.”
What is your happy place?
There seems to be a cross-section of choices for international travel with Greece, Italy, Maldives, Caribbean, and Europe being on top of the list.
When asked what people would ideally prefer for their next leisure trips, respondents were quick to choose beach escapes, family travel, private villas, road trips, cruises and unique experiences. At the same time, over 20% showed preferences to focus on sustainability, and conscious travel with health and wellness related travel itineraries also featuring as a first choice.
Debra Levinson, CEO, Handpicked Italy, US said, “We have seen positive changes over the last few months and we believe our clients will now travel more mindfully with appreciation and consideration to others and their culture.”
Ready to re-bound
A survey over 1000 international personal travel agents from Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, Latin America, Middle East, Russia and Africa showed that 64% have handled client bookings during lockdown, 52% of their clients are set to travel within the next 3 months while over 50% believe the luxury travel industry will rebound within a year.
Melissa Rotson of Colletts Travel, UK said, “In the last 10 days, business has really started to grow again – clients are wanting to make fast decisions and are choosing familiar resorts and destinations although flexibility is of course key.”
Some positive changes have come from the lockdown with agents saying the time allowed them to “re-structure businesses and adapt to the changes in the travel industry and their customers”. Others said they benefited from the opportunities to learn from the many webinars and online conferences, whilst the time was also spent “strengthening client relationships, with time to touch base and just chat”.
As the industry prepares for future travels, they are re-tooling themselves, keeping safety and hygiene as paramount. For those who are looking to plan their trips soon, your travel consultants might just have a surprise waiting for you. ◼