By Jo Gardner
The return of destinations around the world has released the pent-up demand for travel, but what does this mean for the luxury sector? We explore the prospects for high-end holidays.
Exclusive and all-inclusive
All that time spent cooped up at home – or on windy trips in Wales – has resulted in two types of traveller: those that never want to get on a plane again for (Covid aside) respect of the environment.
The other is the itchy feet brigade - those that didn’t buy a Motorhome with their lockdown loot and instead want to tick as much of their bucket list off as they can.
But what does this mean for luxury travel?
“Over the last few weeks we have enjoyed the strongest sales in more than a year for our Indulgent Escape breaks” says CEO of Jet2 and Jet2holidays Steve Heapy.
“People are upgrading their breaks more than ever before, with demand for luxury holidays looking very strong.”
Money is no object here, with ‘exclusive all inclusive’ (everything included down to the tipples, the tips and the day trips) proving to be more than a novel play on words.
Part of the upsurge screams “let’s-throw-caution-to-the-wind-and-spend-our-life-savings.” Here’s how to capitalise on it.
The other door to luxury travel is those clients wishing to experience more than a far-flung beach holiday, with Exodus Travels’ new range of Premium Adventures launched to meet the appetite of holidaymakers wishing to try new things.
At the heart of these small group trips are leaders that have been especially chosen for their local knowledge and expertise to “take guests beyond the guidebook,” adds Seward. Filmmaker Allan Langdalle will take a group to the lively souks of Morocco; wildlife photographer Paul Goldstein will head to the grassy plains of Kenya to track cheetahs, lions and herds of migrating wildebeest. New for this year is a cave stay overlooking the chimneys of Cappadocia, star-gazing from a Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum and a sleep cruise on Halong Bay.
“Holidays that are unique, not accessible for all and that make the trip special/memorable are selling well for us,” adds Director of UK Leisure Sales (South) for Mason Rose Julia Jossa.
“We are seeing an increase in interest for luxury rail travel,” adds Alex Bentley, Head of Product for Audley Travel, with heightened demand for Vietnam’s Vietage train between Danang and Quy Nhon and the new Rocky Mountaineer in the USA.
“As well as providing a great luxury experience, train travel meets clients’ wishes to holiday in a more sustainable way.”
And don’t forget solo travellers, who are enjoying reduced (or scrapped) single supplements. Edwina Coppock, Head of Trade Sales at Titan Travel, says she has witnessed a new wave of intrepid wanderer beginning to dominate the market: the over-50 female traveller.
Fewer trips but bigger spend seems to be the order of the day, according to Mason Rose’s Jossa and Audley’s Bentley, who are witnessing an increase in demand for less frequent, more expensive (and longer) holidays as clients travel less – but splash out more.
“We’re seeing demand for luxury short-haul travel, with experiences, culture and places to stay off the beaten track overtaking trips to The Maldives,” says Derek Jones, Kuoni’s CEO, who has also seen a shift in the honeymoon market, from the traditional long-haul fly and flop to short-haul, high-end multi-centre trips, with a 13% increase in spend.
To meet demand, the company has introduced 12 new hotels in Italy, 31 across the Med, and more in Spain (think Granada, Cordoba, Marbella and Andalucia), as well as Portugal, with Lisbon proving popular.
According to Mason Rose, extended families, including grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunties and nephews/nieces are all wishing to catch up on missed time together.
In response, Exodus has launched a collection of five-star family-friendly hotels with an all-inclusive plus option, offering more choice for larger families with extravagance built in.
Kuoni’s Greece programme is also selling well among families, with more luxury properties added in Rhodes, Crete, Corfu and Halidiki, each offering something different – from spas to on-site veg and herb gardens.
Villas remain popular with extended families who can holiday privately without disturbing other holidaymakers.
Nayara Gardens, the first property of Nayara Resorts in Costa Rica, offers seven newly-refurbished villas, each with private plunge pool and balcony overlooking the rainforest.
Jet2holidays has seen a rise in the number of younger customers looking to splurge on an Indugent Escapes holiday, spurred by beautiful images seen on Instagram.
“We have taken advantage of this trend by sourcing and adding design-led hotels in destinations such as Greece and the Balearic Islands,” says Seward.
Hotels featuring swim-up rooms, private pools, exclusive bars, Michelin-star dining and rooftop pools make for something truly memorable.
Advice for agents
Tapping into the new luxury is, it seems, all about remembering what customers have been missing – so paint them a picture, show them that more expensive trip and inspire them to book the holiday of a lifetime.
Seward suggests upgrading as a way of clawing back some much-needed agent commission. Their Indulgent Escapes packages now come with 25kg baggage allowance, private transfers, priority lane security and a luxury gift. Tot it all up in front of them and demonstrate the added value.
“Our specialists know the best guides, the finest hotels and the most exclusive activities so can lead agents to experiences that can’t be found in a guidebook,” adds Bentley.
“What about a Caravaggio-inspired painting class in Rome or a private chef and sommelier in your residence in Buenos Aires? Agents can also arrange different types of accommodation to give the wow factor – instead of booking every night in a luxury hotel, consider a penthouse apartment, a private villa with a butler or exclusive hire of a safari property,” he adds.
Book it with...
Exodus Travels offers a 10- day Amazon Rainforest Cruise, from £6,699pp including flights, five-star accommodation on board the M/V Zafiro, transfers, most meals, activities, tour leaders and specialist guides.