The Future Of Luxury Travel – Part 1

With the luxury travel market now growing even faster than non-premium travel, HNWIs are investing more than ever in their holiday experience. However, today’s luxuries are tomorrow’s lowest expectations, meaning that brands at the top of the market are having to work harder than ever to capture the attention of the ultra-rich. 

From biometric chips to cosmic adventures, some of the following trends are at the cutting edge of travel technology, while others such as mystery escapes take the idea of a personal travel agent to the next level. All of them push the boundaries of what has been done before. 

As an expert in the science behind the behaviour of the world’s wealthiest, Relevance stays at the forefront of the luxury industry, constantly analysing what the next trends will be. Below are just some of the most important ideas in elite travel – this is part one of our research, with part two soon to come. Let’s dive into five of the biggest UHNW vacation concepts for the next decade; prepare for the future of luxury travel.  

Uncover the future of luxury travel: Next decade trends

Security biometrics

High-net-worth travellers don’t expect to queue for anything, yet up until recently technology hasn’t delivered ways to speed up airport bureaucracy. At the same time, the World Airport Traffic Reports by Airports Council International show that airports continuously experience rising footfall, as travel becomes a bigger part of our day-to-day lives.

Thankfully, Globetrender Magazine reports in its 2020 Travel Trend Forecast that the end of the last decade saw biometrics in travel really take off, with Emirates revealing its time-saving biometric pathway at Dubai airport in 2018. Utilising the latest technology – a mix of facial and iris recognition – Emirates passengers in Dubai can now check-in for flights, complete immigration formalities, enter the Emirates Lounge, and board their flights, simply by strolling through the airport. 

The future of luxury travel will see this adopted by more and more luxury airlines, having already been implemented by Singapore Airlines at Changi Airport. One potential use of facial recognition could be to spot passengers who have missed the last boarding call for their flight and guide them towards their gate, with the idea that in the future travellers won’t need to bring anything but themselves to prove their identity.

Based on research by Conde Nast Traveller, this technology significantly improves the flying experience. For example, British Airways has reported that biometrics allows them to board a plane of 400 passengers in 22 minutes, which is around half the time of the regular boarding process. The facial recognition software also allows passengers to keep their hands free, making it more comfortable to carry baggage, food/drinks and shopping. 

Conscious travelling

This is a trend which has carried over from the last decade, but with more and more of us waking up to the impact of our jet setting, the Travel 2020 report by LuxuryEscapes.com noted that conscious travel is not going anywhere. According to Lux Digital, a Millennial luxury-focused blog, the younger affluent generations are becoming highly ‘conscious of the environmental and social impact of their purchase decisions and are more likely to buy from a brand that resonates with their own personal values’.

In the luxury field, this will mean consumers choosing those brands that offer an eco-friendly product while still providing that 5-Star service. Whether that be a boutique hotel which supports local businesses through the toiletries they supply and the produce they use, or an airline which offers vegan menus, eco-credentials will move from being a background consideration to one of the main priorities. After all, the future of luxury travel directly impacts the future of our planet.  

One example of an eco-friendly travel experience highlighted by luxury lifestyle and food publication Four Magazine is The Brando, a luxury resort located on the French Polynesian private island of Tetiaroa. Relying on renewable energy, the resort is built from a mixture of local, sustainably-certified, renewable and recycled materials. Guests are provided with bikes in order to get around the island, instead of golf carts, promoting a reduction in their carbon footprint.

Resorts like this represent the emerging ‘slow travel’ concept, which is often used as an acronym for ‘sustainable’, ‘local’, ‘organic’, and ‘whole’ and is a response to the fast-paced mass industry. According to Travel Wirenews, slow tourism is a way of  ‘rediscovering oneself with patience, peace of mind, deeper experiences, improved cultural understanding, and knowledge.’

Mystery adventures

Mystery travel is on the up in every level of the industry. In the luxury market, this means the world’s wealthiest are outsourcing their holiday planning, with all details – from their boutique accomodation to the off-the-beaten-track destination – decided by a travel agent who specialises in UHNW adventures. This comes as the world’s elite become busier and busier, with no time to think about their leisure time. Instead, they leave it to the experts, simply having to show up on the day, their assistant having already packed their bags.

One such company pointed to by a Telegraph article on the topic is Wix Squared, which, after staging a consultation to discover what type of holiday the client is seeking, simply ask the client to install their app. This provides packing and take off details, but little else, leaving it all up to surprise – those flying private may only have their destination revealed when they step off the plane. 

A more extreme version of this is The Extraordinary Adventure Club, which organises completely unique sabbaticals of six-month or longer for the ultra-rich, aimed at those who may have just sold a business or retired and are looking for their next big thing. After an initial conversation, the client first attends a three-night Scottish highlands getaway where their physical and mental needs are assessed. Then, they’ll receive an envelope on their desk, containing a kit list and where they need to be –  building the excitement by only providing hints and teasers. The future of luxury travel will see even more businesses like this spring up, as the wealthy embrace long-term, rejuvenating vacations.
Another example of these mystery adventures is the concept of so-called luxury mystery-moons. Listed by the Guardian as an emerging trend in 2015, there are now several firms that build unforgettable surprise honeymoons for couples, with Blind Experiences calling itself the original surprise travel agency. The agency inquires about its clients’ passions, hobbies and past travelling experiences, as well as which continent they’d like to visit, which time of year they want to go, and their budget. Then, in the build-up, they send envelopes containing clues for the couple to decipher together. Centred around their personalities and interests, it takes the pressure out of honeymoon planning by creating a bespoke, unexpected and exciting trip.

Space tourism

Many UHNWs have already travelled the world, seen everything which they desire to, meaning that space is the next frontier. It was widely discussed in the previous decade, but LuxuryEscapes.com noted that the 2020s is the time that this will come alive, making the top of every bucket list. Coming at a serious cost, this is still something that will be reserved for the wealthy – at least for now. 

This is the decade that commercial flights to the edge of space, which is defined as 50 miles high, will become a reality. This is an incredible opportunity to experience something that only astronauts have previously been able to do. Globetrender Magazine points to Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic as one of a few companies looking to do this, and this business is already fully booked for upcoming flights, with tickets reported to be around US$250,000. 

American businessman Robert Bigelow has been working on making space hotels a reality through his project Bigelow Aerospace, which plans to send inflatable space stations into low orbit as a means for space tourism. At the same time, the Aurora Space Station by Orion Span, a startup aerospace company in California, plans to open itself for luxury space travel by 2022. CNN reports that the station will be able to host six people, including two crew members, for 12-day space travel tours. During these tours visitors will orbit the Earth in 90 minutes, meaning that they would encounter 16 sunrises and sunsets in just 24 hours – an incredible feat.

For the first time, travelling beyond planet earth is a real possibility, and UHNWIs aren’t going to pass up this opportunity.

Island exploration

Islands have never gone out of fashion, but Globetrender Magazine reports that as the very real threat of rising sea levels enveloping these beautiful locations intensifies, there is more urgency to visit each one before it tragically disappears. This is why island retreats are becoming even more valuable in the UHNW market, with new resorts seemingly opening each week. For example, the Philippines’ Banwa Private Island opened in Spring last year and charges US$100,000 a night to stay in one of just six villas on the 15-acre resort. This plays to the other reason that islands are popular amongst the world’s wealthiest – privacy.

The dramatic trend in the future of luxury travel has been recorded by holiday rental website HomeAway, which last year saw a 26% increase in renting private islands. The business links this with the wellness trend, which has seen more busy city dwellers seek out relaxing escapes at which they can recharge. Airbnb also introduced its sub-brand Airbnb Luxe a few years back, a platform through which users can rent high-end properties such as castles or private islands. One example of the type of place you can rent is Nukutepipi, a French Polynesian paradise on earth complete with spa, for which a weeks rental starts from €900,000.

The future of luxury travel will face unique challenges, with higher and higher UHNW expectations combining with a need to protect our planet. However, as technology and new ideas bring more opportunities than ever for boutique exploration, the sky is literally the limit.

Want to understand more about the latest and rising trends of your segment of the luxury industry, from supercars to real estate? Get in touch with our team today to get our scientific insight on UHNW behaviours. And don’t forget to tune in for part two next week!