The 2007 International Luxury Travel Market event shows the course of power trends that will define tomorrow's temptations in travel.
The annual International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes, France is an event that is one of a kind in the world. With an increasingly refined participant list, it continues to bring together the major movers and the best in the sector, revealing tomorrow's trends.
How to fly, where to stay, what to do and where to go – the answers to these questions reflect the demands of today's luxury traveler. The International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes, France, an exclusive fair that unites the industry's best, produces a market report detailing the scope of these demands. Luxury travel, growing at 10-20% per year, accounts for 3% of tourist arrivals worldwide but 25% of spending abroad, according to the World Tourism Organization and ILTM findings. A market unto itself, not greatly affected by shifts in the economy but certainly reflecting its excesses - what are the priorities of luxury travel today?
The rich are getting richer, of course, but they are also getting younger and of increasingly self-made means; the average billionaire is two years younger than the previous year, and 60% of all billionaires are of self-made wealth, quotes the ILTM report. These changes in wealth's profile augur changes in lifestyle, behavior, and in diverse definitions of luxury.
Luxury travel is indeed about comfort, but with a conscience. "Conspicuous Consumption" is evolving toward "Conscience Consumption" as travelers seek an interested approach to travel. This may be a learning vacation, such as a destination cooking course, volunteering or "voluntourism" in underdeveloped regions, or staying in resorts that are managed with an effort toward engaging the local communities and adopting a responsible attitude toward the environment. Soneva (http://www.sixsenses.com/soneva-fushi/index.php), a Six Senses resort also in the Maldives, claims the phrase "Intelligent Luxury." Unlike in the 1960s, however, travelers are not obliged to suffer in order to participate - comfort must not be sacrificed and, moreover, neither must style. Elegance and sophistication can exist alongside enriching, authentic travel - as can indulgence along with spiritual wellbeing and simplicity.
And this is not just a trend within the mature market of travelers from Europe and America, who have traditionally defined luxury. The term "nouveau riche" is increasingly outmoded, as Russia's young self-made tycoons are catching up with Germany's ageing heirs in net worth, says Forbes, and are luxury consumers who learn quickly and develop tastes that can be more demanding of the discrete luxury experience than those travelers of inherited wealth. The high net worth individuals of the world, as worldwide wayfarers, want, above all, their own way of proceeding.
Flexibility and personalization – for singles and for families - are paramount. A private chef, for example, may be asked to cook exquisite cuisine one night and something ordinary for the children the next. Clients want freedom of choice, and if they enlist a travel agent to help guide these choices, that agent may end up serving more as a concierge. Indeed, the distinction between the two fields is becoming increasingly blurred in the luxury sector. "Boutique" agencies create made-to-measure packages, such as Japan's RPI Concierge (www.rpiconcierge.com) service, which ensures a "once in a lifetime experience" and can arrange anything from pick-up at the airport to a geisha's private dance performance.
Trends in residence also reflect the mobility of money today and the price of convenience at a maximum. Accustomed to having everything at once, and their family with them too, clients are uninterested in owning property that entails weighty responsibility and puts limitations on mobility. The recent construction of serviced villas, such as the Aman Villas, offering a "home away from home" experience, along with expanding and increasing variety in hotel suites, as in the Four Seasons Hotel New York, are a testament to the spirit of the times and perhaps the hottest trend of the moment: fractional ownership, not only of planes and yachts (a trend itself in its beginnings), but also of vacation residences. The traditional ambition to own a house in St. Tropez is changing. Quintess (www.quintess.com) is a members club that offers four- to five-bedroom homes with an average value of $4 million for vacationers to "share" around the world - the ideal way to avoid having to buy and upkeep a home yet still have one. As members explain on an online chat space, "We're at the time in our lives when we want to minimize our headaches, not create more." Many believe this business will expand enormously in the years to come.
Flying these days puts a premium on privacy, with new services and at new prices. Private air charters are growing enormously, with NetJets and Air Partners experiencing 40 and 60% annual increases respectively, according to an ILTM report. The future market interest may be, however, in streamlining the travel experience from door to door, such as offering private showers and cabins in airport salons to help prepare for a workday ahead after a long flight. Brokerage services also assure a customized and reliable flight. Hugh Courtenay, CEO of International Air Charter (www.aircraftcharter.com), an independent aircraft brokerage service, explains, "It's not like booking a taxi; it is an experience that must be monitored. It comes down to what is suited to the clients – sometimes it's a question of price, sometimes of service, sometimes of time." Customization, reliability and efficiency may be king – but price is often a mistress.
Air travel now boasts low-budget luxury in business-class-only flights, such as Lufthansa Business Jet, offering the space of a private flight without the price tag. Furthermore, single route charters such as L'Avion (http://us.lavion.com/?xtor=SEC-29) between Paris and New York carve out a market corner with transcontinental "Paryorkers" who are on average between 35 and 45 years in age. "There is a unique spirit of community aboard l'Avion, as there are only about 90 seats. For example, the 'monday' travelers talk business, get acquainted with each other and with the airline crew....a bit like a club," explains the CEO of l'Avion, Marc Rochet. Business and pleasure are not always so clearly divided.
Italy is of course the luxury traveler's perennial favorite destination, but take a flash of fresh culture and sometimes of the wild in Egypt, South Africa, Brazil, Mauritius, Vietnam and India. While renting an island Vabbinfaru in the Maldives for $50,000 a night is reasonable for some, a new Six Senses Evason Hideaway (http://www.sixsenses.com/hideaway-zighybay/index.php) in Zighy Bay, Oman is opening just this year. Oman as well as Japan are particularly poised to become future luxury market destinations.
Oman has a slew of large-scale developments, ranging from $1.4 million to $800 million initiatives, and is hoping that the luxury sector will help it avoid the path of mass tourism. Rania Khodr, Director of the Paris, France-based Office of Tourism in Oman explains, "Oman has enormous geographic diversity, from beach to mountains, the desert, the oasis. It's clean and safe and harbors 5,000 years of traditional Arabian culture. It offers some of the best of the past and the future." It's a challenge promoting a country that is relatively unknown, let alone tourism in that country, yet as for other developing but undiscovered destinations, a mix of traditional authenticity with a new invitation to the West is a recipe for success.
Farther east, Japan is opening its treasures. For the first time, the private and public sectors collaborated to present Japan at the 2007 ILTM event. The embodiment of elegance's old adage "Less is More," Japan manifests luxury in its refinement, delicacy and dedication to culture's higher pleasures. Hiroki Fukunaga, chairman of the Japan Luxury Consortium and president of the Ryokan Collection (www.ryokancollection.com), explains, "Government activities, promotions and professional operations now aim to link luxury travelers with the contents in our culture that are truly luxurious and with our spirit of hospitality, called 'omotenashi.'" Secrets, previously known by word of mouth or enjoyed only by the Japanese themselves, are opening as Japan finally becomes aware of its own great value.
The ILTM event brings into focus the trends of the times, as well as the timeless values of luxury travel - service, sophistication and pleasure. The event is not only a creator of dreams and fantasy and the means of their coming true, but also the groundwork for the future of refined exploration.
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