The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, with many industries being badly affected by its impact. It goes without saying that the travel industry has been hit particularly hard: Global tourism lost £245bn in just five months. And whilst much of the world is currently combating a second wave, it is becoming apparent that the luxury travel industry will be changing for the foreseeable future – if not forever.
But how have luxury travel companies adapted to the outbreak? What does this mean for the future of luxury travel? We spoke to Aruna Shah from Arburton, a London-based luxury travel concierge company, about their observations and predictions about the future of luxury travel.
Focus on Hygiene and Distance
While it may not be in place to the extent it is now, Social Distancing is here to stay.
“Staying away from others will a prime concern for many who travel during and after COVID, luxury or otherwise,” according to Shah.
And as such, they're concerned about the cleanliness of the facilities and being able to do things like checking in without having to be around another person.”
Hotels Are Changing and Adapting
Hotels which haven’t been repurposed to help aid the COVID relief effort are adopting forms of check-in to adhere to Social Distancing where there is no, or limited, contact with others. Hotels are rearranging themselves, their internal procedures, and even interiors in order to create enough space and a safe environment for guests.
“With less room available for guests, the focus of luxury travelers will be privacy and personalized experiences,” explains Shah.
Increased cleaning procedures have also gained in importance and have become the new ‘arms race’. There is also a focus on using cashless monetary exchanges and experimenting with keyless technology, so that there is less touching of common areas.
‘Personalized Social Distancing’
There are still people traveling during the pandemic who wish to experience luxury destinations, and as such, the focus is on privacy, discretion, and personalization.
“With Social Distancing being the norm, this means that luxury travel must embrace the new social distancing mandates and what their customers are looking for,” said Shah.
Luxury travelers are focused even more on privacy than they would normally. With some hotels not being able to provide this option, they may look for private villas, private suites, private yachts, or fully-enclosed houses or pods so they will not have to interact with people outside of their "bubbles."
Social Distancing measures will also increase the need for personalized experiences. More privacy precludes the need for fully staffed yachts or villas for instance, and people will look to book more remote and local locations with urban locations expected to struggle. Hotels will have to offer variable dining times to adhere to Social Distancing, and some luxury hotel chains have even gotten creative by offering ‘luxury quarantine stays’.
The Rise of the Staycation
Staycations, or vacationing within one's home city or country, has been huge in the United Kingdom, and luxury travel has been accepting far more locals. In addition to individuals wanting more privacy and distance, they are checking in to far more hotels near their hometowns than ever before.
“2020 has truly been the year for travelers to begin to wander a bit closer to home and check out the attractions in their own backyards,” said Shah.
For now, travel industry experts say the luxury market will remain more local with people not wanting to venture too far from home.
Luxury Travel Will Become More Bespoke
Luxury, especially in current times, means something else to everyone these days, so the qualifying criteria are becoming a lot more diverse. Price tag and exclusivity will no longer cut it.
With Social Distancing measures, the demands and definition of luxury travel will change for everyone. For some, it may mean more time with their family and privacy as hotel spaces are becoming rarer; for others, it may mean a private safari at a luxury lodge in Kenya.
Luxury travel will become more complex. More variables will need to be considered, which will make travel advisors’ job more demanding.
Traveling Will Temporarily Become Cheaper – But More Expensive the More Bespoke
Some countries that rely on tourism for most of the economy have called for people to come to the country, even during the pandemic. Prices for flights in the UK were slashed during summer of 2020 in an effort to entice Brits away for cheap holidays.
A similar trend is expected until next year, as hotels and operators are likely to reduce prices and offer generous cancellation and rescheduling options to entice travelers. This proves a unique opportunity to increase the value of trips: “For us as travel advisors and planners, it means that we can add more value to our clients’ experiences,” said Shah.
However, whilst this is true for the most basic means of travel, the more bespoke luxury VIP travel will become, the more expensive it will likely become. “Since there’s higher demand in private jet hire, luxury ground services, private villas, we are expecting prices there to rise,” said Shah.
Safety, Security, Personalization, Discretion
“In these uncertain times, discretion, safety and quality in travel are more important than ever,” said Shah.
“Whilst the pre-COVID world was more about personalized experiences, the post-COVID world will come with the element of ‘personalized social distancing’,” said Shah. The post-COVID world will mean that trust, flexibility, and safety will become more important than ever when traveling or when staying anywhere around the world.
How Will Luxury Travel Be Affected Going Forward? 6 Predictions.
The travel industry has certainly suffered during COVID, but things will get better. “There are thousands of travelers, particularly in the luxury sector, who are dying to get out of their support bubbles and get on with life,” said Shah.
Once COVID has calmed enough to start world travel again, luxury travellers will be ready, and they will more than likely be ready for a total escape. However, the demands within the industry will drastically change.
Alternative Transport Will Become More Important
On the ground, private transport will see a boost in intercity and intracity travel. Chauffeur services will become particularly popular – there is almost no risk of cancellation, more privacy, and their reliability and flexibility will be key compared to other modes of transport.
In the sky, privacy will be a key concern. Private jets and private helicopters will become more popular as they guarantee travel in a ‘bubble’. Since they also lend themselves better to short-haul slights, demands for shorter flights especially will grow.
Travel will also become more local, as close-to-home travel will increase demand in alternative means of transport. However, this will likely come with an increase in price, since demand will be rising for those services.
The Importance of Sustainability Will Increase
Whilst sustainability has been a key focus in the past years, popular urban venues and activities (such as theatres, operas, etc.) and overcrowded tourist areas “will not be an option for quite some time,” said Shah.
Hence, we will see a shift to more eco-tourism and nature experiences such as safaris, which travelers can do more safely, and which support the local economy around their usual travel destinations. Due to growing privacy concerns, access to space and nature will be more highly sought after.
Travel Advisors Will Become More Important
Travel advisors carried the largest weight of the complications which arose from borders closing, repatriating travelers, re-booking trips and cancellations.
“The pandemic has shown that time is a luxury, and that the relationships that advisors have with hotels, tour operators, and restaurants are essential to deliver that trust, flexibility, and safety that travelers will be looking for,” said Shah
“The pandemic has also been an excellent time to forge these relationships, preparing the industry for a comeback once the pandemic is over,” she adds.
Consequently, tours, excursions, and experiences will take a turn to ‘personalized social distancing’. As personal requirements become more complex, the role of travel advisors in delivering these ‘personalized social distancing’ experiences will be key in satisfying this demand.
The Definition of Luxury Will Change
The meaning of luxury will change post-COVID and weigh more importance to the individual’s own definition of luxury. More personalization will be key in delivering unique experiences for clients.
Privacy Will Become More Important
Privacy will become a lot more important and give rise to increasingly personalized experiences involving private jets, private helicopter charters, private islands, private villas and more. There will be less focus on requirements which were traditionally connotated with luxury, e.g. fully staffed yachts or villas, but more focus on remoteness, nature, openness and bespoke experiences.
The Industry Will Bounce Back
The travel industry will recover fast. People have been cooped up for months around the globe, and their wanderlust will be triggered once we can move freely again. The amount of jobs which depend on this sector is also huge: 10% of all employment around the globe depends on tourism, so it must return if not out of necessity.
Travel companies and especially the one specializing in luxury/bespoke travel should keep on top of any changes that are happening. They should be flexible enough to adjust and accommodate fast as this is going to be crucial going forward.
Getting Away During and After COVID
Are you thinking about booking a luxury vacation or staycation? Arburton work with some of the top luxury travel companies in the UK and the world and can help you book private travel to countries and cities of your choice.
Contact them now to experience the best in first-class travel.