Luxury travel insights with Mintel travel analyst Marloes De Vries

At inVOYAGE 2019 in Monaco last month, Mintel travel analyst Marloes De Vries shared her top three luxury travel trends from the company’s latest research report, out this month. We caught up with Marloes to find out more about the research and what it means for the luxury events market…

Can you tell us a bit more about the research you carry out for the luxury travel report?

We recently did consumer research with around 2,000 UK adults aged 16 and above, and we asked them about how much they spent on their most expensive holiday and long they went for, and whether they stayed in a five-star hotel. Based on that information, we categorised people into the luxury travel segment – those that spend above-average on their holidays. The report is due to be published in November and what I shared at inVOYAGE was just a sneak preview.

Did anything surprise you from the research?

I was surprised but pleased to see that a growing number of luxury travellers are willing to minimise their impact when going on holiday. Some travel companies are a bit more pessimistic and think that luxury travellers don’t really care when they are on holiday, so we just have to find the right way to encourage and trigger them. A fully sustainable holiday maybe a step too far for many people right now, but there are definitely elements that suppliers can push more forward. It’s a challenge but it’s definitely an opportunity as well.

The three trends you shared with our audience, experience is king, tailor-made travel and going green – how do they differ from previous years?

Experiences as a trend has been around for quite some time, but the demand for newer experiences is growing and evolving. Destination is still the most preferred way to search for luxury travel, followed by the type of holiday, and then things like experiences. But we do expect that experiences will become more dominant. Therefore travel companies should provide the option at least for people to search by experience, because for some people it’s a really a key reason to travel and it doesn’t matter to them what destination they do that.

Tailor made travel is quite established in the UK and US, but in China it is still emerging as package holidays are still quite big, but luxury travellers there are starting to ask for more flexibility and choice.

Going green was particularly interesting in the UK, where we are starting to get a lot more questions about it than previous years. A lot of our travel company clients want to know what it means for them, and what travellers expect from them, both now and in the future.

What do these trends mean for the luxury events market?

It was interesting when I asked the question at the end of the session on which trends the audience were seeing, and almost everyone put their hand up for experiences.

I think the luxury events market could do more to integrate experiences into the planning and booking process. It is definitely a very important trend and will stay around for a long time, as we see it in our forecast as well. The forecast for experience-dominated sectors like luxury travel look much more positive than other luxury sectors such as household products and material goods.

Your research shows that the environment is starting to play a role in influencing decisions for luxury travellers. Do you think it will rise to the top at any point?

Personally, I really hope so but realistically in the short term I don’t think it will. It’s not something that will change overnight and will probably take many years. Companies need to work on their greener image, and the demand will most likely follow. As discussed in the panel session on sustainability – there are lots of small practical things that travel companies can do, and if everybody does something, then we are making progress.

How can hotels and travel suppliers use going green to their competitive advantage?

It’s showing what you do and what you stand for and choosing the right suppliers and partners that fit with your sustainable values. If you are not completely honest, consumers will know, and they will accuse you of green washing. You have to really believe in it as well, not just tap into it for branding and PR purposes as that will work against you.

The majority of consumers find it difficult to see how ethical a company truly is, so it’s also being honest about where you want to get to. You might not quite be there yet, but you can show how you are going to tackle those issues. Have a strategy and some clear views and a vision for where you want to be in five years’ time and share that with your customers.

What key trends do you expect in luxury travel in 2020 and beyond?

In the luxury travel market, there are so many choices available now online, so one thing we are seeing is a return to the experts. People are increasingly turning to experts to help them find the best luxury hotels and experiences – that expertise is really valued at the higher end of travel and particularly for more complex bookings.

Another thing we are seeing on the luxury leisure side is a rise in the number of shorter breaks, rather than going just once or twice a year for longer trips. That results in a greater variety of why people travel and with whom they travel, so we see more people travelling with friends and multiple generations of families travelling together, and holidays built around hobbies and interests.

Wellness is also an emerging trend, as people are more interested in looking after their health and wellbeing, and going green will continue to grow as a key trend over the next few years.

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