It’s not just that luxury travellers will expect hygiene and social distancing. Rosie Spinks, Global Tourism Reporter for Skift, says they will be looking for a different type of trip – and they’ll be prepared to pay for it.
While many industry observers agree that luxury travel has a bright future, almost no-one believes the sector will be unchanged after the COVID-19 pandemic. As Global Tourism Reporter for leading trade publication Skift, Rosie Spinks spends every day interviewing thought leaders from around the globe, and she believes that the top end of the luxury industry will bounce back first because High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) and Ultra-High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWIs) tend to be more “recession-proof”.
However, luxury travellers will undoubtedly be looking for a different kind of trip and will be willing to pay for it.
Trip of a lifetime
Spinks believes luxury travellers may focus on taking fewer, higher-quality trips – especially for significant family events such as birthdays and anniversaries. Spinks has spoken to luxury travel advisers whose clients are planning trips in 2021 and, instead of looking to cut costs, travellers are reportedly saying: “Okay, if we’re going to do this, let’s do it properly.”
As a result Spinks says travel advisers will play an even more important role in future. “[I think we’ll see more of] the once-in-a- lifetime trips that involve a lot of planning, a lot of travel adviser help. I do think there’s going to be a big appetite for that because people have realised what’s important to them and for a lot of people that’s travel.”
Expectations around hygiene and safety will be high but unlike ordinary travellers, Spinks says luxury travellers will be able to demand these standards “throughout their entire journey”. For example she expects that, if they cannot afford to fly private, more luxury travellers will explore “air pooling” where they connect with other families to share a private jet. And when they reach their accommodation these HNWIs and UHNWIs might demand that no-one has occupied their suite for 72 hours prior to their arrival.
“For wealthy people, there’s always been a value on things like privacy and discretion and I think we’re going to see the addition of distance safety – not quite isolation – but certainly a little bit of a buffer area around the family or traveller,” she says.
Taking the long view
While Spinks believes the luxury travel industry will recover from the downturn, she thinks the impact of the pandemic will be felt in travellers’ attitudes for as long as a decade.
“I’m not saying people won’t travel because of this but I do think there will just be an extra layer of discernment around, ‘Do I really need to take this trip? How can I make this trip perhaps a little safer?’ Whereas the past 10 years of travel have really just been ‘All travel is good travel’. You don’t really need to overthink it, if you can be in a country by tomorrow afternoon, why on earth would you not just book that last-minute ticket and go?”.