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As global wealth expands, and new inbound and outbound markets continue to emerge, the luxury travel industry faces disruption from a new generation of well educated, highly demanding travel consumers. To respond, the hospitality industry has been forced to redefine both the definition of luxury and its role as a service.
The new trend report by Skift suggests that this rethinking revolves around "the 5 C’s of Luxury Travel," a group of principles that engage consumers emotionally and physically before, during, and after a travel experience.
The 5 C's of Luxury Travel -- Culture, Cuisine, Community, Content and Customization -- are not new in themselves. Yet top travel brands are incorporating and utilizing each of these C's in novel ways to respond to industry demands and maintain brand relevance.
Both cultural heritage and local culture are huge drivers of global travel. 27% of U.S. international travelers view themselves as "sophisticated explorers" who state their primary travel motivation as the desire to explore new cultures and traditions while on vacation. These travelers want to learn new things and have new experiences while abroad. They value cultural heritage, performance arts, storytelling, and luxury products that showcase unique traditions and techniques.
"Travelers looking for a luxury trip want their dreams to become reality. They look for something unique, above their expectations with superb service where their needs and wants are fulfilled. This includes exclusivity, privacy, and everything from relaxation to adventure, with pampering and extras." Carrie McDougall, President, Cultural Crossroads
All travelers need cuisine, but the luxury travelers seeks out culinary experiences as a hallmark of their vacation. Whether in taking local cooking classes on their trip, using a culinary experience as a trip theme (as in wine region tourism), or dining at fine restaurants around the world, travelers make cuisine a priority of their travel dollars. For these travelers, local sourcing and sustainability issues increase the cache of this travel. Consumers are willing to pay more for upmarket experiences, yet have high expectations of quality and authenticity.
While luxury travelers may not want shared travel experiences such as group tours or dormitory accommodations, they do want community. Upmarket travel accommodates this by leveraging storytelling and community in the marketing materials and by hosting non-site events that allow travelers to opt in to sharing community with other guests. A nightly happy hour or optional tours coordinated by the hotel allow travel providers to cultivate community.
“Luxury is defined by attention to the details. Meticulous workmanship, sumptuous atmosphere and discerning good taste.” Robert Mackasek, CEO, Valera Global
Content in the form of marketing materials, web content, and real-time event or travel programming is a highlight of luxury travel. Busy travel consumers may enjoy planning, but want easy access to experiences coordinated by others. Standalone luxury content materials and offerings fills this niche and allow consumers to sample as they like.
Perhaps the biggest of the 5 C's, customization allows luxury travelers to orchestrate their own unique travel experiences. From allowing travelers to select meals to letting them purchase day tours to select locations, the luxury travel industry faces continued disruption to packaged travel tours, cruises, and other traditional mainstays. The more choice consumers are allowed, the happier they may be - a strong incentive to entice repeat business.
"Luxury, by definition, means something that appears to be the best of whatever it represents. It's a word that raises people's expectations, whether talking about clothing for women or locations for people to live ... You pay for recognition, but probably the most important thing it represents is delivery on the promise of the brand's name." Isadore Sharp, Founder, Chairman & CEO, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
As the 5 C's make it clear, traditional perceptions of luxury travel are challenged by the evolving needs of modern consumers. By embracing these shifts, forward-thinking companies can remain competitive in their niche and embrace this transformation.
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