When tour operators throw around words like “luxury,” they’re often using them as a byword for “this is going to cost you a lot of money.” But as we go into 2019, groups of forward-thinking individuals are trying to change the definition of luxury travel from a no-expenses-spared trip to something more meaningful.
In the past, luxury experiences were highly transactional. People paid a lot of money and expected to get high-quality service in return. The food had to be the finest. The thread count on the bedsheets had to be more than could be attained anywhere else. And a legion of people had to be standing by, ready to serve the traveler at a moment’s notice.
But this notion of luxury travel is beginning to fall by the wayside. While there will always be people looking for the most expensive and luxurious services, there’s a growing class of traveler for whom these embellishments are no longer the point.
Travel operators see their role changing. Tourists want them to do more than arrange flights, book transfers and set them up in hotels: they want them to ensure that they have the experiences while traveling, whatever they may be. The notion of a package holiday is falling out of favour, to be replaced with a life-affirming or rewarding travel experience where the traveler gets to enjoy something new.
It’s not just a holiday that people are after anymore, but rather an “experience” – something out of the ordinary that they can’t find anywhere else. The reasons for this are apparent. People are becoming tired of cookie-cutter hotel experiences. Lounging by the pool in Egypt is almost identical to lounging by the pool in French Polynesia. When it comes to package travel, the destination plays second fiddle to the services on offer by the tour company.
The definition of luxury, therefore, is moving away from who can provide the plushest sun loungers to who can give travellers the experience of a lifetime. Tourists want to go on an adventure when they visit a foreign land, and they want to be able to buy that experience.
This is creating new problems for tour companies. It’s no longer enough to provide basic travel arrangement services. Operators are being asked to contribute something almost intangible: a feeling of satisfaction from having experienced something new. Packaging that up and selling it is the next evolutionary step for an industry that has been stuck in a rut for decades. Already people are abandoning tour operators in favour of making their own way and finding the holiday experiences that they want by themselves.
The New Definition Of Luxury Doesn’t Involve Spending Lots Of Money
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the new luxury is that it doesn’t involve spending much money at all. It’s no longer about finding the resort with the bluest coastline or the biggest buffet. It’s about having authentic and transformative experiences that help to develop travelers as people.
All of this fundamentally changes the nature of the game. If experiencing luxury travel is no longer about spending lots of money, all of a sudden it is an experience that is available to everyone. Financing a luxury holiday becomes much easier when the name of the game is to have an “experience” rather than stay in a five-star hotel. With bad credit loan options, it’s easier than ever for people to get the money they need for a trip of a lifetime. When its the experience that counts, the amount of money spent ceases to be an issue.
The Development Of The “Luxpedition”
For some people, though, letting go of the traditional luxury elements of a holiday is a step too far. People want to have these incredible experiences, but they also want all their needs to be met at the same time. It’s an odd combination, no doubt fuelled by celebrity culture.
This desire to have both experiences and luxury at the same time has led to the growth of the “luxpedition” – a type of adventure holiday which combines elements of traditional five-star luxury with life-affirming travel experience.
Take expeditions into the Himalayan mountains of Bhutan. In the past, people were expected to do a lot of the preparation for such trips by themselves. These adventures were genuinely wild and required that people were self-sufficient. But with the changing definition of luxury, people are looking to these adventures as a personal challenge or physical test. They want to see if they have the ability to do the main event – such as scaling a mountain – but at the same time, have the ability to fall back on other people for making their meals and setting up their accommodation. They even want entertainment in the evenings, even if that entertainment needs to walk with them on their expedition.
The Growth Of Less Relaxing Holidays
There’s a final theme running through a lot of the new definitions of luxury, and that’s that the concept no longer means “relaxation.” Many of the world’s rich and famous have done all the traditional tourist destinations designed for “rest and recuperation,” and they want something with a little more purpose. After all, it’s easy to travel from one location to another and lounge by the pool.
Many people are becoming increasingly motivated by characters like Bear Grylls, who has a primal drive to go out into nature and “survive.” It’s an ironic twist that many of the world’s most materially successful people have embarked on a mission to relinquish all their material possessions and live as nature intended – at least for a couple of weeks.
There is, of course, another reason for the rise of this new kind of luxury tourism: bragging rights. There’s no achievement in merely traveling to another country and staying in an expensive hotel. Most people’s peers aren’t impressed by that kind of thing. What people want to know is what people have achieved and how they spend their time while away. Luxury holidays, therefore, still seem to be about competing, just in a different way to before.