NEW YORK– From a more concierge-like approach to travel servicing and an increased focus on hotel design to the implications of a post-Brexit surge, American Express Travel experts have uncovered trends that will likely impact the state of luxury travel in 2017 based on qualitative, in-depth industry observations and internal data analysis.
“Today, affluent consumers are more knowledgeable, are often in control of their travel experiences and across all ages, are in pursuit of curation, comfort and convenience,” says Claire Bennett, executive vice president, American Express Travel. “Whether they seek added value from a flight upgrade, a recommendation for the best new restaurant in London or are traveling more often and for longer stays, consumers know what they want, and are becoming savvier about making their needs known to travel brands.”
According to American Express Travel experts, the following are trends likely to continue into 2017:
TRAVEL AGENTS, THE NEW CONCIERGES
Personalization and streamlined service are key motivators for today’s luxury traveler – who expect immediate, one-stop-shop, customized travel experiences. “We’re seizing this growing demand by cultivating a team of lifestyle experts with unparalleled relationships and in-depth industry knowledge that can offer today’s savvy global traveler elements of the trip beyond air and hotel – from VIP access to local insights on the newest restaurants to one-of-a-kind, extraordinary experiences,” says Bennett.
A MOVE TOWARDS THE FRONT
As increasing elements of the flying experience have become revenue streams for airlines, from boarding times and seat preferences to lounge access and baggage allowance, there has been a significant uptick in first-class bookings, increasing 208% YOY. “We’ve noticed that weary air travelers are opting for the convenience and value of paying one first-class fare to get it all, enhancing their overall experience and making first-class air travel the new version of the luxury all-inclusive frontier,” says Bennett.
EXTENDED EXPLORERS EMERGE
“Four times per year, for four nights – in and out – has been the tried and true American travel pattern. Today, however, we’re seeing a new American traveler emerge and a mélange of factors are contributing to the trend,” says Bennett.
Although Boomers may have the time and the money to travel for longer stays, they join travelers across generations who increasingly seek extended, immersive journeys packed with authentic, local experiences. American Express Travel booking data indicates an average 26% YOY increase in length of stay for advanced bookings among the top 20 international destinations. But Bennett says age is not always a factor here. “As travel experts, it is imperative that we start defining travelers by psychographics and not solely demographics.”
“Technology and the ability to remain connected is a key factor why this is possible; it enables all travelers to plug in on location, making it easier to extend vacations, and business trips into longer getaways. When you can work wherever you are, these super explorers are saying: let’s go,” says Bennett.
HOTELS AS LIFESTYLE BRANDS
“Niche is nice. Lifestyle, fashion, fitness, culinary and design brands are latching onto the growing demand of customized travel and highly personalized experiences based on their founding product and catering to fans of their brand aesthetic and promise in the travel space,” says Bennett. Equinox, West Elm, Baccarat, Bulgari, Nobu and Restoration Hardware are among the brands breaking new ground in the travel and hospitality space to offer innovative ways to further engage their customer base in an age of bespoke travel. These companies join established hoteliers who have created their own design-focused brands, such as Marriott’s Edition and Hyatt’s Andaz. “According to American Express Travel booking data, we are seeing a more than 30% spike in bookings for lifestyle-inspired, design-focused hotels in the US for 2017.”
NEAR, FAR, AND EVERYWHERE IN BETWEEN FOR 2017
From a post-Brexit surge to a centennial celebration, these are the top trending destinations for the upcoming year according to American Express Travel experts:
•Fogo Island, Newfoundland
•Auckland, New Zealand