When Virgin Galactic launched in 2004, I think we all knew that the future of luxury travel would look very different than we ever could have anticipated.
Coincidentally, that was the same year Facebook launched, and, between the two, luxury travel will never be the same. It is evolving rapidly, and the trends for 2013 look … well, different, for sure.
With regard to the evolution, much of that can be attributed to a changing audience. Boomers, as they reach retirement, are spending less, and younger affluents are starting to enter the market. Forbes, in its luxury travel trends article back in August, observed that younger affluents were a trend worth noting. Not only are older Gen X-ers, ages 40-55, spending more on high-end travel, but younger Gen X and even Gen Y adults are spending more on travel, often with their young children.
What’s interesting about this younger market is that they are the same market that consumes the lion’s share of social media, and social sharing seems to be driving their vacation choices. A recent article in The Telegraph makes it clear that affluent travel is less about luxe and more about the cool pics you can post to Instagram.
Adventure and storytelling travel are growing in popularity. A UK company has launched tours led by political experts that take tourists step by step through tours of war-torn countries including North Korea, Georgia, Kosovo and Northern Ireland. Political Tours describes itself as “a revolutionary concept for travelers passionate about politics and current affairs.” Based on their site’s testimonials, it is satisfying a passionate, highly intellectual niche. Upcoming tours include “Mandela’s Dream” and “Mladic's Legacy - A tour of Bosnia and Serbia.”
Experiential travel is also growing in popularity, according to the Telegraph. Babylonstoren, an 18th-century manor house and farm in South Africa is a far cry from the Ritz-Carlton. Guests here are invited to pick their own produce, or help with harvesting and pruning on the manor’s 8+ acres. Granted, the landscape is nothing short of breathtaking, and there is a spa on the premises. (If you can pick your own grapes at the vineyard and be paid in wine, I’m in!)
For those young families, “fit-cations” are making a splash. The two former rugby players behind Super Skills Travel offer rugby and cricket master classes in Sardinia, as well as ski holidays in the French Alps. All are geared toward families who are looking for unique vacation experiences. Similarly, stateside, we’re seeing new trends in fitness-based vacations geared towards younger adults and families: Snow-shoeing packages in Colorado, snowboarding in Utah, stand-up rowing workshops in sunny destinations like Las Vegas, and more value-added ski trips geared towards families, as well.
Another trend, according to Forbes, is River Cruising. This has long been popular with older tourists, who like to see the Rhine, the Rhone, and the blue Danube, but now it’s catching on with younger crowds, as well. In response to the new audience, tour companies like Ama Waterways are equipping their boats with wireless routers and -- for the active traveler -- bike racks.
Still popular from last year are the roads less traveled: Photos and check-ins from destinations like Tasmania, Cambodia and Vietnam will all continue to make newsfeeds in 2013. Expect to see a few shared photos from new hotspot Bhutan, as well.
Trends aside, there are still plenty of travelers who like a little luxe in their luxury. So, while Virgin Galactic may be booking seats, there’s still plenty of demand for Paris, Ibiza, Nice and even Palm Desert. And I hope to prove firsthand that the Côte D’Azur looks even better on Instagram.