V&VPR INSIDER: Skift – Trends defining travel in 2019

Top takeways for the luxury travel market.

A bold contrast from travel conventions of the past, Skift marked the kick-off of the inaugural Skift Megatrends conference in Singapore with a breathwork and meditation session. Aptly setting the scene for a dynamic day of discussions ahead, the conference shed light on how operators, organizations and consumers are changing their behaviours, beliefs and business models in order to navigate their way into the future of the travel industry.

V&VPR highlights some of the key outtakes and what it means for the luxury industry.

1.Wellness leads the way

In 2017, world travellers made 830 million wellness trips, which is a staggering 139 million more than in 2015. With so many hospitality brands jumping on the wellness bandwagon – there’s a growing desire for distinction. From introducing ‘Global head of wellbeing’ roles to elevating the conventional hotel yoga offerings to provide mountain meditation or sound therapy – wellness is becoming much more experiential and holistically incorporated into brand DNA.  Whilst food and beverage were once were a key factor for determining the success of a travel brand (and still undoubtedly has a draw), the desire for healthful, nutritious and informed F&B programmes such as farm to table kitchens and diet specific menus, has taken over the indulgent spreads and cocktail offerings of the past. Brands also recognise the growth of the non-drinking Gen-Z guest segment, and this sector is expected to grow, providing unlimited opportunities for the future of wellness in travel.

2. Plastic-free isn’t enough

The global conversation surrounding the long term impact that the hospitality industry has on the environment is rapidly growing under the spotlight. The race to go plastic free is no longer a competition but a basic expectation. Tourism companies are reacting to society becoming more culturally sensitive – eliminating human-wildlife interaction such as elephant riding and shark diving from their offerings in favour of more ethical experiences.  Further advancements in the travel industry see the introduction of even stronger socioeconomic initiatives that reap immediate, genuine and measurable rewards – empowering staff, guests and the local communities alike. Leading luxury safari company Singita, a conservation brand first and foremost, partner with pioneering innovative projects which support local conservation, education and give back to the African economy.  From cooking schools and scholarship programmes to establishing a canine anti-poaching unit, the company has a 100-year commitment to preserve and protect large areas of African wilderness. For the global multi-national chains, sustainability is becoming an employee mindset – from staff and guest welfare to ergonomic space design and the use of cutting-edge food waste minimizing technology in the kitchens.

3. Humans versus the Machine

Brian Williams, Deputy Chairman of Swire Properties Hotel Holdings describes how human interaction is craved more than ever before in the hospitality arena, values that are inherent in Swire staff from day 1. By hiring unique, creative and charismatic individuals who naturally promote guest interaction through their passion – real world authentic moments between guests and staff are created and not manufactured – such experiences that cannot be achieved through technology. By empowering an inspiring, intuitive and honest approach to staff-customer relations, luxury travel brands can foster increased brand loyalty and more memorable guest experiences. Whilst technology is still instrumental to the success of a business, it’s better use is supporting behind the scenes – from ever increasing AI platforms providing smart guest data, trends predictions, to market research, data analysis and sustainability tools – this technology backstage ultimately filters through to providing a holistic and enriching guest experience.

4. Travellers in the driving seat

With commercial air travel continuing to grow, the ways in which guests can tailor their trip is becoming increasingly flexible and this is set to continue. Deconstructing air travel to give guests the freedom, segmentation and choice to curate their own journey is the ultimate selling tool that’s far outweighing any airline membership scheme. From low cost carriers where guests can just choose to purchase just the seat only, through to Business Class air travel which offers a continued evolution of tailored on-board experiences from specific, diet-centric menus and light-sleeping systems to bespoke in-flight technology. The luxury travel sector in particular will continue to see the progression of guest experience and remain a compelling and alluring space for frequent discerning and demanding travellers.

5. Content continues to be King

For many young Chinese travellers, decision making is determined by the ability to consume and share visual content. As we drive into a new dimension of social media, travel companies need to remain at the helm of the trends, predicting and preparing for the digital nomad of the future. Increasing numbers of brands are inviting their guests to tell their own unique story through the powerful mediums of visual storytelling – a clever and growing organic marketing tool that tips into the wealth of social media users. From instagrammable amenities to engaging in-room technology and applications, millennials travel with fast-paced, tuned in intelligence and a desire to remain relevant on their platforms – from YouTube and Weibo to WeChat. For the even younger kids worldwide, new international chat-bot platforms foster communities of children who can engage and interact by sharing their insider tips of youthful activities in their home town, taking social media to a new dimension and enabling kids to contribute to family holiday planning.

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