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When you take a stroll down memory lane and journey through the evolution of the travel industry, various images pop into your head based on the destinations you’ve specialized in, the kinds of clients you’ve worked with and the types of trips that are important to you.

Travel trends have taken twists and turns throughout the years, and your customers’ needs have almost certainly progressed with those changes.

While ‘luxury travel’ seems to be trending right now, this area of this industry is by no means new. But with so many companies claiming they offer luxury travel experiences, it’s important to take a step back and figure out what, exactly, luxury travel means today — and defining it might not be that easy.  

A Shift in Luxury Travel

The flashy features that once defined traveling in luxury seem to be a thing of the past. When asked what the definition of luxury is, Angie Licea, president of Global Travel Collection, said, “There isn’t one anymore.” She added that while to some people it used to be a five-star hotel or resort with all the best amenities or maybe flying first class, the concept no longer fits into this specific definition.   

“Now, luxury is personal, and everybody defines luxury in a certain way,” Licea said. “For some people, it might be sleeping on the plains in Africa on a bed under the stars. For others, it might still be that five-star hotel.”

Mark Benson, associate vice president sales & strategy, Inclusive Collection, part of World of Hyatt, agrees that luxury has a personal touch. “If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then so is luxury,” he said.

If it means something different to every traveler, what aspects are important? Are there any themes that connect the various forms of luxury travel?

To Benson, it means a traveler already has what they didn’t even realize they needed. “I see it as needs being anticipated and delivery before you even know what it is you want,” he said. “I think it’s the anticipation of the customer needs and the seamless delivery of those needs that really defines luxury.”

This anticipation of needs surely comes from a type of customer service that isn’t found everywhere. It’s an attention to detail that is taken one step further.

Spa at Impression Isla Mujeres (photo by Codie Liermann)

According to Fran Fishman, luxury travel advisor with Protravel International, there is a transformative aspect to this type of travel, where the experience is now just as important as the accommodation.  

“In my opinion, luxury travel is about being taken to an environment that is transformative in many ways,” Fishman said. “That includes staying in state-of-the-art accommodations as well as feeling a sense of heightened wellness in which the travelers’ senses are touched in a uniquely memorable way.”

She’s noticed her luxury clients are looking for exceptional locations they can visit where they are not only comfortable but also have the opportunity to learn something new or take their wellness experience to the next level.

“I think the change that has occurred in luxury travel the last several years is that the traveler wants to travel to a unique location where their sense of curiosity and knowledge is expanded as well as feeling pampered while indulging in wellness which could be physical experiences as well as those that touch the many senses,” Fishman said. “The food experience has been taken to another level as well as the availability of physicality and mindfulness.”

Matching Clients With Luxury Experiences

So, if luxury isn’t a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all type of travel, how can advisors match their clients with experiences that work for each individual?

“That's the part of this industry that makes it challenging but also very exciting,” Licea said. “Because one, it changes, but two, it’s diversified, and so it makes it much more fun to sell.”

Now, this might take some work, but travel advisors can start by asking their clients the right questions. Ask which features of the vacation are important to them. Are they focused on the culinary aspect? Is location significant? Is having one of the most luxurious accommodations a must? For some luxury clients, privacy and space might be the focus. What you need to figure out is what puts your clients in a peaceful state of mind, with all their needs met.

  Photographer on the bow of the National Geographic Endurance, Beaufort Sea, Northwest Passage, Canada (photo by Ralph Lee Hopkins/Lindblad Expeditions)    

Connecting with suppliers that offer what your clients are looking for and growing those relationships is important. And while finding suppliers you trust to care for your mutual customers is key, the attention to detail, the personalization and the luxury aspect all start with you.   

You are the one who can make a luxury trip even better by paying attention to every detail. This starts from the moment your guests leave their homes. From something as simple as an airport transfer to more elaborate details like spa treatments, local experiences and choosing the best room available, it all matters. Take the time to make sure these vacations are exactly what your client is looking for, from start to finish. Help put them completely at ease in that luxury state of mind, whatever that means to them.

Luxury Travel Trends

With results from more than 2,000 agency members spanning 50 countries, the 2024 Virtuoso Luxe Report has identified five major themes among luxury travelers this year.

  • New Frontiers: These clients are set on finding under-the-radar destinations and being among the first to explore them.
  • The Party Continues: Celebration travel is still in full swing, and luxury travelers are prioritizing time with their closest friends and family.
  • Honoring the Earth: Supporting destinations that have suffered natural disasters in a respectful way is top of mind, as well as a focus on sustainability.
  • Small Ships, Big Possibilities: Less is more, as luxury travelers are focused on intimate settings such as small vessels and yachts.
  • At Ease: Luxury travelers are not risking an unpleasant vacation and are putting their trust in professional travel advisors to create customized, laidback experiences.

Originally appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of The Compass magazine.


About the Author

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Codie Liermann is the managing editor of The Compass. She began her career in the industry as a travel advisor prior to working as an editor. With a passion for creating valuable content for travel advisors, she aims to develop meaningful relationships with all types of travel companies in order to share their unique messages with the travel agency community.


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Katherine R | 05/31/24 - 05:29 AM

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