Wander Lust: Luxury Travel Trends in Asia

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Reporting from Shanghai’s international luxury travel market

For a decade, the International Luxury Travel Market has showcased the best in global luxury travel to a select group of buyers and suppliers, who regularly meet at its annual global flagship event in Cannes, France, as well at its annual international events in Asia and the Americas and its specialist events in Japan and Africa.

This contributor recently attended ILTM Asia 2016 in Shanghai for four days of meetings with high-end representatives from tourism boards, hotel brands, luxury cruise and excursion planners, private clinics and much more.

Lucy Clifton, the managing director of Spotl1ght Communications, which manages ILTM’s events, said that the Shanghai show attracted almost 500 exhibitors from 59 countries, including 19 Asian nations.

“The landscape of the industry has changed significantly over the last decade,” Clifton said. “ILTM Asia reflects this changing world in great detail for our guests–new private islands, new hotels and new authentic experiences across the world for luxury travelers to explore.”

Let’s take a closer look at what the industry players and speakers had to say at the ILTM, which is marking its 10th anniversary this year.

Mainland focus

Speakers at ILTM made it clear that Asia has played and will continue to play a big role in the luxury travel market, with mainland China remaining a favorite destination for new openings from big brand hotels.

The Peninsula Hotel and Bulgari chains, for example, intend to add hotels in Beijing, while the Aman Resort and Cappella Hotels are focusing on Shanghai, with properties slated to open next year.

Tokyo, followed by Osaka, remained the top draws for mainland Chinese, and for tourists from Asia in general.

Meanwhile, the mainland Chinese outbound market has attracted many international operators, including the tourism board of Tirol, Austria, whose marketing chief, Holger Gassler, was in Shanghai.

Gassler said that Chinese tourists overtook their American counterparts as the most numerous overseas guest for Tirol. “More and more luxury tour operators are taking up hidden destinations and travel off beaten track, which is what Tirol has to offer,” Gassler said. “We also have more demand from Asian travelers who want to discover the local way of life and traditions. Austria, being the land of hospitality and family-owned businesses sees this as an advantage for us.”

He adds that demand for winter experiences by mainland Chinese is also increasing. “This is great for us. Innsbruck hosted the Winter Olympics three times. We have over 100 ski resorts with more than 4,000 kilometers of slopes. So we really look for a bright future.”

Encountering Asia

Asia is an increasingly important destination for international luxury travelers, as well.

The continent is still a front-runner compared to Africa and Latin America. Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, for example, are new exotic destinations that luxury globetrotters are eager to discover.

In a conversation during ILTM Shanghai, CNN Mexico bureau chief Ariel Crespo said that emerging Latin American markets have drawn strong interest from luxury travel brands, as their economies have also emerged with a strong middle-class looking to experience travel, different cultures and gastronomy.

“Mexicans come from a long standing historic tradition and civilization,” Crespo said. “They have a strong appetite for Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian culture. Asia brings them culture, leisure and top-notch service–all of which they can relate to in their home country.”

At ILTM, other players made it clear that they would expand in Asia beyond the mainland Chinese market, specifically into Southeast Asia.

Richard White, the executive vice president of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, said that Indonesia, for example, offered international luxury travel brands a strong market as well as a rich diversity of desirable destinations with world-renowned resorts and a welcoming hospitable culture.

Digital focus

Speakers at ILTM Asia also noticed the increasing role of digital media was playing in the world of luxury travel. White said that mobile apps and online-based application would play a greater role in the future, especially in China.

ILTM Asia opening forum speaker Rachel Botsman, a writer and entrepreneur, expressed a similar sentiment, saying that media consumption has almost completely moved from physical ownership to on-demand consumption, where content is accessed but not owned.

“For the first time, we have a generation that trusts and takes risks in an entirely new way,” Botsman said. “They seek the experience of having continuing choice rather than ownership. This is a generation that sees their smartphones as a remote control to the physical world.”

Future focus

Several players at ILTM anticipated a substantial increase in the Asian outbound market for 2017, as people look to explore remote and interesting parts of the world that not everyone else has seen in search of meaningful and unique experiences.

By Erza S.T. Courtesy The Jakarta Post

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