A focus on diverse luxury travelers

Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

RIVERA MAYA, Mexico -- As the luxury travel sector continues to experience unprecedented growth, it also must continue evolving to meet the demands of the increasingly diverse demographics fueling the boom.

That was one of the topics top of mind this week at the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) North America, which this year, its seventh, hosted 328 travel advisers from 152 cities for 18,000 meetings with 328 suppliers from 60 destinations at the Mayakoba resort here.

Steve Heitzner, chief sales and marketing for officer for Marriott International in the Americas, said luxury is growing twice as fast as the rest of the travel sector. "We believe luxury is our future," he said.

Tom Rowntree, head of global luxury brands for InterContinental Hotels and Resorts, said the sector's growth was being driven by new travel consumers from places like China and Latin America as well as less traditional, younger travelers who are increasingly seeking unique, transformational and cultural experiences.

Also among the growing base are LGBT travelers, which this year prompted Reed Exhibitions, the company behind the ILTM global portfolio of networking events, to launch Proud Experiences, a travel show aimed at helping travel companies better connect with that demographic.

The first show was held in London in June. Simon Mayle, director of ILTM North America, said the second will be held June 18 to 20 in New York City, just prior to WorldPride events and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots (a series of protests outside the Stonewall Inn in New York that is generally thought to have kickstarted the LGBT-rights movement in the U.S.)

Mayle said the show is "not about gay travel. It's about high-end experiences for the LGBT traveler."

The show will also feature more serious discussions, including an interview with Indian Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, the first openly gay prince and face of the #FreeGayIndia movement.

"Proud Experiences is much more than matchmaking," he said. "On top of the appointments diary between suppliers and buyers, there will also be education sessions and networking events. But it's more than just business; it's about embracing diversity in the travel industry and helping push the experiences this community wants, while feeling happy and safe".

A series of classes will be held each day on topics such as emerging destinations and travel issues, the segments within the LGBT travel niche, growing revenues from this market and sensitivity training.

"It's going to be very special," Mayle said. "It will be a great conversation about what is happening. Tough issues will be discussed alongside discussions" about how to build an LGBT consumer base.

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