Defining trends at the Travel Advisor Leadership Council

The JG Black Book's seventh annual Travel Advisor Leadership Council was held at Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos. Photo Credit: Jorge Reyes

Ever since the luxury travel sector began its booming recovery from its equally fast crash during the Great Recession, we've been hearing the same buzzwords about what trends are driving its evolution from opulence to experiential.

Authenticity, wellness and multigenerational travel are among the terms that top the list. But which trends are really here to stay? And how do you define luxury today?

Those were some of the questions posed to a recent gathering of about two dozen of the world's leading luxury travel advisers and suppliers during JG Black Books' seventh annual Travel Advisor Leadership Council, held at Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos. I was invited and hosted by JG Black Book as part of a media panel.

The overarching trends identified during the three-day event weren't unexpected. But their individual answers were insightful.

"What isn't luxury?" asked Beth Flowers of Brownell Travel in Birmingham, Ala. "It's not a great hotel room. We never get anyone who says, 'The bathroom was lovely.'"

Airbnb isn't luxury either, Flowers said, although she said she is seeing more clients book through home sharing services because they want a local feel, and then calling on agents to provide the luxury touches.

"It's about the intangible where it used to be tangible," Flowers said of today's luxury.
Teresa Perez, founder of Teresa Perez Tours in Sao Paulo, agreed, and said she used to think of luxury as the opulent hotels in big cities like New York and Paris.

Now, she said, luxury is more about the authentic, like the small inn she recently visited in Portugal with only a dozen rooms in the middle of olive groves, "with excellent food, beautiful china, beautiful glasses, all very high level."
Yvette De Vries, managing director of Africa for JG Black Book, said luxury is "no thinking."

That, she said, is the beauty of safaris.

"They don't have to think about 'What time do I get up?' or 'How do I get to the airstrip?' It's all taken care of without having to be in a group of 100. That is a tremendous luxury."

By the end of the meeting, the group agreed the biggest lasting trend they see is multigenerational travel, which in turn is driving demand for villas.

In response, Jena Gardner, president and CEO of JG Worldwide, said smart luxury hotels are adding more stand-alone villas to their portfolio.

For instance, during the three-day meeting, Grace Bay Resorts hosted a reception at a new $25 million private home it will put into its rental pool later this year. Complete with multiple pools, a private beach, a private gym, a grand piano, a pool table and more, the house offers an option for groups of up to 18. The actual price point hasn't been set, but will likely be in the $18,000 to $20,000 range.

Gardner said she formed the council "with the goal to get together the top leaders in travel once a year to keep a pulse on the market, provide an intimate and casual setting to be able to delve into core issues facing our industry and to bond and strengthen our partnership with advisers and JG Black Book and JGBB clients."

On the business front, Gardner said, "there were a lot of conversations about millennials, how to find, train and retain them. It's a different demographic. They don't have any loyalty. I don't think we came up with anything mind-blowing."

Correction: This was JG Black Books' seventh annual Travel Advisor Leadership Council; an incorrect name for the event appeared in an earlier version of this article.

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