The luxury tourism sector is poised for phenomenal growth in the next five years across the world. However, with ever-fluctuating definitions of luxury, it can be challenging for travel professionals to manage the luxury traveler's expectations.
So what are the expectations of these high-net-worth individuals?
Luxury travelers want to savor as many new destinations and exciting experiences as possible in more authentic ways, according to the latest Virtuoso Luxe Report. While they still want to journey in comfort, the new definition of luxury is personalized adventures shared with family and friends.
Moreover, the well-traveled luxury set is seeking remote, unspoiled destinations to avoid crowds at over-touristed locales. Virtuoso advisors report a rise in requests for places ranging from the culturally distinct to those steeped in nature.
Africa has a great number of remote, unspoiled destinations to offer luxury travelers, according to the new CEO of the high-end safari brand Time + Tide, Bruce Simpson. Simpson said that Time + Tide's offering of a luxury experience exists in wild and often very remote areas of Africa.
"Being in a remote destination, with only the sounds of the bush for company and the billions of stars overhead, not to mention only a mosquito net between you and the animals, it offers a rare balance of comfort and adrenaline, making you realize we are not at the top of the food chain. We are in their world, not ours," said Simpson.
The biggest challenge to overcome, he said, is the expectation of what luxury is in these remote areas. "We need to ensure that we develop and deliver luxury relevant to the location and the specific environment while ensuring that our marketing of these destinations and thus the expectation of the guests we host is well informed and managed," he said.
Another challenge is the food experience. Time + Tide has gardens, which provide a lot of fresh produce directly to the camps, enabling them to incorporate more local offerings into the menu, like baobab tea or bread baked in an earth oven right next to the traveler's table under an ebony grove.
Simpson explained that in countries that are still developing their infrastructure systems, operating an ultra-high-end resort and dining experience can be a challenge, especially in remote destinations where resources are limited. He said: "Time + Tide has made huge strides in sustainable, high-end cuisine, especially in Zambia, with a focus that enables us to cook sustainably, from sourcing the right ingredients to working with local villages to promote sustainable fresh produce supply chains, providing economic gain for a better living and the protection of the environment rather than through its exploitation."
The company does not aspire to offer a traditional luxury product that will be compared to a luxury urban hotel. Said Simpson: "We want to be luxurious in our environment, deliver an experience that complements the location and ensure a service and offering that surprises our guests, the modern-day explorer, and makes them reconnect with themselves and nature and feel fully alive!"
The luxury Time + Tide wants to sell is all about time and space. "What we build is both extremely comfortable and respectful to the environment but always with the framework to deliver an adventure and real experience that the modern-day explorer is after," said Simpson. "Service and experiences are a large part of our luxury, and our intention is to build more on the experience. For example, our Signature Sleepout activity allows guests to sleep in the middle of the bush, on a sleeping roll or hammock with just a mosquito net between them and a canopy of stars. If that is not the epitome of luxury and authenticity, I'm not sure what is."
Simpson said travel advisors selling luxury in Africa need to convey to their clients that luxury is an experience, not just a structure with expensive amenities. He pointed out that the old luxury is all about gold bathroom fixtures and caviar, while the new luxury is about relevance to the environment, unique experiences and adventures, getting to meet and understand the cultures of the surrounding environment and about comfort as opposed to extravagance.
"It's also about reconnecting with the land and the people you're traveling with," he said. "We say we are in the 'happy business,' and you see that when people/families leave our camps with tears in their eyes and a newfound connection with people and their natural surroundings."