LUX­URY REIN­VENTED

There’s al­ways an ap­petite for high-end travel ex­pe­ri­ences but a whole new world has opened up

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - DESTINATION TOP-END TRAVEL - SARAH NI­CHOL­SON

Not all that long ago lux­ury travel was de­fined by lieflat seats in a plane’s first­class cabin, air­port trans­fers in a sleek black car, ho­tel rooms clad in gold and mar­ble, pricey bot­tles of bub­bly, day-spa ses­sions and ex­clu­sive tour guides.

But times have changed and the Patsy-and-Ed­ina ex­tras no longer de­fine lux­ury travel. Per­sonal, pri­vate, sim­ple, small and sig­nif­i­cant are the qual­i­ties top-end trav­ellers seek in their hol­i­day ex­pe­ri­ences.

It’s not about sip­ping a sun­set Sin­ga­pore sling in an ex­pen­sive ho­tel’s ex­clu­sive rooftop bar, th­ese days lux­ury tourists want to tour an ar­ti­san gin dis­tillery with the per­son who buys the botan­i­cals, then be guided through a pri­vate tast­ing by an award-win­ning bar­tender.

Lux­ury-brand strate­gist Michelle Pa­pas says that over the six years run­ning Lux­pe­ri­ence, a high-end travel trade fo­rum, a strong trend to­wards the ex­pe­ri­en­tial has emerged.

“The big­gest trend has come from within the mil­len­nial seg­ment, who are more as­pi­ra­tional and place a high price on their hol­i­day time and work-life bal­ance, and value also plays an im­por­tant role as the lux­ury trav­ellers seek out unique ex­pe­ri­ences es­pe­cially those of­fer­ing emo­tive im­mer­sions.

“There’s also a trend to­wards phi­lan­thropy and seek­ing ways to make the world a bet­ter place, the emer­gence of ‘meaningful travel’ al­lows lux­ury trav­ellers to sat­isfy a de­sire to give mean­ing to their travel.”

So, what does lux­ury travel look like in 2017?

AIR­LINES

Fancy fly­ing is de­fined by first class, with Emi­rates in­tro­duc­ing mois­turised sleep­wear that keeps the skin hy­drated while sleep­ing 11km up, Eti­had boast­ing aerial “apart­ments” that fea­ture a leather arm­chair and sep­a­rate bed, and Qan­tas of­fer­ing a “som­me­lier in the sky” to find the per­fect drop of vino.

There are on-board show­ers to freshen up dur­ing the flight, a la carte din­ing with meals pre­pared by the on-board chef, chauf­feur-driven cars to de­liver pas­sen­gers to the air­port, com­pli­men­tary spa treat­ments in the air­port’s first-class lounge and ex­clu­sive hosts es­cort­ing fly­ers through the air­port.

But lux­ury isn’t re­stricted to first and busi­ness class as air­lines in­crease the num­ber of pre­mi­ume­con­omy cab­ins on long-haul ser­vices and of­fer ex­tra lug­gage, pri­or­ity check-in and progress through se­cu­rity, spa­cious seats and bet­ter meals.

“The emerg­ing air-travel trend in 2017 is the ad­di­tion of pre­mium econ­omy across in­ter­na­tional air­lines, with the cabin priced be­tween econ­omy and busi­ness so you’ll be sur­prised at the af­ford­abil­ity,” We­b­jet man­ag­ing di­rec­tor David Galt says.

“If you join the crowd of trav­ellers book­ing pre­mium-econ­omy flights, you’ll en­joy greater seat re­cline, amenity kits and ex­tra leg room.”

HO­TELS

Dozens of lux­ury ho­tels are open­ing in 2017 and while prop­er­ties fea­ture ev­ery­thing from fa­mous chefs run­ning restau­rants and en­vi­able wine cel­lars to rooftop he­li­pads, cu­rated art col­lec­tions and per­sonal concierges, there’s a trend in new prop­er­ties oc­cu­py­ing his­toric struc­tures.

The Line ho­tel in Wash­ing­ton DC oc­cu­pies a neo­clas­si­cal church, in Lon­don the Four Sea­sons Ten Trin­ity fills the for­mer Port of Lon­don Author­ity head­quar­ters and The Ned is in the Mid­land Bank Build­ing, The Silo in Cape Town has rooms in a for­mer grain store and Ho­bart’s MACq01 flanks a pier that re­ceived con­victs and re­turn­ing sol­diers over the cen­turies.

James Car­reker, owner of The Louise in Ade­laide’s Barossa Val­ley and Aus­tralia’s Re­lais & Chateaux del­e­gate, says “ex­pe­ri­en­tial ho­tels and re­sorts” are re­defin­ing Aus­tralia’s pre­mium ac­com­mo­da­tion with “a new breed of more than two dozen prop­er­ties in re­gional set­tings the sought-af­ter ac­com­mo­da­tion for short breaks and longer stays”.

“Whether it be beach­front, vine­yard, Out­back or moun­tain­top, Aus­tralia’s luxe ho­tels are more than thread-count and sham­poo ameni­ties and of­fer a cu­rated guide to the best off-premises ex­pe­ri­ences match­ing the qual­ity on­site of lo­cally sourced food, glo­ri­ous wine and stun­ning vista,” he says.

TOURS

The se­cret in the lux­ury sphere is fill­ing a trav­eller’s hol­i­day time by tai­lor­ing en­coun­ters to match an in­di­vid­ual’s in­ter­ests.

It’s about not wast­ing hours in a car but rid­ing a plane or he­li­copter to the des­ti­na­tion and thought­ful touches like fresh-baked scones or chilled pros­ecco for morn­ing tea af­ter an early start.

Spe­cial ac­cess and pri­vate time at the world’s most fa­mous at­trac­tions is also a 2017 trend, with tour com­pa­nies ar­rang­ing for guests to see the Sis­tine Chapel, the Lou­vre and the Grand Pyra­mid af­ter the tourists have de­parted for the day.

“Lux­ury is in­creas­ingly about the ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s about de­liv­er­ing meaningful cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional en­coun­ters as well as al­low­ing time for spon­tane­ity, with se­cu­rity and com­fort para­mount,” Aber­crom­bie & Kent’s Aus­tralia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Su­jata Ra­man says.

“It’s pro­vid­ing thought­fully crafted and well-paced jour­neys to lit­tle­ex­plored des­ti­na­tions where con­di­tions can some­times be chal­leng­ing, and the des­ti­na­tions we’re ex­cited about in­clude Ice­land, Ar­me­nia, Mon­go­lia, Cen­tral Asia, Mada­gas­car, Iran and South Amer­ica.”

CRUISES

When it comes to cruis­ing, lux­ury comes in many forms – ex­plor­ing Scot­land’s lochs on a barge, nav­i­gat­ing the Ir­rawaddy on a river­boat or sur­vey­ing the Antarc­tic on an ex­pe­di­tion ship – but the com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor is thought­ful at­ten­tion and cu­rated ac­tiv­i­ties.

Adam Arm­strong, Aza­mara Club Cruises man­ag­ing di­rec­tor in Aus­tralia, says “lux­ury is chang­ing and so is cruis­ing”.

“Old-school lux­ury was all about white gloves and sil­ver ser­vice but Aus­tralians, in par­tic­u­lar, are mov­ing away from this stuffy and tra­di­tional style,” he says. “Lux­ury is now all about authen­tic­ity and travel that con­nects you to the peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties you visit com­bined with per­son­alised ser­vice that recog­nises lit­tle things mat­ter.

“Lux­ury trav­ellers in 2017 want to delve deeper into the des­ti­na­tions they visit, which is why we re­cently an­nounced the next evo­lu­tion of our des­ti­na­tion-fo­cused cruis­ing en­abling guests to im­merse in the des­ti­na­tion and we do this through peo­ple-to-peo­ple in­ter­ac­tion, shared cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence, en­joy­ing lo­cal food, mu­sic, events and more.

“Back on board our bou­tique ho­tels at sea pro­vide a coun­try-club feel where guests can re­lax, wear ca­sual re­sort-style clothes at all times and en­joy per­son­alised ser­vice.”

AUS­TRALIA’S LUXE HO­TELS ARE MORE THAN THREAD-COUNT AND SHAM­POO

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