Experts say that the Luxury Travel industry is on the verge of a boost from Eat, Pray Love style travelers. According to a report on the recent International Luxury Travel Market conference in Cannes, France, the age of luxury travelers has been trending downward and those travelers are interested in cultural experiences and locations like Bangkok and Guangzhou rather than Paris and Rome. And while older U.S. travelers still have the largest piece of the leisure travel pie (according to the U.S. Travel Association Boomers make up 36% of leisure travelers while Gen Y makes up only 12%), this generation rivals the size of the Baby Boomers, and, theoretically, will someday rival their spending power.
Gen Y has been raised on the spoils of their parents’ hard work, have already had all of the “typical” vacation experiences from touring the Vatican with Mom & Dad, to spending a week at Grandma & Grandpa’s Florida condo, to spending a semester abroad in Spain. And a trend among older Gen Yers has become the solo backpacking trips through Europe and Asia, for months on end, staying in hostels and experiencing other cultures.
These experiences have awakened a desire in Millennials that won’t be quenched with Carnival Cruises or even 10-day trips to Venice. And, as more of them start getting older, stop throwing temper-tantrums and secure themselves a place in the working world, the more the luxury travel industry will need to accommodate them.
Cox & Kings, a Tour Operator and Luxury Travel Company, has capitalized on some travel trends that they see forming like Ancestral Travel, where American born families explore in depth the cities where their ancestors came from. Other trends are based in benevolence – travelers attempt to support the economies of countries that are recovering from a national trauma like Japan or nations just developing their tourism like Colombia.
As we all know very well, Gen Y consumes and responds to media very differently than Baby Boomers and even Gen Xers do. In the coming months and years, it will be interesting to see how international travel brands and destinations will evolve to this shift in audience. What will be even more interesting to see is how domestic luxury travel brands will fight to get their share of this spendthrift audience and creatively feed into their desires for experiential travel.