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Luxury travel industry gathering reveals early indicators for positive growth at London preview of Luxperience 2014

A gathering of luxury tourism organisations, including resorts, tour operators, MICE organisers and airlines at this month’s London preview of the 2014 Sydney-based luxury and experiential travel exhibition Luxperience (31 August to 3 September) has indicated an encouraging recovery for the UK’s long haul luxury travel sector.

A number of the exhibitors, predominantly from the Middle East, Australasia and South Pacific region and some of the UK’s premium specialist tour operators gathered at the Beaufort Club on Monday 3 March.  Many agreed that a promising increase in bookings for 2014 included a high proportion of families booking luxury holidays as far afield as the Australian Outback with a comparatively short lead time. There is evidence that resorts and travel organisations are not only adapting to meet demand for the luxury family market, but are now aggressively targeting the sector.   

Georgina Coke of Wilderness Australia, who was also representing Luxury Lodges of Australia, recounted a very recent surge in bookings for the Wild Bush Luxury Camps, and resorts in regions as remote as the Kimberley, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, mostly from families wishing to travel this summer.  A number of Australia’s most prominent five star luxury lodges and resorts, including newly renovated Hayman Island and $AU32 million Saffire-Freycinet in Tasmania are family-friendly despite nightly rates of up to £1200 per night.  Rachel Gleave of Turquoise Holidays highlighted the comprehensive new family holiday brochure that her company has launched for 2014, and alluded to the increasing trend for luxury resorts to secure family bookings by selling two connecting or adjacent rooms together at a reduced rate to accommodate children.  She said:  “The time when parents were prepared to spend two weeks in one room with their children is coming to an end.”  She also pointed out that airlines are also responding to the trend with Etihad recently introducing an inflight nanny for all flights over six hours. She added: “As a mum of two active young boys, I can understand how this holds fantastic appeal for those used to a lifestyle with travelling as a major feature but who now have a family to take into consideration.”  

The trend for premium all-inclusive holidays continues on a remarkable upward trajectory.  Fiona Scott-Evans, BA’s destination executive for Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean confirmed that this sector is now accounting for the majority of their long haul holiday bookings, a sentiment that was quickly backed up by Greg Young, UK sales manager for The Park Hyatt in the Maldives who confirmed that the all-inclusive package launched exclusively for the UK market in 2013 “is now driving 99.9% of our UK business.”     

Buffalo Tours UK, specialists in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand Laos and Myanmar was represented by UK director Deborah Youl.  New for this year, with the inaugural flights taking place in August, are the first seaplanes ever to operate in Vietnam from Hanoi to Halong Bay and into the Mekong Delta.  She said “This is really an incredibly exciting development for the region, as what would previously have been a four hour drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay is now a spectacular seaplane trip from as little as US$250 per person.”   River cruising has also been a growth area for Buffalo Tours, and as Youl says: “River cruises recreate the golden era of colonial travel, especially in Asia. The voyage from Vietnam to Cambodia is really a remarkable journey that combines luxury and experience in a way that cannot be replicated.”  

The Luxperience preview was hosted by Lindy Andrews, who is CEO of the luxury and experiential travel exhibition which takes place in Sydney in early September, now in its third year.  The assembled group at the 2014 London ‘pop up’ preview  heard how the luxury market is globally now worth US$1.8 trillion, of which  some US$460 billion is made up of hotel and travel experiences.    With more women millionaires than men predicted by 2020 the female traveller in both business and leisure sectors is set to be well and truly in the driving seat, but the gathering heard that travellers are also increasingly seeking a closer connection to the destination and its culture, with the luxury sector seeing competition from organisations such as Airbnb that offer a ‘caring, sharing’ homestay hospitality mentality.  

CEO Lindy Andrews, who travelled from Sydney to host the event, was absolutely delighted with the turnout for the evening, which was held in the Beaufort club on London’s Kings Road.  She said:  “There was a real buzz and a palpable air of excitement in the room tonight.  Overall the outlook for the luxury tourism sector is very positive indeed and I think our third Luxperience in Sydney this coming September will completely endorse this early indication.  We heard tonight how regions like Australia are bouncing back with UK visitors for 2014 already 9% up on 2013, no doubt in part a result of the favourable exchange rate and positive economic forecast. This in turn is going to impact positively on destinations like Fiji and elsewhere in the South Pacific which are, to a large degree, dependent on the strength of the outbound UK market to Australia.” Luxperience will be staged at Sydney’s Pier 2/3, Walsh Bay with views over Sydney Harbour Bridge from 31 August to 3 September 2014  The show aims to raise the profile of the Asia Pacific region as an innovator in true experiential travel.  As the only bespoke travel exchange in the Southern Hemisphere it has become an essential forum for up to 300 exhibitors and around 350 buyers along with international media with an interest in luxury travel.

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