Understanding the 'new' luxury travel market

5 Aug 2019

Global travel trends are changing rapidly. As new markets emerge, others mature and the spending power of Millennials becomes increasingly influential in travel trends, the tastes and demands of the average global traveller are shifting.

This is particularly relevant for the luxury travel sector, where numerous global experts are arguing that a new global luxury standard is on the rise, and “unique” experiences and a “sense of place” are becoming more important than the traditional signifiers of luxury.

This shift towards unique hospitality experiences and unique locations stands to benefit the NZ segment of the market. To explore how this ‘new’ luxury could effect the NZ travel market, and how the demands of the luxury traveller to NZ are changing, Hospitality New Zealand spoke to Andy Cunningham, manager of Hospitality New Zealand member Fiordland Lodge in Te Anau.

Have you noticed any changes in NZ’s luxury travel market?

As a luxury brand, we are constantly looking for new ways to deliver incredible experiences and memories for our guests. Fiordland Lodge caters primarily to an international clientele with the New Zealand market making up less than 5 percent of our market. About 40 percent of our guests come from the United States. European countries and the UK have always been strong markets for us, with both Singapore and Hong Kong increasing strongly.

How does the luxury travel sector in NZ differ from luxury markets elsewhere in the world?

For most wealthy tourists, luxury accommodation and fine dining is just a part of their everyday life. All our clients live in countries where they can have equal or better luxury accommodation, so we need to market to our strengths. Fiordland Lodge is looking to capitalise on a perceived rejection of pretentious or showy luxury, and promoting more privacy, authenticity and natural tourism experiences away from the crowds. Our clients are wanting authentic experiences, which showcase the natural beauty of New Zealand.

What is your insight on what constitutes luxury in travel in 2019?

Luxury tourism has always been a strong market simply because it is pretty much recession-proof. That is because the ultra-high net worth individual is typically not that affected by economic downturns. New Zealand will never be a glamourous Monaco, or Vegas but what we do have is open space, mountains and spectacular landscapes, all of which holds massive appeal. The new luxury is natural beauty, clean air and water, physical activity, health and wellness. Luxury lodges in New Zealand can usually tick all of these boxes, since they are typically situated in beautiful, private locations, have wow-factor properties, host the best chefs in the country, provide efficient friendly service and are able to offer bespoke activities.

What new patterns have you noticed among luxury travellers?

Luxury travellers are steering away from commercial and off-the-shelf activities. We focus more on offering custom-made adventures away from the crowds. I call it understated, down-to-earth luxury. It is very unusual to have guests at the lodge throughout the day as all our guests are out enjoying the location, doing walks, and enjoying the Fiordland National Park and what it has to offer.

Have you noticed a difference in the profile of the average luxury traveller?

We have certainly noticed an increase in multi-generational travel, and parents who are wanting their children to have deeper, more meaningful experiences while travelling as a family. For example, we are seeing more families (especially out of America and Europe) that are taking their children out of school and having a 12-month sabbatical travelling the world, often while home schooling the kids or travelling with a nanny or teacher.

There is also an emerging Chinese middle class and a growing number of Chinese millennials who are interested in nature and trekking.

2019 has been dubbed the year of “bite-size” travel, with more people taking mini-breaks. Do you agree?

We are certainly seeing this out of the Australian market, especially now that all major Australian cities are flying directly into Queenstown. An increasing number of Australians are targeting a Southern Lakes break where they will spend two days each in Wanaka, Queenstown and with us at Fiordland Lodge.

One of the major luxury travel trends currently discussed a lot is offering guests “unique”, “authentic”, and “local” experiences. Do you have any advice on how operators can achieve this?

We experience through our property a strong desire to live like a local, and luxury increasingly represents authentic experiences. While unique experiences remain a priority of what we actively promote how we achieve this is by marketing and promoting Fiordland and the region before actually promoting Fiordland Lodge. We have to give a reason for people wanting to come and then once we have sold them on the region, staying at Fiordland Lodge is simply the preferred accommodation option.

What is the major point of difference that luxury travellers are looking for in NZ?

Our guests want to connect with Kiwis. They want to get behind the scenes and meet real people. They want to have cultivated relationships with the country’s top guides, particularly for fishing and adventure travel, as well as with the managers of the lodges.

Share your Hospitality New Zealand member stories with us on social media using #HNZmemberstories.

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