DUBAI — Winds of change are sweeping through the GCC luxury tourism sector. Once known for its carefully created opulence and resplendence using high-quality materials in furnishings and design, fresh perspectives centered on experiences and emotional connectivity are invigorating the sector and demanding creative responses from destinations, hoteliers and travel management companies.
Top 5 trends in luxury preferences of Middle East MICE travellers:
• Story telling lifetime experiences
• It’s all in details
• Emotional connectivity
Hospitality and travel professional sponsors of the renowned 5th annual MICE Arabia and Luxury Travel Congress—organized by Dubai-based QnA International—agree that experiences which assist in the making and retelling a story are a key requirement among luxury travel seekers.
The 5th annual MICE Arabia and Luxury Travel Congress will be hosted by the glamorous Palazzo Versace for the second consecutive year, and will run on March 1-2, 2017.
“The luxury tourism industry is definitely shifting, from consumers becoming less interested in thread-count, caviar and other material objects, and more interested in experiences. New luxury is all about offering guests a more authentic, genuine experience unfettered by specific brand or quality standards like thread counts,” commented Francois Kassab, Chief Operating Officer, Millennium & Copthorne, Middle East & Africa
“There is a need for authenticity in all experiences which should convey the idea of a destination and its’ history, traditions, and culture,” said Arianna Pradella, Commercial Director, Caldana Travel Service Utat Viaggi. As such, any experience for the luxury traveller is simply insufficient as there is preference for ‘real’ or ‘pure’ experiences—an experience that can unleash the senses and unburden luxury pleasure seekers.
For many years, the luxury sector was defined by fantastically designed interiors encapsulated in secluded locations promising exclusivity, privacy, and serenity for the discerning luxury travellers, and competitors differentiated along these characteristics. While exclusivity is still a defining attribute of luxury tourism it has become the basic requirement, and carries a different meaning.
“Luxury MICE travellers expect a high standard of service, fine finishes, exquisite products, incredible designs and little touches to already be in place in five-star hotels. What will set brands apart moving forward are personalized service and craftsmanship as well as an interesting story to tell – an experience that will help the consumer connect with the brand or hotel,’’ continued Kassab.
Meanings attributed to exclusivity include “the need for more customized and personalized approaches to tailor-made travel programs and service,” said Jason Lim, Chief Operating Officer – DMC, Smailing Tours & Travel Service, Bali, Indonesia. “Clients have to be consulted in the developing of these tailor-made packages and travel professionals are expected to and should be experts in their destinations,” he stressed. Inclusivity is a key trend in the luxury tourism sector, and technological advancements such as the use of apps have shown to assist in including clients’ requirements and needs during their stay.
Speaking on whether a slowed global economy would have an impact on the luxury tourism sector, some sponsors seemed to suggest that there may be some impact that would result in the creation of a sub-sector within the luxury sector. “Affordable Luxury. A growing middle class aspire to travel in luxury and will be more likely to pay for better experiences and interesting destinations although this will not be the kind of astronomical value previously attributed to luxury travel. On the other hand, high net worth individuals that are classified as Luxury travellers in the past are also now looking at value added deals that accords privacy, good value and yet retains the exclusivity that these travellers have come to expect,” said Lim.
Others however, opined that the luxury travel sector has always been insulated from economic fluctuations and would continue to be so.
“Differentiating and responding to emerging trends in the luxury tourism sector is becoming quite challenging, as there are those that are aspiring towards affordable luxury, and high-net worth individuals seeking experiences of a lifetime that would last and even change their lives. This is different to a simple get away or vacation. Recognizing these needs, these trends, and offering customized packages in a curated environment to do business are a key part of the 5th annual MICE Arabia and Luxury Travel Congress,’’ said Sidh N.C, Director, QnA International.
The MICE Arabia and Luxury Travel Congress now in its 5th year will have the tremendous opportunity for outbound business and luxury travel from the Middle East as its focal point. The congress now in its fifth year provides a premier platform for regional and international hotel chains, team building companies, DMCs, tourism boards, cruise companies, and other travel and hospitality suppliers to meet over 100 of the top GCC corporations that plan business, luxury, and MICE travel for their organizations. The USP of the congress is its prescheduled one-to-one appointments format designed to maximize time and generate ROI of all parties involved. — SG