Lola Pedro, The Daily Telegraph, December 16, 2013
When analysing trends, it’s easy to get caught up in conversations that focus on consumer preferences from a cultural or specific geographical perspective. In recent years, for example, British travellers have become more eco-conscious when considering what holiday to book.
There are, however, some fundamental human desires that are more substantial than current, trending cultural fads – consumers have long wanted to express their social status through their choices and that isn’t likely to change any time soon. Yet, since the act of travelling itself has long ceased to be heralded as a status symbol, the luxury-travel sector has had to perpetually reinvent itself to remain relevant in the eyes of the world’s most privileged.
This year saw luxury travel brands present novel, responsible, ethical and, in some cases, deliberately frugal solutions in an effort to provide the market with something new. However, this year also saw luxury consumption go full circle, as the world’s most discerning travellers again sought to access experiences inconceivable to most people. Undeniably for these travellers, whether in transit or on holiday, indulging in unashamedly expensive and broadly unattainable travel experiences is the ultimate status symbol.
In 2014, expect even more travels brands to find more lavish ways of catering to this niche with exceptionally exclusive offerings. Let’s look at some examples of how premium travel brands have upped the ante over the past year, taking luxury to a whole new level and offering truly covetable travel services and experiences that can only ever be experienced by a very select few.
The £1 million cruise
In January 2013, the world’s most expensive cruise departed from Los Angeles. Packaged by luxury cruise retailer, Six Star Cruises and priced at £1 million per couple, the four-month cruise aboard the vessel Silver Whisper offered services such as helicopter transportation to the airport where couples could enjoy Beluga Caviar, Da Hong Pao tea and Dom Perignon champagne. Additionally, holidaymakers were treated to a meal prepared by a Michelin-starred chef while travelling by private jet to LA and a Rolls Royce Phantom provided transfers to the port.
The £1 million British weekend break
July of this year saw the launch of the £1 million "best of British" weekend break, which purported to show foreign visitors the best of the country. Privileges on offer include exclusive use of London's 45 Park Lane hotel, exclusive use of the London Eye, a private after-hours tour of the Crown Jewels and a banquette in the Tower of London, as well as comparatively extravagant experiences in Scotland.
Luxury trip to every World Heritage Site
March 2013 saw the launch of a two-year tour that would visit every World Heritage Site in the world – there are almost 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage sites across 157 countries. Priced at £990,000 per couple, the itinerary includes guided visits to sites such as the Pyramids at Giza and Easter Island. The cost covers all travel (in business-class at a minimum on all routes where available) and accommodation in hotels such as The Plaza in New York City and the Four Seasons George V in Paris.
Safari package costs over 1 million dollars
June 2013 saw US-based travel company Extraordinary Journeys unveil a safari package priced at $1 million for a family of four. Guests have access to a private tour guide, with highlights of the vacation including gorilla trekking in Rwanda, visiting the Maasai Mara, the Seregeti and Victoria Falls, as well as the beaches of Mozambique and tourist sites in Cape Town. Taking place over a five-week period, the vacation package includes accommodation, food and flights.
Private jet tour operator introduces all-inclusive vacation packages
In June 2013, Seattle-based private jet tour operator Intrav announced eight new, all-inclusive vacation packages for 2014. Each tour package includes a 24-hour on-demand concierge service, customised itineraries and behind-the-scenes excursions, five-star hotel stays and a souvenir iPad, pre-loaded with destination information and in-flight entertainment. Passengers travel on a custom-configured plane with access to an onboard chef. Tours are limited to 50 travellers, with prices starting at $65,950.
Emirates Airlines launches private jet service
July 2013 saw UAE-based Emirates Airlines launch Emirates Executive : a private jet charter service. The service is available on a modified Airbus A319; each aircraft can carry up to 19 passengers and is divided into a dining area and lounge, 10 private suites (each featuring a flat-bed seat) and a shower spa. Video-conferencing facilities, high-speed internet access and mobile phone connectivity are also installed, with prices available on request.
Private jet company offers monthly membership scheme
California-based Surf Air is a company that offers members unlimited private jet flights for a monthly membership fee. Serving cities across the state including San Francisco and Santa Monica, members can reserve their seat via the Surf Air site or mobile app, and can check-in up to 15 minutes before take-off. As all members (and their guests) are screened, there’s no need to pass security or wait in line. Other benefits of membership include free snacks and beverages, Wi-Fi and parking, with monthly subscription costing from $1,650 (£1,000), plus a one-off $500 fee. Surf Air’s first flight took off in June 2013.
Railway company introduces über-luxurious sleeper trains
In June 2013, the East Japan Railway Co. announced plans to launch a luxury sleeper train featuring large suite-style accommodation, as well as dining and lounge wagons. The flagship sleeper will be designed by industrial designer Ken Okuyama and will use a non-utility diesel electricity generating system. East Japan Railway Co.’s luxury service will begin in Q2 2016.
In 2014, the luxury travel arena will not only embrace exceptionally expensive holidays, but also tap into an even greater sense of exclusivity. As status symbols trade off a sense of privileged access, expect savvy high-end brands to weave this facet into travel in ways never seen before.
Lola Pedro is a senior industry analyst at London-based trend firm trendwatching.com . One of the world's leading trend firms, it monitors and reports on emerging consumer trends, insights and innovations. You can follow its latest reports on Twitter @trendwatching .