Low-cost airlines are poised to expand into the long-haul travel space. Scoot, part of Singapore Airlines, offers affordable flights between Singapore and Tianjin in northern China. Norwegian Air Shuttle, a no-frills European airline, has started flying to Thailand, and Wow Air, an Icelandic airline, is starting routes from London to Boston via Reykjavik.
Consumers are increasingly shopping for adaptable, high-low travel solutions.
“You begin the day with homemade pumpkin seed, walnut and blueberry muesli bars, then head out to cycle with new friends on quiet country roads, breezes cooling you under the warm, bright sun. The colors of the canyons change, like an all encompassing kaleidoscope, as you ride on.” Such is the enticing vision laid out by the new TerraVelo Tours. Wellness tourism is on the rise—the Global Wellness Tourism Congress says wellness travel is already a $439 billion market and predicts growth of 55% by 2017. In France, Le Nuage, a hip luxury wellness spa by Philippe Starck, opened this year in Montpellier, offering health, fitness and relaxation facilities.
Wellness is being repackaged in a hip new way for both Millennials and Boomers, who are prioritizing health and well-being as a key part of their lifestyle and leisure pursuits.
Dubai is already established as a luxury shopping hub, and now it’s gaining an avant-garde edge, thanks to the new Dubai Design District. The District covers up to 25 million square feet and features a design school, concept stores, boutique hotels, showrooms and residences. “People are hungry to know more about our culture, about Dubai,” Amina Al Rustamani, group chief executive officer of Tecom Investments, which is spearheading the project, told Women’s Wear Daily. “The project is to nurture local talent and hopefully have the next global brand come out of Dubai. ... This city is full of secret talents.” Chanel, recognizing that Dubai is now a top-ranked destination for tourists and that the city represents 30% of the Middle Eastern luxury market, according to Bain & Company, recently staged a fashion show there. Next stop: a new wave of luxury hotels. Rosewood, St. Regis, W Hotel, a Palazzo Versace and The Langham are all slated to open in 2015.
Dubai has long been a shopping hub for luxury consumers, and it’s increasingly becoming a hub for Chinese consumers too. It’s also becoming a mature luxury market and, as such, switching from bling to art and cultural projects.
A new wave of travel services is connecting consumers to local people, social networks and influencers at their destination. Plus One in Berlin, now My Plus One, was a forerunner, offering guests the chance to connect with local experts to discover bars and stores and get the insider perspective. The Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, London, has started monthly cycle tours led by artists and influencers, to enhance the local flavor. Hallo Hello, a pop-up restaurant in Copenhagen Airport, offered diners the chance to meet other socially minded travelers over dinner, and Six Degrees, a social networking platform launched by Marriott Hotels that includes mobile apps and an “interactive table,” similarly connects like-minded guests.
More travelers are seeking both authenticity and social networking from their journeys.
Airports are becoming venues for art, gastronomy and wonder as global consumer travel continues to grow. Moment Factory, the digital creative collective, has created an interactive digital art wall at Los Angeles Airport. Avant-garde chef Heston Blumenthal has launched the Perfectionists’ Café, a chic eatery, at London’s Heathrow.
Airports are also becoming architectural monuments: Mexico City is set to quadruple the number of passengers flying in each year to 120 million by 2050 with a new $8.5 billion airport designed by British architect Norman Foster and Mexico’s Fernando Romero. The airport’s lightweight, X-shaped shell will be more environmentally friendly than conventional airport buildings.
More consumers are embracing global travel, making airports a key hub not only for retail but for lifestyle and leisure.
As more consumers seek to manage their relationship with technology and take time out from constant torrents of emails, hospitality spaces are facilitating tech-free time and offering space for contemplation. A new Westin package for its Hilton Head Island property in South Carolina invites guests to surrender mobile devices and car keys at check-in and enjoy exploring with an “unplugged survival kit” that includes maps of the island. The increasingly popular Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, where cell service is at a minimum and mobile phone usage is frowned upon, is often viewed as an escape from technology—and society at large. Bucato restaurant in Los Angeles has banned mobile phone use, aiming to prevent what it has termed “gastro ADD.” Trendy new Parisian bar L’Isolé (“Isolated”) has a no-Facebook, no-Twitter policy and purposely refrains from providing Wi-Fi. Other eateries, including the August First café in Vermont, are similarly cutting off Wi-Fi and banning laptops to create a more Central Perk-type atmosphere.
Creatives are also playing with the notion of isolation and tech-free time. Social Pool, a pool/sculpture created by Alfredo Barsuglia in the Southern California desert, is “a complex replica of the contradictions and ideology of contemporary society, where remoteness from others and quietude are luxuries for the ever-communicating city-dweller.” Forest Retreat by Uhlik Architekti is a similarly remote cabin in rural Bohemia, designed for a client looking for a quiet escape from his hectic lifestyle in Prague.
Some de-teching proponents are also moving against the practice of constantly sharing while on vacation. 99 Days of Freedom, by Dutch creative agency Just, calls on people to replace their Facebook profile picture with a “time-off ” image, write one last status update saying they won’t be back for a while, and then log out for 99 days—and share how they spend the time freed up by the experiment.
This isn’t about looking backward—people aren’t closing their cellphone accounts anytime soon. But they are seeking greater control over their technology habits. They’re also focusing on tech-free time as a means to truly relax.
Curiosity Retreats, a program created by Discovery Communications founder John Hendricks and hosted at his western Colorado luxury resort, Gateway Canyons, is one of the first examples of a new travel opportunity for hospitality giants: thought leadership getaways. The five-night retreats offer small groups of guests the chance to learn about technology, science, the human spirit and civilization through lectures while hobnobbing with global thought leaders such as Deepak Chopra, Vint Cerf, chef Rick Moonen and violinist Charles Yang.
As thought leadership and innovation receive mass interest not just in business but also in the consumer press, we’ll look to tourism and vacations to stimulate our minds, awareness and abilities.