It’s the time of year for decoding the new travel bro-chures and making travel predictions about the ‘hottest trends’ for 2018. The only problem, of course, about writing about a new travel trend — or destination, hotel, or beach — is that the mo-ment the guide hits the news-stands, it becomes an open secret and is probably finished as an in-sider’s prize. But that is part of the beauty of the Spear’s 500 Travel Guide. We are not on news-stands: what you read in these pages is like going to the VVIP night of Miami Basel or Masterpiece in London where only the really serious collectors go, to experience the show before everybody else.
It’s the same with the uber-travel landscape. As we discussed on the future of luxury at the Spear’s Wealth Insight Forum in September, boutique travel today has followed the recent trend of the HNW lifestyle today with luxury and ‘status’ being defined not so much by brand labels — including brands like Bulgari actually owning hotels — and physical possessions, but rather spending choices that tell others ‘who I am’. Which is why ‘wellness’ and buying seemingly non-material ‘authentic’ intangible experiences are now what HNWs are seeking as opposed to the merely tangible.
That is one reason why we gave our entrepreneur award in 2016 to Bobby Dundas, founder of IGO Ad-ventures, which takes expeditions to the Arctic or South Pole where desk-bound hedgies and bankers en-joy testing their physical endurance and survival skills. This vogue for ‘extreme’ wilderness travel is another reason why we launched our travel guide last year. HNWs are looking for more than just lying in a cabana at the Hotel du Cap or renting a villa in Mustique.
The trend seems to be wanting more than just such buzzwords as ‘artisan’. We have moved beyond ‘be-spoke’ into the world of the personally ‘curated’. Luxury trend analysts now refer to HNWs being ‘self-actual-isers’. They are not looking so much to buy the ultimate limited edition Bugatti or vintage wine collection. They are on a quest for the ‘Quintessential Self ’. And this Mr Self actually sometimes doesn’t like to travel very far when he gets to his destination. The journey is about getting there. Once there, you relax.
certainly felt this back in April, when I spent a few days at La Mamounia hotel in Marrekech, a highlight of my travel year. I was told that something like 70 per cent of guests never leave the hotel, with some never deviating from a daily route between their room, the spa, the former royal gardens (lined with ancient olive trees, orange blossom and Madagascar periwinkle), and, of course, the Churchill Bar. It’s easy to see why it was one of Churchill’s favourite hotels.
The trend here is to not explore beyond your hotel: many HNWs are simply exhausted. They want a holi-day that is not so much a resort as a reawakening of the self, through heritage and history. Alas, too many ho-tels and resorts lack any real history, and are almost interchangeable. You could be anywhere in your luxury villa with plunge pool and uniformed butler.
If you do want to go to an exotic country like Mauritius, where the travel industry is still relatively young, and to truly experience its heritage, culture and out of the way secrets (from bars to beaches), it’s worth knowing about the services of the new breed of private uber-concierges like Thierry Macquet. He is one of the travel world’s ultimate insiders — with top social con-nections and unique knowledge, and contacts that are utilised by a number of leading private super-wealthy families who trust him to make their travel arrange-ments and do not want to use a travel agency or mass ‘concierge’ service. Which is why Thierry won’t talk about his clients, as he is a modern day luxury travel super-fixer in the tradition of Baedeker.
More typical of the sort of trend that HNWs are buy-ing into today is the marathon mini-break offer from the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona — a ‘luxury programme’ for those running in the Barcelona Marathon, launched in 2016. The hotel’s ‘Marathon Package’ included a three 27BOLD NEW LOOKDramatic focal points meet vibrant infusions of colour in the UNESCO Geopark.Experience the perfect gateway to mystical mangroves and ancient rainforests.For more information and our latest offerfourseasons.com/langkawi/offersUntitled-5 120/11/2017 11:30night’ stay with ‘personalised coaching’ and two spa and massage treatments. The Get Ready package included a ‘five-day training plan designed in collaboration with a local sports medicine clinic’.
So the first thing I expect to see in 2018 is an increase in travel becoming a key way that HNWs move away from trophy holidays (a villa in St Barth’s or a suite at the Palace Hotel in St Moritz) to an ‘experi-ence’ that is ‘intangible’ and not necessarily associated with wealth. If anything it’s an ‘escape’ from wealth.
Which is why The Future 100 Report, published in December, decided that ‘Underwater Travel’ is going to feature highly with HNWs in 2018. Indeed, a restaurant called Under is opening in Norway in 2018 following the lead of Ithaca in the Maldives, which also boasts the Huvafen Sushi Underwater spa. HNWs can also book — for $100,000 a place — an underwater journey to ex-plore the wreck of the Titanic with marine research company OceanGate and Blue Marble Private. Destina-tion travel will be taken to a different level again at Dubai’s new underwater resort, Floating Venice.
Status used to be about possessing certain objects. Now, so many people have so much. The result? Travel has become less about how many homes and holidays HNWs have and more about the uniqueness of the ‘experience’ and how it reflects on who you are.
According to Bain & Co, the global luxury and travel market will reach ¤295 billion in revenue by 2020. Luxury trend analysts talk about how ‘premium con-sumers intensify their quest to live out and personify their ideals’. Following Prince Harry’s engagement, there was a lot in the press about the rise of the new ‘Globo’ class who spend weekends in Venice, Lake Geneva or Sardinia, for whom the private jets or planes are like trains. I think this is not the direction of real travel for HNWs, however, at least not in this country. I think the trend will be for more cross-generational (ie, to bring the grandparents and nanny) travel exper-iences in parts of the country where you can rent Eng-lish country house villas, hunting lodges and castles, and be looked after as if you are staying in a Gstaad chalet. A good example is Roshven House near Fort William, a magical holiday rental estate owned by the Scottish entrepreneur Angus MacDonald, who has turned it into an award-winning holiday house.
That is what real HNWs aspire to do with their time: get away from the madding crowd with their family. I’ll be making a real effort this year to spend more time travelling around the country visiting local British tourism areas. I don’t want to spend two hours in a security queue at the airport before being frisked: with Brexit on the horizon, it seems only appropriate.