What is luxury travel in 2022? The experts look at how the industry is evolving

After two years of upended expectations, the world of luxury travel is adjusting to new and exciting trends and norms. We speak to the experts about how luxury travel is evolving.

Hikers make it to the top of a peak in the scenic Tyrolean Alps.

Photograph by Getty Images
By Samantha Lewis
Published 10 Oct 2022, 15:00 BST

The luxury travel industry, like the rest of the world, is continuing to bounce back in the wake of the pandemic. The rise of ‘slow travel’ is still gathering pace and longer trips have become increasingly popular as travellers explore how their priorities have shifted.

Part of this is the way in which the concept of ‘luxury’ is being redefined. There has been a move away from extravagance towards meaningful experiences and fabulous trips without the flash.

Tangible things like high thread-count sheets and unlimited Champagne are no longer the main focus. Instead, there is renewed interest in authentic experiences, wellness incorporated into itineraries and climate-conscious options.

This reprioritisation has changed the upper echelons of the travel market for the foreseeable future — perhaps forever. Yet, the sector has responded nimbly and it’s thriving. Here, a handful of industry insiders tell us more... 

Marion Barrère

Head of curation at Mr & Mrs Smith, travel club and luxury hotel specialist

What are luxury travellers seeking at this time? 
Travellers are looking to get under the skin of a place, deeper and more meaningful connections with where they’re choosing to spend their time and visit. They are seeking full immersion in nature; true disconnection. We’ve seen an uptick in requests for remote countryside properties, but also our typically off-season mountain-based properties where people can hike (among many other outdoor pursuits) and be in rural surroundings with wild landscapes.

What tours and destinations are popular?
We’ve seen a huge surge in demand for road trips across Europe with many travellers choosing to slowly travel through France, sometimes twinning across borders with Italy or Spain. The road trip isn’t typically viewed as something for the luxury traveller, but where infrastructure has improved for electric cars, conscious luxury travellers are framing it in a new, slightly more romantic way. Hours lost at the airport are spent whizzing past the French countryside, a far more idyllic start to any holiday. In the past month, we’ve also seen a return in demand for APAC travel, far-flung island trips, particularly in Indonesia. Classic, stylish, cliff-edge hotels overlooking the water such as Six Senses Uluwatu and Amankila are high up on our members’ lists. 

Are people approaching trips in a more ‘conscious’ or holistic way?
Absolutely, our members are incredibly engaged with travelling more responsibly and have a keen interest in sustainable properties and new concepts. People are also staying longer, really maximising their flight and time in a destination, too — I think partly due to more flexibility in the workplace and that blend of work and leisure, but also a conscious mindset on the number of flights taken, too.

Burchell’s zebras at sunset in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Burchell’s zebras at sunset in Kruger National Park, South Africa.
 

Photograph by Getty Images

Alex Bentley

Head of product at Audley Travel, tailor-made tour operator

What are luxury travellers seeking at this time?  
The demand for ‘blow-out trips’ to mark a return to travel is strong. They’re looking for the kind of experiences that can’t be found in a guidebook, such as a Caravaggio-inspired one-on-one painting class in Rome or an exclusive dinner experience in Buenos Aires with a professional chef and sommelier right in their private residence.

What specifications are they requesting? 
The wow factor. Instead of booking every night in a luxury hotel, clients are asked to consider a penthouse apartment, a private villa with a butler or exclusive hire of a safari property to truly make the most of their experience.

What tours and destinations are popular?
We’re seeing a marked increase in interest in luxury rail with new product including Vietnam’s Vietage train between Danang and Quy Nhon, with semi-private seating areas for clients, three-course gourmet meals, wi-fi and a head and neck massage included. The Rocky Mountaineer in the USA has also expanded its routing and includes a two-day trip from Denver to Moab allowing travellers to enjoy the views through oversized glass-dome windows. They will have breakfast, lunch and drinks served straight to their seats, and overnight hotel accommodation is also included.

What else is influencing luxury travel?
This year, clients have been coupling a beach stay with cultural touring experiences to allow them to pack all their expectations for travel into one trip, but with fewer countries to pile on to the schedule. However, bookings for 2023 and beyond indicate client confidence has grown and they’re keen to return to a more complex, exploration-style itinerary.

Hand-crafted scarves, brocade dresses, skirts and wallets are popular souvenirs in Vietnam.

Hand-crafted scarves, brocade dresses, skirts and wallets are popular souvenirs in Vietnam.

Photograph by Getty Images

Misty Belles

Vice president of global public relations at Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel agencies

What are luxury travellers seeking at this time?
Luxury travellers are looking for exclusive, incredible trips of a lifetime, with adventure companies such as Virgin Galactic and White Desert proving popular. Disconnecting from the routine and stresses of home and connecting with new people, cultures and ideas have been the primary reasons for travel in 2022. The prioritisation of luxury experiences over luxury goods continues. Virtuoso offers experiences such as private opera performances in the Sistine Chapel after hours or a private yacht charter around Greece. We’ve also seen a tendency towards private aviation, as travellers look to remove some of the pain points of commercial air travel.

What tours and destinations are popular? 
The US, Italy, France, Canada and Greece came out on top as the hottest global destinations for summer 2022, closely followed by the UK, Spain, Mexico, Ireland and Switzerland. Trips to the Caribbean seem to be gaining popularity through the rest of 2022 and into 2023. 

Are people approaching trips in a more ‘conscious’ or holistic way?
Purpose-driven travel remains paramount, with the preservation of natural and cultural heritage a top-of-mind concern for travellers. In a recent Virtuoso survey, affluent consumers reported transparency is more of a factor than cost when planning to implement sustainable travel practices: 75% of travellers said they’re willing to pay more to travel responsibly if they know how the funds are being used.

What else is influencing luxury travel?
The travel landscape looks very different from 2019. Unprecedented demand for customised travel has led to a 50% increase in the number of people seeking our services. 

Rossella Beaugié

Co-founder of The Thinking Traveller, luxury villa specialist

What are luxury travellers seeking at this time? 
Seclusion and a private space to reconnect with loved ones, with home-from-homes, private residences and villas being the perfect choice for those wanting to get away from the crowds.

What specifications are they requesting? 
We’ve seen an increase in the number of requests that have come through for fully-serviced villas that provide private chefs, villa staff for daily housekeeping and VIP experiences such as in-villa wine tasting. Guests have also been looking for in-villa facilities such as cinemas and hammams. 

What tours and destinations are popular?
Travellers are booking authentic ‘off-the-beaten track’ destinations. Villas on the Greek islands of Paros, Antiparos, Tinos and Syros have been very popular, along with our properties in cosmopolitan favourites such as Sicily and Puglia.  

Are people approaching trips in a more ‘conscious’ or holistic way?
People want a deeper understanding and to get in touch with the community. This is another reason why our portfolio is so well received, because we’ve restored historical buildings like towers in Sicily and a fortress in Capraia. Our clients understand the importance of these places and what they can give back to the community. Guests are also loving having the cook from the village rather than a chef from a Michelin-starred restaurant because they like the opportunity to sample real life in the destination.

What else is influencing luxury travel? 
We’re noticing clients have an amplified desire to travel to our Mediterranean destinations in the cooler, quieter months. We’re also increasingly finding more couples choosing a villa holiday over a hotel stay.

The Bernina Express winds its way through the mountains, Switzerland.

The Bernina Express winds its way through the mountains, Switzerland.

Photograph by Getty Images

Juliet Kinsman

Author and sustainable luxury travel expert

What are luxury travellers seeking at this time? 
People are going away for longer and investing more in travel. They want really high-quality experiences like safaris and more adventurous trips booked through tour operators. People would be much more casual about their plans in the past, but now they’re investing in proper tour operators because if they have to adjust their plans, they want to know someone has their back. 

What specifications are they requesting?
Wellness and wellbeing experiences that stray from your normal boring massage in the spa. People are becoming much more open and adventurous to things like a shamanic ritual. There are a lot of nature-based wellness experiences, which I’m loving hearing about and seeing. People are valuing slowing down and connecting with nature.

What tours and destinations are popular?
Destinations that need tourism support. Rather than going to the obvious places, people are seeking out less populated areas so they know their money can go to more remote communities that need it — and they have a more authentic experience. For example, Bhutan or Romania. 

Are people approaching trips in a more ‘conscious’ or holistic way?
Yes, people aren’t buying these generic package holidays, but they’re taking time to really think about every link in their entire itinerary. Perhaps seeking out activities where they can give back, whether funding a conservation initiative or a social enterprise that benefits indigenous people. 

Juliet Kinsman is author of The Bucket List Eco Experiences: Traveling the World, Sustaining the Earth, published by Rizzoli.  

Published in the 2022 edition of National Geographic Traveller (UK) The Luxury Collection

Find us on social media

loading

Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us

Subscribe

  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2024 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved