As we look ahead to the New Year, Jon Brown, Managing Director at Virgin Limited Edition, has shared his predictions for the future of the luxury travel industry.
• With luxury travel on the rise, it’s important for operators to look beyond the ‘traditional’ source markets in 2019. Following the appointment of Heavens Portfolio as our Sales & Marketing representatives in Asia in late 2017, we are continuing to focus on growing our global presence and appointed The Travel Collection as our representatives in the GCC region in October 2018. Both have proven to be increasingly important markets for us and we are looking forward to seeing them grow even further next year.
• The launch of Kenya Airways’ direct flight route from New York to Nairobi in October 2018, as well as the airlines new code share with Delta, is set to make East Africa even more accessible for US visitors. Not only are we anticipating more visitors to the region, but we have also noticed that travellers are looking for itineraries that span multiple countries to make the most of all that Africa offers. We recently added our Kenyan safari camp, Mahali Mzuri, to our ‘Winelands and Wildlife’ package for that very reason; giving guests the opportunity to combine a safari with a gourmet stay at Mont Rochelle, our hotel and vineyard in the Western Cape.
• In recent years we’ve seen the travel market catering for a social-media savvy audience, but in 2019 we are expecting to see ‘switching off’ as a leading trend. The opportunity to disconnect is one of the biggest luxuries operators can offer; many of our guests choose Kasbah Tamadot in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains for the ‘unplugged’ atmosphere. Guests are encouraged to switch off mobile phones in communal areas and all bedrooms are free from televisions or computers. Similarly, one of the most popular aspects of a safari is the opportunity to discover experiences that truly touch the soul, away from technology. Our Game Rangers at Ulusaba and Mahali Mzuri are experts in helping guests to connect with the environment. There’s no better experience than taking in the silence of a sunrise in the Bush!
• ABTA recently reported that more people are choosing to travel alone than ever before, and this is something we have been seeing more of across the Virgin Limited Edition collection. This year in particular we saw an increase in solo travellers visiting Mahali Mzuri, our luxury 12 tented safari camp in Kenya. We have found that the intimate nature of Mahali Mzuri is perfect for this kind of traveller; with group dining and game drives it is a very inclusive atmosphere. This is a trend we expect to continue into 2019 as more and more guests look to get away from it all and enjoy truly personal experiences.
• It’s great to see that sustainability is at the forefront of everyone’s mind at the moment and it’s important that we in the travel industry play our part in 2019, and beyond. Two of our properties, Mont Rochelle and Mahali Mzuri, recently joined the fantastic ‘Pack for a Purpose’ scheme; where guests can save a few kilos of space in their luggage to bring much-needed supplies for local charitable projects. We’ll be looking for even more ways that we can support our properties local communities next year, with a focus on sustainable initiatives that can create long-term, positive change.
• We’ve seen that guests are looking for flexibility and are keen to have more options to tailor their holiday. We’ve noticed this particularly at Son Bunyola in Mallorca, where groups can take one of three villas exclusively. For the very first time we will be offering a self-catering package at the villas in 2019.
• River cruising is on the up, particularly amongst the North American market, and to meet the increased demand we have created a number of ‘post-cruise’ itineraries at The Lodge in Switzerland. As well as enjoying hiking, biking and views in beautiful Verbier, visitors can combine their stay with excursions to local sites such as Mont Fort and Gruyere to experience more of what the Alps have to offer.