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- 13 Dec 2010
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Taking the Pulse of the Luxury Traveller Online & Beyond

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Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel in Peru, one of the hotels in the networks of travel referral and bookings sites like KiwiCollection.com, Virtuoso.com and TabletHotels.com


Last week, the French Riviera witnessed a spike in visitor numbers thanks to over a thousand luxury travellers who descended on Cannes. But these weren’t just your ‘ordinary group of elite tourists’ gathering for some gala event; they were the movers and the shakers of the luxury travel industry itself.

For four days at the International Luxury Travel Market, luxury hotel operators, representatives from resorts and unique destinations, VIP travel agencies, elite bookings services and influential editors from upmarket travel magazines made deals and talked shop. What can be gleaned from the utterances of the trade reporters who followed them there and the early headlines which they have produced?

The AFP decided that leading story was how social media is altering the landscape for agents, properties and destinations – and the decision-making process for luxury travellers. “Facebook, Twitter and a host of invite-only travel websites are fast becoming a key pipeline for well-heeled travellers as well as the budget-conscious to find hot deals and destinations,” wrote the author, Audrey Stuart. Stuart cited the figure of 55-60% which Olivier Chavy, a senior executive at the Conrad and Waldorf Astoria hotels and resorts, had said was the proportion of booking which are made typically made online in the sector.

“Savvy upmarket travellers, however, can pick up tips on less well known websites and invitation-only online communities, such as asmallworld, the kiwicollection of hotels, Jetsetter, Rue La La, SniqueAway, Tablet Hotels, Vacationista or Voyage Prive,” Stuart continued, before quoting a few key guests as follows:


Klara Glowczewska, editor-in-chief, Condé Nast Traveler

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“Social networks, such as Facebook with its 600 million users, will have a dramatic impact on how affluent consumers make their (travel) decisions.”



Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso, a network of elite global travel agencies

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“Social media is one of the best things that ever happened to true professional travel advisors… I have up to 1,200 friends on Facebook, who are either close friends or colleagues and when I learn something really interesting about a destination that I have just come back from, I click ‘share’ and everybody benefits.”


The Economist relayed back some of the more interesting statistics bandied about during the forums. “Each day of 2011 there will be 10,000 baby-boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) turning 60. Luxury hotels and travel planners must be licking their lips at the prospect that a significant portion of those new sexagenarians will want the trip of a lifetime (and hang the kids’ inheritance…),” wrote the magazine’s blogger J.A, who went on to comment on the projection that within the decade there will be 100m Chinese travelling abroad.

“How many will be rich enough to travel in style is difficult to know—but already 30% of the guests at the very expensive Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong are from mainland China. Reception staff around the world had better start brushing up their Mandarin language skills.”

 The future for luxury agents lies in being able to offer even higher levels of customisation and to ‘cut through the noise’ 

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Cape Town, one of the destinations recommended by BlackTomato.co.uk for its experience themes “Need some bustle?”

Personalisation was another theme at the Cannes event. “The future for luxury agents lies in being able to offer even higher levels of customisation and to “cut through the noise” when guiding clients,” reported TTG Live’s April Hutchinson who highlighted telling statements made by other delegates:


Chris Gabaldon, Ritz-Carlton’s chief sales and marketing officer

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“The next generation of affluent travellers look for truly personalised services, so travel companies must identify those unique experiences for them…The world is divided into those who simply shop and those who look to people to curate the experience for them and give meaningful value.”



Tom Marchant, the co-founder of Black Tomato

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“[Luxury travellers] are looking for earned experiences in out-of-the-way places that can really disconnect them from the immediacy of daily life and let them get back to the roots of travel, which is essentially exploration.”


Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, co-owner of the American agency, Valerie Wilson Travel

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“We [agents] are the travel advocate and clients expect us to vet the information we have. Giving full disclosure and being transparent over that information with our clients is key in order to be able to show that we deserve the charge for the service we are providing.”