To Infinity and Beyond: The Next Frontier of Luxury Travel


Sophie Doran | September 04, 2013

Whether it is diving the ruins of the Titanic or watching the Earth rise from the Moon, luxury tourism is moving far beyond the palace hotels of the Côte d'Azur

Virgin Galactic’s $200m Spaceport in New Mexico

Whether it is diving the ruins of the Titanic or watching the Earth rise from the Moon, luxury tourism is moving far beyond the palace hotels of the Côte d’Azur

The Internet has opened up many doors for consumers, not in the least, the doors of many luxury hotels. Flash sales and third-party discount sites have given access to some of the world’s most exclusive properties, to a range of aspirational segments purchasing rooms at a fraction of the listed price.

It’s the age-old debate; can ‘luxury’ still indeed be considered luxury if almost anyone has access? What really constitutes luxury travel these days? Is luxury contained in the furniture and decor, or the service and surrounding clientele? Naturally the answer depends on one’s opinion of what constitutes ‘luxury’ and indeed the product or service in question.

But what is evident, is that this new influx of ‘access to luxury for all’, is forcing the industry to develop far more ambitious and creative – and expensive – products and services for their top tier clients. In the travel industry, this means everything from space flights to diving the Titanic to eating at every three Michelin-starred restaurant in the world over a six-month period.

“ This new influx of accessibility is forcing luxury travel operators to develop more ambitious products for their top tier clients ”

“Today, about 20% of private jet travellers take at least one experiential trip every year or so spending an average of US$100,000,” explains Russ Alan Prince. “Based on a universe of some 200,000 Ultra-High-Net-Worth families (net worth = US$30 million or more) this translates to as much as US$4 billion per year spent cage diving with Great White sharks or white-water rafting in Colorado.”

“It’s a popular myth in the travel industry that the very rich only play golf and go to spas, or will only do a safari if the tent camp has marble floors and chilled Dom [Perignon],” echoes Douglas Gollan, Editor-in-Chief of Elite Traveler, a magazine distributed globally aboard private jets.

Instead, he divulges, his readers are booking $21,000 packages to skydive in Nepal, or $20,000 treks through Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest searching for Nkuringo gorillas. Or paying $59,680 to be one of 20 people to dive the Titanic wreck during an 11 hour, 12,465 foot expedition underwater.

‘Emirates Executive’, its first luxury private jet service

A British luxury travel website has created an itinerary that will take one couple to all 109, three-Michelin-starred restaurants around the world, for approximately $275,000. The six-month culinary adventure takes two people to the world’s top dining addresses across 12 destinationss, including Lung King Heen in Hong Kong, Sushi Yoshitake in Tokyo, Per Se in New York and Le Meurice in Paris.

Between eating at some of the most sought-after restaurants in the world, participants will also stay at five-star luxury hotels such as the Trump International in New York; the Conrad in Tokyo; the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo; and Claridge’s in London.

The very same firm recently sold a luxury vacation package worth $1.5 million to a wealthy Chinese man earlier this year, which will take him to all 962 UNESCO World Heritage Sites over two years.

“ Space Adventures offers a trip for two around the moon at $150 million per passenger ”

Virgin Galactic made headlines in 2004 when Richard Branson announced plans to take private citizens to space. Seats to fly to space cost US$250,000 upfront, despite the fact that no commercial flights have yet been launched. Private charters are available for up to six individuals, with price on application.

Virginia-based space tourism firm Space Adventures has brokered commercial rides to the International Space Station for the last 10 years under a partnership with Russia’s Federal Space Agency, which provided the Soyuz spacecraft for the flights.

Space Adventures now offers a trip for two around the moon at $150 million per passenger. The firm will fly two private citizens and one professional cosmonaut on a free return trajectory around the far side of the moon.

They will come within 100km of the Moon’s surface and then witness the sight of the Earth rising above the surface of the Moon. Space Adventures reportedly has one customer signed on for the circumlunar joyride and is in contract negotiations with a second, for their first mission to launch by 2017.

Villa Turchese at Hotel Romazzino, Porto Cervo, a Luxury Collection Hotel

Even luxury hotel brands are beginning to create more holistic experiences for their clients, arranging private jet and helicopter travel to their properties in top leisure destinations. Starwood are gradually adding private villas to key holiday destinations such as Porto Cervo – at a cost of approximately €20,000 per night – giving the affluent the privacy of an individual home, with the 24-hour access to all the services of a 5-star hotel.

Even commercial airlines are moving to capitalise on the demand for ultra luxury experiences. Dubai-based Emirates has launched the Emirates Executive service, which will accommodate up to 19 passengers in a private Airbus A319.

The aircraft will be equipped with a highly configurable dining and work lounge, ten first class sleeping suites and a premium shower spa, stocked with Emirates catering and crew, with a range of approximately 3700 nautical miles.

Whichever the product or service, the ever expanding consumer segments for ‘luxury’ are forcing the development of ‘luxury’ beyond what was previously possible. Money can’t buy and impossible is nothing may be tired clichés in the marketing vernacular, but it is these types of experiences that will effectively attract and retain the attention of the ultra affluent.

To further investigate travel and hospitality on Luxury Society, we invite your to explore the related materials as follows:

- The Latest Hotels: The Langham, Four Seasons & Grand Hyatt
- Inside The (Private) Jet Business with Steve Varsano
- The Travel Habits of America’s Affluent

Hospitality | Travel