Close your eyes and think “luxury travel.” What do you see?
Maybe you are imagining a month-long European chateau rental with a full staff to take care of your every need. Or perhaps an adventure sail aboard a private yacht, island hopping from one high-end villa to the next. No matter the destination, your luxury trip comes with a customized itinerary with every detail strategized and executed flawlessly to provide the journey of a lifetime.
Now, close your eyes and think “luxury travel during coronavirus.”
Has your trip changed? Quite possibly. From the number of locations to the number of staff on hand, COVID-19 has altered what luxury travel means to affluent travelers. It has also increased the demand for travel protection services.
The Luxury Market
Travel and tourism were one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic. But luxury tourism, an industry designed to satisfy the lavish travel expectations of high-net-worth individuals, appears to be more resistant to the pandemic than tourism in general, according to Statista. Travel industry experts predict the luxury travel market will be the first to start traveling again.
“Luxury travelers include vacations as a standard part of their life to decompress or spend quality time with family and friends,” said Mimi Lichtenstein, founder and custom travel advisor of Truvay Travel and Global Rescue Safe Travel partner. “That’s been disrupted and there’s pent-up demand.”
“The first thing out of the gate will be private trips — family bubbles and small groups with high confidence,” said Jim Sano, a former tour operator and Global Rescue advisor. He provides an example: “High-end safaris. People are booking seven-figure trips to fly in and camp with a private group.”
Allied Market Research predicts the global luxury travel market is expected to generate $1,614 billion by 2026, growing at a rate of 7.9% during 2019-2026. According to Amadeus Travel Intelligence, North America and Western Europe account for 64% of global outbound luxury trips, despite making up only 18% of the world’s population.
Lichtenstein notes many luxury travelers were insulated from the negative economic impact of the pandemic and will fulfill their need for travel as soon as possible. But the definition of luxury is evolving.
“It’s become more of a reflection of an individual than of the typical definition of extravagance,” Lichtenstein said.
Here are a few ways luxury travel has changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and how Global Rescue can help.
Luxury travel is defined less by Michelin stars and more by access to the people, places and experiences representing the authenticity of a destination. Artisans of Leisure will tailor trips according to traveler interest; for example, history buffs traveling to Vietnam can meet with a well-known historian in Hanoi to learn the history of the country through the eyes of a local expert.
“Luxury is about the experience — the personalization of experiences to be in line with what they love,” Lichtenstein said.
Remote — But Not Too Remote
An isolation vacation — a trip to a remote destination — sounds like the perfect COVID-19 trip. But travelers want to be in touch with the latest travel changes from weather to public demonstrations to coronavirus hotspots.
“Some people want to check out of the real world, but most want to be able to check in once a day. Communication ability is important,” Lichtenstein said.
Off-the-grid is preferred for adventure travelers, but they still need access to information and assistance.
“Smart travelers know situations can change at a moment’s notice,” Sano said.
This is where a satellite phone and a travel protection membership are necessary. Satellite networks are more reliable than cellular networks, which are typically the first to crash or become overloaded in an emergency or disaster situation. And, if you ever need a medical or security evacuation, you will need a sat phone for two-way communication. Travel protection services companies, like Global Rescue, require two-way communication with members.
Today’s trips are kept small. It’s safer to stay with people you know to limit your risk of coronavirus contagion. Families are limiting near-term trips to immediate household members and the intergenerational travel trend has temporarily come to halt since grandparents are in the high-risk category due to age or pre-existing conditions.
“The popularity of group trips has declined, and many clients stopped traveling all together,” said Vitalij Kovalysin, director of ELVIT LTD, a property and lifestyle concierge based in the United Kingdom and Global Rescue Safe Travel partner. “Clients do not want to take unnecessary risks.”
The pandemic has also reformatted group trips — trips with like-minded people. Vans or busses adhere to the “middle seat empty” standard and admission tickets are provided to ensure fewer points of contact.
High Health And Safety Standards
Travelers have always inquired about health and safety measures from cleanliness of the hotel to the safety of their belongings to the qualifications of their drivers. Health and safety are still important to European travelers, especially luxury travelers. This includes an emphasis on cleanliness — from the room’s frequently touched surfaces to the hotel’s high-trafficked areas — and strict adherence to coronavirus protocols.
“All clients are asking the same questions about coronavirus rules and restrictions, as well as the safety of a particular destination,” Kovalysin said. “The United Kingdom has very strict rules.”
According to a survey by Booking.com, 68% will only book a particular accommodation if it’s clear what health and hygiene policies it has in place and 75% favor accommodations that have antibacterial and sanitizing products.
If luxury travelers want to track coronavirus hotspots and testing requirements, Global Rescue offers a free coronavirus intelligence center, updated weekdays. Members can also call, email or send a message via the My Global Rescue App to ask for travel information about their specific destination or the nearest health care facility with testing capabilities.
A Preference For Private Trips
Private jets, private yachts, private islands, private guides. Exclusivity lends itself well to coronavirus social distancing protocols. With your own private transfer or personal guide, you are not sharing space or items with a group of strangers.
Even if you don’t book a private trip, you can schedule a private tour with your own personal guide and/or driver to limit points of contact. You will be able to see the city on your own time and your own schedule, adapting the day to your interests and safety standards.
More Demand For Travel Designers
Travel designers know the ins and outs of travel from who to work with, where to go, when to book and which restaurant provides the most authentic cuisine. They have cultivated a vast, exclusive network and relationships and knowledge to provide the best of the best to clients.
“My relationships with trusted partners in every country give me up-to-date, local knowledge and insider access to un-Google-able experiences, such as glamping or fishing on private lands, a tour of a private vineyard and wine tasting with a member of the Spanish royal family, hearing stories from a member of an iconic family in Sydney with access to the vault of the rarest pearls on Earth, or sea bobbing with a pod of dolphins,” Lichtenstein said.
Luxury travel designers get to know their clients on a personal level and create a one-of-a-kind trip designed to their needs, interests and dreams.
“I’m focused on a long-term relationship. I invest time getting to know my clients – what they love, where they’ve been, the pace they like to travel, and their families, too,” Lichtenstein said. “If they are looking for fun, then that is the lens I use to select places and experiences. If they are looking for romance, adventure, activity or introspection, then I curate places and experiences based on that.”
Request For Travel Protection Services
Many luxury travel designers automatically include travel insurance with any trip. Travel insurance offers protection against trip cancellations, interruptions and delays as well as baggage loss and delays. Some travel designers go one step further and provide travel protection services to offer clients’ additional protection in the event of an emergency.
“We advise clients who are looking for extreme travel — such as fishing, hunting, mountain climbing, trekking or risky destinations — to buy Global Rescue,” Kovalysin said.
“Global Rescue is a great choice for travelers going on active, adventurous vacations, and those are the types of trips I love to plan,” Lichtenstein said.
What’s the importance of having travel protection services on a luxury trip? After all, you’re spending a large amount of money on the best of the best and there shouldn’t be any worries.
Travel protection services are like having a personal assistant available for your health and safety. A Global Rescue membership is there for the small asks — such as expediting a lost passport to finding the nearest health care facility — as well as the big asks: field rescue, medical evacuation and security issues/civil unrest.
One of those big asks includes managing coronavirus bans, advisories and testing requirements.
“Whether business or leisure, travelers will want a total solution,” Sano said. “This means services at every point in the arc of the traveler experience, from the beginning all the way to the end of the trip. This might include testing capabilities, which will greatly reduce risk and increase comfort levels.”
This is where Global Rescue can step in and help manage the process. If members need testing for COVID-19 before taking a flight, they can call Global Rescue to find the nearest and most appropriate health care facility. If a life-threating illness or injury occurs, Global Rescue’s medical team can help with case management, translation services or advisory services and, if need be, our operations team will handle the logistics of getting a member home safely. When the emergency medical situation includes COVID-19, all aspects of ground and air evacuation are in compliance with CDC regulations.
Click here to learn more about the benefits of a travel protection services membership.
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