The Future of Luxury Travel Market in India

Posted On: July 2, 2018 | Author : Siddharth Thaker & Ritu Chawla Mathur

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines Luxury as ‘great comfort, especially as provided by expensive and beautiful things’, ‘something expensive that is pleasant to have but is not necessary’, ‘something that gives you a lot of pleasure but cannot be done often’.

A quick glace in our history books will reveal that since eons, India’s royalty and upper-crest were the biggest promoter and champions of all things luxury. Through its glorious days of the past, their lavish lives were interwoven with fairy-tale stories and legends about diamonds, Rolls Royces and made-to-order gems and jewellery. Indian royal history is a story of the love for finer things. Throughout its civilisation, India has been a showcase for unprecedented levels of refinement and a deep tradition of luxury that can be seen in its architecture, arts & crafts, rituals, and grandiose festivals and that has for years reflected in our luxury hotels. We have an unparalleled legacy and today while we continue to consume ‘luxury’ like never before there is an air of positive metamorphosis about the future of luxury travel in India.

The Luxury Consumer’s Mindset

Indian consumers are very different from a consumer in China, Middle East or the West. They culturally are value conscious and will always continue to look for a good bargain. Quality, craftsmanship and service is a selling point but has never been the central pivot for decision making in the mindset of the luxury consumer. At Prognosis Global Consulting we believe that historically, it was the prestige that was associated with brand name that they most closely related to and payed for. Therefore more than anything else, it was the perception of the brand that mattered the most.

However, things are changing rapidly. The modern connoisseurs of luxury travel are young and extremely passionate about their travel experiences; they are seekers; they want to design their own distinct travel experiences; they want to carve out their own inspirations. Luxury holidays for them today represent the finest, most unique and culturally diverse travel experiences. Holidays need to allow travellers to explore virgin destinations and enjoy curated, personalized experiences. The modern consumer wants the luxury hotel brands of the future to be a representation of the finest, most unique, highly personalized and culturally diverse travel experiences that will allow them to explore and experience uniqueness. Luxury travel of the future in no longer about gold faucets, complimentary champagne, large amenities basket or a standardized butler service programs.

Shift from Products to Experiences

Luxury hotel guests’ preferences and buying behaviours are witnessing a tectonic shift. Indian travellers have already shifted towards taking short breaks, multiple times a year and indulge in unique offerings that are highly experiential. They are becoming more and more demanding for personalized, exclusive and emotionally transformational experiences. Luxury hotels brands will need to continue to invest in building on these emotive needs to ensure patronage from this evolved luxury traveller. While enough has been said about the demand drivers of evolved luxury; it is now time for luxury hotel brands to explore ways to proactively re-invent their brand philosophy to effectively cater to these tectonic shifts. The luxury brands of the future, in our opinion, are going to be a lot more about unique, well curated and personalized experiences than the product specifications or complementary goods. The elite traveller of the future will yearn for access over acquisition, and it’s going to be the need for experiences over consumption that will be a key driver of future demand.

Shift towards Curated Minimalism

In the highly competitive world of luxury travel there is slow but surely visible shift from quantity to quality. Luxury in the future will be less about opulence and more about curated minimalism. At Prognosis we firmly believe that needs such as ‘curated’, ‘artisanal’, and ‘authentic’ will fill the itineraries and brands will have to fulfil the highly emotional customer need for ‘simplicity’. True luxury will be in slowing down—it’s going to be all about that moment of eternal happiness when you experience a phenomenal sunrise with your loved ones or the feeling of awe when you are completely in peace and one with nature. Increasingly, less will mean more for the luxury traveller. Experiential and authentic travel will be the buzzwords for the future. It is all about customizing and personalizing the customer's experience – gone are the days of stereotyping a whole segment of travellers. The same brand pitch and service philosophies for all luxury consumers is going to be a big No-No.

Shift towards Exploration and Discovery

Luxury holidays of the future are not just going to be about going to the same hotel with a big swimming pool or the same beach destination, there is a major shift towards exploration of newer ideas and discovery of new destinations in niche markets. The discerning travellers are fulfilling their need to plan for things never experienced or been done before. Brands will have to re-imagine, re-invent and re-define constantly to saciate the need of the travellers to fulfil ‘experience one-upmanship’! Family-owned estates, exclusive boutique hotels, wellness resorts, virgin nature trails, trendy ART+DECO homestays, heritage villas are the future torchbearers of luxury travel. Brands that effectively capitalize and deliver on the travellers' primary desire to make deep, local connections, will become an even bigger draw in the coming years.

Shift from Mainstream to Niche

Luxury hotel brands and other travel and tourism stakeholders will need to be focused on individualism, like never before. Holidays in the future will become less about the mainstream and more about niches. Experiences will be curated around meet-and-greet with visiting artists, literary butlers and culture ambassadors. Ultra-immersive experiences that will help travellers grow as people and as a family unit will gain importance. It is our assessment that a luxury holiday will no longer be just about pampering yourself; but it's going to about connecting – with self, locale, community, culture et.all. Travel will be all about rejuvenation, fulfilment and a strong sense of adventure. Holidays that allows customers to experience a destination from the eyes of a local resident will be in the forefront; experiences that incorporate elements of environmental awareness and social responsibility will gain significance. There will be a shift from brand magnificence to celebration of unique local cultures and its authentic offerings. ‘Localisation’ is increasingly becoming the primary differentiator of success in the luxury travel business. Luxury Hotel brands in India that have already embarked on a journey to capitalise on aspects such as traditional rituals, unique cultural aesthetics or traditional heritage values will form a deep, long-lasting connect with their customers.

Shift Towards Caring & Sharing

Exclusive luxury spa and wellness holidays offering signature wellness programs, holistic relaxation and rejuvenation experiences are already the growth drivers for a large section of the luxury travel market. Integrated transformation of body, mind and soul is an extremely critical and integral part of the travel experience. Global brands will need to realign their product development philosophies based on highly cherished values of ‘Exclusive Understated Luxury’, ‘Eco-Friendly’ and ‘One-With-Nature’ themes. The future of luxury is not about having a spa in a hotel but have hotel facilities within a world class spa and wellness facility. Full service hotels with 500 guest rooms and 20 restaurants no longer fits the definition of luxury. Increasingly, the luxury sharing economy is going more mainstream. Traditional brands built around servicing the customer needs through highly standardized products and prototype service deliveries are rapidly gearing up to service demand for luxury homestays and exclusive vacation homes with a personalized feel. Global hotel brands are also joining the fray to benefit from the boom in the luxury rental apartments and homes market.

So to Prognosis in a nutshell

“A distinct Luxury experience of the future will not mean just opulence, lavish and comfortable accommodations, exquisite gastronomy and a plethora of amazing amenities on offer at the hotel; it is going to be the ‘the best customized and curated niche experience’ on offer. Luxury brands of the future will be fully engaged in curating the full journey of each individual traveller from before he arrives at the hotel, from the point he make that first phone call to discuss his needs, during and after he has left the destination.”

“Luxury hotels will be where highly trained staff will offer guests unique custom-made experiences i.e. offer guests personalized services based on their desires, moods and energy levels, offering meals in distinctive, private locales; inviting guests to eat in whichever location at whatever time they feel hungry and tailoring special adventures like never done before.”

“The levels of pre-emptive and attentive service one receives, the knowledge of the staff that helps facilitate discovery, the journey to the destination itself should all have an air of being a cut-above before they arrive at a resort or location that will astonish.”

“Luxury brand promise will mean you can enjoy an out-of-the-ordinary, bespoke and individualised stay experience at your pace and time, meeting your specific, self-actualisation need that is truly worth boasting about when you get home.”

As integrated service providers to the hotel industry, we believe that not only the birthplace of luxury was in India but it’s in our very DNA. The future of luxury hotel market growth will be transformational and will been driven primarily by lifestyle aspirations as against product segments. Over the years as India gets younger and richer, the discerning traveller’s demand for luxury hotels will be growing between 25.0% -30.0% per cent a year and the luxury travel market will experience a state of positive metamorphosis.

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