When we think of luxury travel, we often gravitate towards opulent destinations like Amalfi Coast in Italy or Davos in Switzerland. Luxury travel is all about experience and, most of the time, luxury travel enthusiasts steer clear of places where crowds throng. They choose places and trips that are out of reach for a majority. The submarine expedition to the Titanic shipwreck at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean—in which five people lost their lives in June this year—is one example. It reportedly costs $2,50,000 per person. Similarly, space travel is becoming a thing, with the likes of Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson undertaking journeys into space, along with their Russian multi-billionaire counterparts.
While those undertaking such trips need an appetite for adventure besides a fat bank balance, there is no dearth of uber-rich travel enthusiasts who demand opulent hospitality. According to the Mastercard Economics Institute’s Travel Industry Trend 2023 report, as real wage growth turns less negative across regions, with inflation declining this year, travellers may be more inclined to splurge on high-end experiences, such as luxury resorts and shopping. Cutting down on the risk factor, there are places with less extreme adventures and more relaxed luxury for those looking at destinations that offer them unmatched experiences.
“The luxury traveller’s expectations are constantly evolving, and to future-proof businesses, luxury travel providers are increasingly mining analytics for insights on their customers’ needs and behaviours to stay ahead of the curve,” says Deepa Misra Harris, founder and CEO of BrandsWeLove, a brand and marketing consultancy firm with clients from the hospitality industry.
Experience Over Geography
Luxury travel has now become as much about the overall experience as it is about the choice of place. Even though the classic destinations still hold the top spots, there is a crop of understated destinations that luxury travellers are favouring more now. The need for safety and top-tier experience is seeing a lot of the rich and famous seeking out destinations closer to home.
“The most important aspect for me before planning a holiday is security, followed by a good blend of experiences with sophisticated hygiene and services,” says luxury lifestyle designer Raghavendra Rathore. “My most preferred luxury destination is the jungles of Ranakpur near Narlai, an oasis to recuperate from fashion fatigue and disconnect from the hectic world in the peaceful silence of Rawla Narlai,” he adds.
Luxury travel is all about the experience, rather than the geography. Actor Deepika Padukone recently took a trip to Bhutan and stayed at the ultra-luxurious Amankora property in Paro. “Most traveller requirements of a luxury holiday lie in unique experiences and once-in-a-lifetime or bucket-list destinations,” says Harris. “Whether it be complete privacy and authenticity of the experience, the perfect holiday discovery or a one-of-a-kind cultural fix, delivering these in inspirational and unprecedented ways would make a difference,” she adds.
“Embracing cultural immersions, luxury-seeking travellers want the privilege of private tours to historical landmarks, exclusive access to cultural events and cherished interactions with local artisans. Through these encounters, they gain a deeper appreciation of the local heritage, traditions, and the heartbeat of the places they visit,” says Rajesh Namby, general manager of luxury hotel Raffles Udaipur.
Sustainability on Their Minds
Responsible tourism is an essential aspect that resonates deeply with luxury travellers, says Namby. “They seek hotels and destinations that embrace eco-friendly practices, striving to contribute positively to the environment and the well-being of local communities. By supporting sustainability initiatives, they align their travels with their values, positively impacting the destinations they explore,” he adds.
After months of being deprived of travel due to Covid-19 restrictions, tourists started planning holidays with a vengeance when these restrictions were eased. Since then, the concept of revenge travel has gained significant momentum. With borders opening up, people started travelling again, says Mukul Sukhani, senior vice president, business development at Mastercard. “Many call it revenge travel. Consumers are prioritising leisure travel and exploring new corridors around the world. This new era of travel is about having access to the most exclusive and luxurious experiences,” he adds.
The Haunts Of The Rich
Post-pandemic, travellers are focusing not just on destinations but also on a safe and hygienic travel experience. Besides, they seek a holistic experience, which includes connecting with local communities and their cultures. Antara Chatterjee picks top destinations in this category
A Serene Paradise of Pristine Beauty
Nestled in the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives beckons travellers with its ethereal charm. This tropical haven is renowned for its immaculate white-sand beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters, inviting travellers to bask in the lap of luxury. The Maldives has mastered the art of indulgence with private overwater villas and opulent resorts, offering an escape to those seeking tranquillity and seclusion. The allure of the Maldives lies in its unmatched serenity, where time seems to slow down. The secluded villas stand poised over the tranquil waters, providing guests with uninterrupted views of the ocean and the breathtaking sunsets at the horizon each evening. The Joali Maldives resort on the island of Muravandhoo, with its gorgeous floating villas, offers an ultra-luxe experience at prices up to Rs 4 lakh per night. The Maldives presents the perfect canvas for discerning travellers searching for intimate luxury to paint unforgettable memories.
Bora Bora French Polynesia
Nature’s Enchanting Canvas
In the heart of the South Pacific lies Bora Bora, an enchanting island that epitomises the essence of a tropical paradise. Famed for its mesmerising turquoise lagoons and lush natural beauty, this island captivates the soul. Couples seeking a romantic and idyllic retreat find solace in Bora Bora’s overwater bungalows, offering a haven of serenity amidst nature’s splendour. The sheer beauty of Bora Bora leaves a lasting imprint on the hearts of visitors. As the sun casts its golden hues over the tranquil waters, a sense of awe envelops those who witness this magical phenomenon. Indulgent travellers embrace the essence of island life and connect with nature’s boundless wonders here.
Côte d’Azur France
The Glammed-Up Vacay Spot
Côte d’Azur, often referred to as the French Riviera, emerges as a premier haven nestled in the southern expanse of France. Renowned for its timeless allure, splendid climate as well as its historical epicurean offerings, this iconic destination exudes an understated yet captivating elegance. The charm of the French Riviera lies in its sophisticated coastal retreats, expansive sun-kissed beaches and leisurely maritime opulence. Crafted for the discerning traveller, the French Riviera embodies a lavish retreat that beckons those accustomed to the finer things in life.
Within enclaves like Monaco, St Tropez and Cannes, opulence takes the centre stage with hotels and resorts that epitomise luxury in every facet. A stroll through the enchanting boulevards of Cannes or the chic avenues of St Tropez reveals an array of premium establishments that promise an impeccable sojourn in the lap of grandeur. For the connoisseur of unparalleled refinement, Hotel Barriere Le Gray D’Albion in central Cannes offers an exquisite seven-night stay at a premium of £3,640 or Rs 3,83,544 per person. The ultra-lavish Hôtel de Paris Saint-Tropez proudly presents its extravagant offerings at a rate of £9,200 or approximately Rs 9,69,437 per night, a testament to the lavishness that envelops this iconic destination. You can also charter a private yacht, traversing from one hamlet to another. As the sun-drenched harbours welcome you, the vibrant promenades beckon, promising delightful encounters at cocktail bars with delectable culinary treasures.
St Barts Caribbean
Leisure Home for Luxury Seekers
St Barts, a jewel in the Caribbean, exudes an air of refined sophistication that captivates luxury seekers worldwide. This chic destination boasts upscale resorts that pamper guests with impeccable service and exquisite amenities. The island’s fashionable boutiques offer an exclusive shopping experience where luxury finds its perfect match with a Caribbean flair. But perhaps the true allure lies in St Barts’ breathtaking beaches, where soft sands meet crystalline waters. With an ambience of elegance and serenity, St Barts is a coveted haven for those yearning for a refined and luxurious Caribbean escape. St Barts’ volcanic island has become a favoured destination for British buyers, surpassing other nationalities in owning a piece of this exclusive paradise. The allure of this island’s luxury and prestige attracts discerning buyers from around the world, creating an elite community of privileged homeowners.
The Ultimate ‘Bleisure’ Destination
Davos in Switzerland stands as the ultimate destination for blending business and leisure, earning its reputation as a prime “bleisure” spot. Each year, the town plays host to an exclusive gathering of A-listers, from global power players to the super-rich, converging at the prestigious World Economic Forum. Amidst the high-level meetings and strategic talks, Davos offers much more. Its stunning panorama of the Swiss Alps provides a breathtaking backdrop, captivating visitors with its beauty. As home to Switzerland’s largest ski resorts, it invites winter enthusiasts to indulge in the thrill of skiing down pristine slopes, embracing the adrenaline of alpine adventures. Beyond the slopes, the charm of Davos extends to its cosy ambience, where luxurious accommodations and world-class dining cater to the sophisticated tastes of its elite clientele. The town’s blend of luxury and nature creates an ideal haven for those seeking relaxation and inspiration. Whether rubbing shoulders with billionaires, exploring the alpine wonderland or savouring the indulgences of its offerings, this Swiss gem promises an unforgettable experience that seamlessly merges the worlds of business and pleasure.