Luxury travel trends are something I have always followed closely; although to be fair, I enjoy following most things to do with travel! Travel trends are always interesting because like most people on the planet, I have a decent level of nosiness about what others are doing. It is also is a great source of inspiration for future trips and makes me consider new experiences to incorporate into my travel. I read lots on the subject throughout the year, but with the release of the Virtuoso Luxe Report and Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2020, my ideas for my own travel over the next couple of years really begin to take shape. This is my round up of five emerging luxury travel trends in 2020 that have resonated with me the most, let me know what you think!
Luxury Travel: What is it?
Generally when people hear or see the words luxury travel, the first thought that springs to mind is travelling in first class, staying in five star hotels, dining in fancy restaurants and a nice big bill at the end of it all. Well, luxury travel can be all those things, but nowadays it is a much more fluid description used to describe each individual’s perfect travel experience. By nature, the phrase “luxury travel” is therefore highly subjective and personal, so the make up of my luxury travel experiences will not be exactly the same as yours, or anyone else’s.
My Version of Luxury Travel
For me, luxury is not necessarily about private pools and and 8,000 thread count sheets (I’m pretty sure you’d just slide right out of bed on those!), but more about the “experience”. A couple of people have said to me something along the lines of “but doesn’t that count as a great experience?!”. Well, while both would bring a smile to my face and I would enjoy it (apart from the falling out of bed part), for me it doesn’t have the same power as drinking a glass of chilled white wine while looking out over a new, spectacular view. That brings a sense of happiness and peace to my life that nothing else can replicate and is my ultimate luxury experience, every day of the week.
While I generally choose to travel on the “comfier side”, luxury travel to me is privacy and personalisation. Because of this, I rarely go on a group tour or stay in mega large chain hotels. One of things I choose to always splash out on and spend lots of time researching are private tours with local guides.
One of my favourite every memories is a private guide we had in Sri Lanka to Dambulla Caves and Sigiria. We visited both these sites, both were amazing, but our lovely driver took the whole experience to another level. He told us so much about Sri Lanka and his life, took us to get fresh coconuts from a lady in a local village and see secret spots that no tourist would ever find by themselves. The absolute highlight was when he found out how much I loved Pad Thai (original, I know); he took us to a locals restaurant on our way back to the hotel for the best and cheapest Pad Thai I have ever had. There was no air conditioning, we sat on broken plastic seats and it was the perfect end to one of my favourite days.
That being said, I am also a total hotel lover. My preference is very much smaller, boutique hotels and my choosing of destinations os often heavily influenced by a particular hotel I want to visit. I really appreciate a beautifully designed hotel, am obsessed with an amazing breakfast and there is a real luxury in having someone else making your bed, getting you drinks and just generally looking after you for a few days.
Current Luxury Travel Trends
Luxury travel has been becoming more accessible and more about the experience for a while now and I expect it is a trend that will continue for a while yet. Cooking classes, meeting locals and other experiences that allow you to really get to the heart of a destination and experience it’s true culture are just continuing to increase in popularity.
Multigenerational travel is something that has been on the rise for a couple of years and is continuing to grow, it was even named 2018’s top travel trend by Virtuoso. This is always something that has featured heavily in my travel plans, from visiting New York to see my family almost every year to our regular “celebration” trips that we take all together. I wouldn’t be without them and I actually travel mostly in groups of extended family and friends, to the extent Danny and I usually only have one holiday a year just the two of us!
It really is great for spending time on holiday with those closest to you and one of the brilliant things about travelling as a group is that you can all partake in your own interests and spend time with different people within the group each day. Danny, for example, loves golf, I have zero interest in it. He can go off and play with my dad and uncles and I can sit by the pool or go out for lunch with my aunts and cousins. In the evenings we all get together for dinner and wine, it’s the perfect balance. It is also quite a different dynamic spending time with people where neither one of you are hosting, new levels of chilled for all!
One of most favourite trips of all time was my hen do in Iceland, to say I had the best time with the ladies closest to me is a massive understatement, it exceeded all of my expectations in every way.
Luxury Travel Trends 2020
I find that luxury travel trends don’t vary that dramatically on an annual basis; it is rare for something to make the list out of the blue one year and then disappear the next. While some of these aren’t necessarily new, they are my pick of the emerging luxury travel trends for 2020 and what will be influencing my travel the most.
1. Exclusive Home Rental
I’ve talked about my views on luxury villas previously and why I love them so much, so I’ve really enjoyed seeing all the developments in this area.
Stay One Degree is a company I have had my eye on for a while; part social network, part villa rental company. The premise is that people list what is often their first or second home and only members of the Stay One Degree network can stay there; an application to join the club includes a vetting process. The idea is that you are “connected” with the person renting your home and vice versa, allowing for a more personal experience. They have some truly fabulous and unusual properties on their site and I am hoping to use this company for a future family getaway.
A couple of individually listed houses I have had my eye on in the UK are Tythe House and Foxhill Manor, both in the Cotswolds. I am a bit obsessed with the Cotswolds so have more recommendations for there than anywhere else in the UK!
Something else that has caught my eye is the opening of The Levee in Tel Aviv, Israel. It has been described as a luxury apartment but with all the services of a hotel, such as a 24 hour concierge, twice daily housekeeping and nightly turndown service.
Ok, this is definitely not a new one, but a luxury travel trend that is definitely gaining more and more traction. The lovely Kerry wrote an article recently entitled “What is Travel & Who Decides Anyway”, a very honest look at the perceived snobbery around staycations not being classed as true travel. It really resonated with me as I too had fallen into that camp, but a multitude of circumstances had led to me doing more and more breaks within the UK. Needless to say, I have seen more of the country I live in over the last couple of years than I have all of the years before that put together. Guess what, I’ve been missing out!
3. Culinary Travel
This seems to me one of the most popular ways of immersing yourself in a new destination, unsurprising as most people love food! I know that the local cuisine is a major reason I travel and I have never been to a destination and not tried the traditional dishes of that region. On our trip to Thailand we took it up a level and took a cooking class which included a trip to the local market, I loved every minute of it! I came away with a cookbook and it still brings back great memories when I try to recreate them in our kitchen at home.
We did a bit of a different twist this summer when we did our whisky tour of Perthshire in Scotland and one of my dream trips is wine tasting through the Napa Valley in the USA. I used to work in wine logistics and so was lucky enough to visit lots of wineries (never in the United States though) and I have always wanted to go back and enjoy them properly.
Well this is not one I expected to make a come back if I’m honest! I have always associated cruises with small, basic cabins and an elderly retired clientele eating mediocre food from a buffet and listening to Elvis Presley impersonators interspersed with some aqua aerobics.
However, something interesting seems to be happening in that the “luxury” cruise liners are starting to realise what the younger demographic looks for when taking their precious annual leave and even better, may just be pulling it off!
One of the major changes has been the incorporation of more flexible and customisable options, technology advancements such as super fast wifi and digital in room assistants. A more up to date activities list included options such as brunch (always a good idea), wellness programmes, photography classes and wine tastings (I’m there).
On top of that, some of the recent room upgrades look amazing and the dining has more range and quality than ever before.
On a personal level, the only thing that still holds me back is I’m not actually “in” a destination, so I feel I would miss out on the cultural aspects of my reasons for travel. I know you get to stop in certain ports along the way, but is 12 hours enough? Hmmm, I’m not sure yet, but I do know I would now consider a cruise and a few years ago it would have been a total no-no!
5. Emerging Travel Destinations in 2020
This is my favourite bit! I love to find new and emerging destinations to explore as I generally prefer to go somewhere more unusual on my travels. These are places that are less obvious, gaining more traction in visitor numbers and are of the most interest to me personally. I have already scouted out my favourite hotels in each….I told you I love a beautiful hotel!
When I say Georgia, I am referring to the country rather than the state in the USA! The former Soviet nation between Europe and Asia is reported to have superb food, even better wineries and a compact capital city that is still relatively free of tourists. They also have a strong independent café culture which I love to explore when I travel.
I’m thinking a long weekend, a couple of nights at the beautiful boutique Stamba Hotel in Tbilisi. Housed in a former printing house with the industrial feel still present, I am very much looking forward to staying here. I then want to spend a couple of nights in the mountains at Rooms Hotel Kazbegi for a wilderness adventure.
Sharing the same coastline along the Adriatic as Croatia but with less crowds, everything I read about Montenegro makes me want to drop everything and run there (ha, I can’t run to the end of my road….). The national parks, the beautiful gorges and so many stunning views you won’t know which way to look. There are couple of hotels there I have my eye on; The Chedi Lustica Bay, the sister hotel of the amazing Chedi Muscat we stayed at during our honeymoon in Oman. The One&Only is also making its European debut with it’s new hotel Portonovi, due to open in 2020.
The world’s only carbon negative country, Bhutan charges a steep daily fee to visit the tiny Himalayan nation. Plus points are that tourism is and looks likely to continue being heavily controlled so it is no danger of becoming overcrowded. I think I will try and tag Bhutan onto another destination in Asia as my budget will only stretch to about 48 hours there!
In keeping with the steep entrance charge to visit, Bhutan do mostly very high end hotels; Aman, Como and Six Senses. They look like total hotel heaven.
For more on how to visit this beautiful country, read this Ultimate Bhutan Travel Guide for everything you need to know.
If you’ve read my blog before you’re probably sick to the back teeth of me banging on about Oman, but it really does have it all! The diversity in landscapes in such a small space is amazing and their hotels are top notch. Start at The Chedi Muscat, move onto the Alila Jabal Akhdar in the mountains and spend a night in the desert under the stars at Wahiba Sands Desert Nights Camp.
This is not the Middle East of Dubai, it is something else entirely. Trust me and go, I promise you won’t regret it.
The Azores, Portugal
This group of nine islands located almost a thousand miles off the coast of Portugal have been described as similar to Iceland, but with a warmer climate. Look at any pictures and it’s not hard to see why; the greenery and natural landscapes are just stunning. With hot springs, beautiful beaches (albeit with darker sand, the consequence of a volcanic island) and lots of outdoor activities, it sounds to be a great destinations option for those that love a bit of adventure on their travels.
I originally thought that the Azores would be a great alternative the the likes of the Canary Islands for somewhere hot and sunny to escape to during our terminably dull British winters. However, a couple of people that have been there have since told me that despite it’s apparent sub-tropical climate, the Azores has some unpredictable weather! Rains are frequent, especially during the winter months, however the temperature is still likely to be much milder than anywhere in the UK.
Long only accessible via a flight from Portugal, you can now take a four hour direct flight from the UK to this group of nine volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic.
I am holding out for direct flights to be launched from New York, as it is the perfect destination to meet my American family half way for a long weekend!
Visit this guide on the Azores for more information and how to plan a trip.
When you’ve done the traditional African safari and are looking for the next wildlife holiday, Rwanda has to be high up there. Home to the endangered mountain gorillas, you can hike through the vibrant rainforests and active volcanoes to see these amazing animals in the wild.
After the brutal genocide of 25 years ago, Rwanda is now considered one of the safest countries in Africa and is welcoming more and more visitors. Most come for the chance to see the mountain gorilla in their natural habitat, but in a similar approach to Bhutan, Rwanda are focussing on the sustainable approach of a high cost, low volume method of tourism. This is very much reflected in the very steep permit prices for the national parks and the mostly high end hotels around the country.
Uber luxury hotel brand the One&Only has recently opened two outposts here and Signita, renowned for some of the best safari hotels and lodges in Southern Africa, have recently cut the ribbon on their new hotel here also.
For me, this is luxury travel at its finest; sustainable, beautiful and an experience like none other. It’s not a trip I will be taking anytime soon, but we all need a bucket list!
The traditional package holiday has never been my idea of luxury travel, but it appears this is becoming a less popular option for many nowadays. Whether you actively follow travel trends or not, you are likely to have been influenced by them at some point, whether or not intentionally. I love to know how the industry is changing and what that means for the future of travel and then see how my travel evolves with it. Let me know what your thoughts are on luxury travel trends for 2020 and which interest you the most, I love hearing about how other people travel!
How do you decide where to go on your next trip? Are any of these places on your list?
Hey Rachel, Great list! Love to see Azores on that list. We have a trip planned there in 2020 <3.
Ahh, fantastic, hope you have a fab time! x
What an interesting read! Our style of travel is certainly not luxury, though we appreciate the same values you mention when we travel. We’ve been to Montenegro and the Azores and they’re amazing destinations for every budget. One of the greatest thing about visiting the Azores in the Winter is that you will feel like you have many of the sights to yourself, as most people still choose to visit in the Summer.
I love having that in a destination, I much prefer a bit of peace and quiet to experience a new place rather than crowds of people to contend with.
I quite enjoy budget travel but paying a higher price for conservation efforts and to avoid overtourism is understandable. I wouldn’t mind going to Bhutan or on an eco tour!
It’s interesting as I wonder whether more places will follow suit as people are becoming more aware of the damage over tourism can do. Bhutan would just be superb!
waiting for the days where i can be a luxuary traveller! great tips tho!
Glad you enjoyed them 🙂
I totally agree with you that luxury travel for me is more about privacy and personalization. I’m still in the budget travel phase of my life but luxury to me right now is having a whole Airbnb to myself lol!
I think it can be a very subjective concept, but ultimately the great thing about travel is we get it to do it however we want to 🙂
Ohhhh your definition of luxury travel is exactly mine. It does not need to be uber fancy, just feel a little more exclusive than the big chains. I am also finding myself looking more and more at eco and sustainable travel, researching hotels eco policies etc. As a travel lover, I feel the responsibility deeply. A staycation has become a huge part of our travel the last couple of years (thank you so much for sharing my post, so kind)
I love a guided tour too, and you have reminded me to look into one for when we are in Budapest next month. This is a really interesting read, thank you for sharing
I think its so interesting how the way we travel changes over time. I meant to drop you a note and let you know I had linked (I found your article really thought provoking), but completely forgot. Can’t wait to see what you get up to in Budapest!
I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in five emerging luxury travel trends writing this article.I can gain the knowledge from your site which is really interesting.Thank you so much for sharing valuable information.
Hiya, so glad you found it useful!
I visited the Azores in May a couple of years ago, and while I loved Sao Miguel (the only island I visited) it definitely isn’t a place to head for winter sun! In May it was chilly, wet, extremely windy and very, very foggy. Because of their exposed position in the Atlantic, the weather can change quite rapidly and they can experience very high winds. Its a place I recommend to everyone, just don’t turn up without walking boots, a waterproof jacket and a woolly hat!
Thank you so much for letting me know this, it is so useful to talk to people that have actually been! I have re-worded that section to ensure accuracy, someone else I spoke to told me exactly the same thing the other day. I loved the nature and landscapes of Iceland so am hoping to visit soon, it looks stunning.