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February 2014

The New Zealand Herald

With so much innovation in the field, this year will see a plethora of new and exciting services enter the luxury travel industry, writes Lola Pedro of trendwatching.com.

Luxury brands go all-out to lure big spenders

by Lola Pedro

With so much innovation in the field, this year will see a plethora of new and exciting services enter the luxury travel industry.

Alongside the emergence of interest in previously unpopular destinations, 2014 will also pave the way for brands to tweak and fine-tune ideas, concepts and trends birthed in previous years.

Here are three key developments that will adopt more luxury-focused expressions and become increasingly tailored towards high-net-worth travellers in the coming months.

All brands look to travel

The luxury traveller will become one of the most alluring target markets for non-travel luxury brands seeking new business opportunities. Beyond establishing outlets in airports and hotels, these brands will find more novel ways of integrating their products into the travel experience.
• Opened in Las Vegas and Dallas airports last year, the Centurion Lounge is a space to relax pre-flight, with access restricted to American Express customers. The lounge offers fine-dining options as well as various work and relaxation areas with complimentary Wi-Fi. The Centurion Lounge also includes a family room, with video games for kids. Access to the lounge is priced at US$50 for regular card holders; entry is free for platinum and centurion card customers.

• Announced in October, Burberry's Travel Tailoring is a suit collection designed to limit creasing. Catering to frequent business travellers, the suits are crafted from "memory fabric" that retains its shape if creased or crumpled.

• In August, Swedish vodka brand Absolut opened its first standalone branded store, located in Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The retail space features a digital display where shoppers can explore a range of Absolut-based cocktails, as well as a bespoke bar and lounge area where travellers can enjoy their drinks.

The expansion of guilt-free travel

As the debate around green travel, zero-impact hotels and sustainable holidays continues, one thing is certain: the increasing conflict between travellers' need for indulgent holiday experiences and their desire to partake in these experiences sustainably, ethically and healthily will create exciting opportunities for brands.

The Extra Mile is a US-based non-profit company designed to give those who can't afford to travel the opportunity to visit terminally ill relatives. Using Mileage, an online fundraising platform that allows charities to provide support through donated frequent flyer miles, the organisation collects unused miles as well as monetary donations from well-travelled contributors. These are then distributed to help people visit loved ones affected by terminal cancer.

Last August The Rubens at the Palace Hotel in London unveiled a "living wall", which is designed to reduce flooding in the city. On the exterior of the building, the wall contains 16 tonnes of soil and features around 10,000 plants, with the aim of bringing biodiversity and cleaner air to central London. Rainwater is harvested and then stored in tanks to irrigate the plants, meaning that it evaporates gradually rather than causing flooding.

Redefining peer-to-peer

Since the launch of Airbnb, the holiday homes-rental platform, P2P travel has never looked back.

While the brand offers some exceptional properties, it remains broadly the domain of mid-market and budget travellers. This year, however, luxury travel companies will increasingly modify the P2P process to provide more exclusive versions of this typically far-reaching consumption model.

Architects House Exchange is an online community enabling architects around the world to swap their homes for travel purposes. Membership is open only to individuals who are part of a national association of architects. Users can create a profile containing photographs and details about their home, or choose to place an alert outlining where or when they would like to holiday.

High-end travellers are increasingly on the lookout for authentic experiences that provide a sense of the locality they're visiting. Launched in Malaysia and Singapore last year, PlateCulture is responding to that desire by enabling amateur chefs to host meals for paying guests in their homes.

Lola Pedro is a senior industry analyst at London-based trendwatching.com.