Three keywords marked the past decade in luxury travel: slow, sustainable, and transformative.
We have seen luxury travel shift from leisure to learning; from cookie-cutter, generic travel to fitting-in-the-fabric-of-the-locale; from travel disruptive of the socio-economic and natural ecosystem to the non-intrusive; from consumption to preservation; from an individual to connections and communal pleasures; from the future to the past; from thrill-seeking to transformation-seeking; from technology to customs and rituals; from capturing a moment to being in the moment; from internal to external journeys; from Bali to Transylvania.
In the past decade, there has been newfound sense of humility among modern luxury travelers. A trip is not worth making if it doesn’t entail giving back. It’s also not worth it unless we learn to cook like a Sicilian nonna, ride a Lusitano, hike in Armenia, or stay in a remote Chilean village.
Carbon neutrality emerged as a legitimate travel selection criterion and a status symbol. Walking safaris let travelers to smell Africa in a manner that they wouldn’t be able otherwise, all the while saving the environment. Long hiking tours between Nicaraguan villages are meant to provide the right balance of adventure, a sense of giving back, and of learning something new — all put in the context of simple food, modest comfort, and contentment that comes from having a purpose.
The last ten years saw us moving away from pursuing “having” or “doing” as an aspiration to advancing the quality of our “being.” Japanese terms like wabi-sabi, ikigai, omotenashi, or kinsugi have become widely embraced by luxury travel aspirants. There’s little more luxurious in travel than fixing broken pottery, spending time with village artisans, retreating to a monastery, or trekking Annapurna with Deepak Chopra. In contrast to hyper-connected, superficial, memefied, and impermanent digital world, these terms capture the essence of human excellence: the imperfect, the purposeful, the old and the mended.
Luxury travelers’ focus on the slow, sustainable, and transformative journeys reflected the exponential rise in experiential consumption. Experience-fueled markets reward business models that revolve around making our lives better across Maslow’s entire hierarchy of needs. They also…