Luxury travel trends for 2021 according to industry experts

As part of our Independent Minds series, we asked our community of hoteliers about what the world of travel will look like in 2021. After a particularly challenging time for the hospitality industry, many of our hotels have taken the opportunity to renovate, adapt, and anticipate what the ‘new normal’ for travellers might be. From more sustainable outlooks and slow travel, to private spaces and exclusive hire, personalised experiences, carefully curated itineraries, enhanced wellness offerings, and an increased desire for once-in-a-lifetime trips, we’re feeling optimistic about the year ahead.

Gertrud Schneider, Kristiania Lech – Austria

For me, the new trend emerging is a ‘considered’ versus ‘consumptive’ approach to travel and within luxury hotels. While COVID-19 is still with us and we are navigating new protocols and assessing the safest way to run a hotel and the safest opportunities for travel in the months ahead, I feel certain that how you travel will matter more than ever.

These very extraordinary times without travelling and re-thinking the Kristiania Lech experience have made me think a lot about past travels, about the way we used to travel. A potent combination of access, ease, familiarity and habit had gradually accelerated the pace of travel, pushing us into a frenetic, consumptive frame of mind. London for a long weekend? Hamburg for a concert? St. Tropez for a party? Why not? The tickets weren’t too expensive, so we jumped on planes, with less fanfare or anticipation than my grandparents devoted to going out to dine in a restaurant. Looking back on that makes me wonder how – in the excessive casualness of the way we approached these incredible opportunities to cross borders and could be plunged into new cultures and communities in mere hours – we so often lost something.

Back when it was harder to get places, you stayed longer, you looked deeper, you expected fewer habitual comforts and you brought less of your routine with you – instead you surrendered to the foreign. My grandparents knew they weren’t likely to be in the places they visited again. They understood that each trip was a rare, once-in-a-lifetime experience, so they savoured each moment and tried to slow down time. The word – considered – comes to mind. And if this slower, more thoughtful approach is considered travel, then what we were all doing, before COVID-19 grounded us, can only be described as consumptive.

We regard each other across the decades and generations of an utterly changed world, but I know that I carry the understanding of travel of my grandparents and that it has never been as important as it is now. My grandparents weren’t looking for the comforts of home when they left home; rather, they were thrilled to settle into a place and fall into its rhythms. I believe there is hope in that approach. A future where we all think of ourselves as people joining a community for a time, offering gratitude and appreciation, mingling meaningfully with local residents, contributing something of benefit and taking only memories and a broader view to share when we reach home.

Girish Jhunjhnuwala, Ovolo Hotels – Hong Kong & Australia

Design-wise, I believe there will be a trend shifting towards de-cluttering to minimise touch-points. Urban hotels will become more modern with more indoor-outdoor spaces and open windows, as people are starting to value space and openness more than before.

Technologically speaking, I do believe that many restaurants may look into scanning QR codes for the menu and ordering to reduce physical touch-points, but this is not something Ovolo Woolloomooloo, Ovolo The Valley Brisbane, or Ovolo Central are interested in. As mentioned previously, we value connecting with customers. For me, you go to a restaurant so a waiter can explain the food to you, and for the service. If not, why not just order take-out?

We don’t believe in technology for the sake of technology. Ideas have been floating around regarding a key card that can be integrated into your mobile phone, but checking in at the front desk and being welcomed the way you should be is what makes your stay all that different. Luxury hospitality always needs human to human contact, but technology will find other ways to reinvent our spaces.

Wellness will be given a huge boost as well because of health consciousness. This trend has been on the rise for a while now but has recently become more pervasive with the pandemic, so it will be interesting to see how hotels will incorporate this into their spaces – such as how hotel gyms keep their cleanliness, keeping yoga mats in rooms, walking pads, spas, and such.

I do anticipate that the general trend of travelling will gear towards staycations and domestic travel for the rest of the year, but the travel industry has the ability to bounce back very quickly because of pent up demand. Travelling is a huge part of many people’s lives whether it be for leisure or business, and that is not something that can be replaced. Therefore, although staycations will become more popular amongst those that are wary, international travel will have its momentum back soon enough.

Dinos & Lena Tornivoukas, Eagles Villas – Greece

We see a trend for cleaner interiors, free from any unnecessary decorative elements, with an emphasis on art work to give interiors a special touch. Rooms are becoming larger, with more space to give guests the experience of never feeling crowded and offering the ability to spend more time in the guest room, without having to expose themselves to many people or crowds. At Eagles Villas, we also see a trend for longer stays, and guests extending their stay when they feel safe and happy at the hotels.

Samornpun Somnam, Keemala – Thailand

The COVID-19 epidemic has already redefined how we live, work and travel. It is undeniable that the ‘new normal’ lifestyle will mean many people working from home, or away from the workplace. We will most likely have to consider how hotels can bridge the gap that arises from this change, as many travellers may shift from holiday makers to a work-holiday status. For example, how can we meet both the technological and logistical requirements for this group of travellers, while retaining essential and authentic Keemala experiences for guests to enjoy.

Domenico De Simone, Casa Angelina – Italy

Until normality within the travel realm returns, travellers don’t want to be with swaths of people. We definitely believe that experiences encompassing social distancing — whether that’s privacy or minimised interaction with others — are at the forefront of travellers’ minds. As most of our experiences at Casa Angelina are designed and personalised for the guest, we will continue to think creatively on how we can enhance this, such as allowing the opportunity to fully reserve the spa for the day for complete privacy. In addition, we see wellness also being a big focus for 2021 as guests will want to relax from a stressful 2020. We will work to offer additional wellness-focused creative programming such as meditation and yoga on our lawn, outdoor spa treatments, and a ‘better sleep menu,’ designed to help guests have a better night sleep, just to name a few.

Leopold Botteri, San Canzian Village & Hotel – Croatia

I believe the world will be a better place after this experience. We immersed into ourselves this year and we have a new-found respect for life and beauty. I believe people will appreciate calmer, more restful places such as San Canzian Village & Hotel. I do not see a large change in behaviour in the future. We will always have the need to travel, to visit and experience. We have reached a level of development where travel is essential part of a quality life and I do not see this changing, especially in the luxury segment.

Amanda Syrowatka, Viceroy Bali – Indonesia

I think sustainability and conscious travel will be even bigger trends in 2021, and likely here to stay as the industry upheaval of the 2020 pandemic dissipates. People’s attitudes in general have changed from the pandemic experiences and I believe there is less of a barrier between brand and customer, which we have always been advocates for at Viceroy Bali and which favours independently minded boutique hotels. I see customers wanting more dedicated attention before, during and after their stays in hotels and I do believe travellers will become more accountable to their place in society – in a sense we are becoming more ‘responsible citizens’.

Thierry Teyssier, Dar Ahlam – Morocco

Travelling will become more precious again. Our clients won’t travel anywhere near as frequently as they have in the past. We are beginning to have some requests for longer stays (two or three weeks instead of three or four days) at Dar Ahlam. Guests will expect to have deeper connections with local life and communities, with traditions and artisans. They will travel less but travel better.

Jeanette Mix, Ett Hem – Sweden

The demand for recreation and wellbeing will increase, while guests want to learn and to be engaged. Safety and a sense of belonging will be ever more important going forwards. We are also experiencing a new sensitivity and a stronger need for personal care. I believe smaller hotels like Ett Hem will be in favour – requests for full buy-outs are also increasing.

Panos Daktylides, Panoptis Escape – Greece

I am confident that despite the difficulties, the hospitality sector has a bright future ahead. Trends will certainly include a continuation of the sustainability trend, which is set to become even more important as millennials and Gen Z members grow older. In fact, current research shows that many travellers are not satisfied by the level of sustainability and eco-consciousness of the majority of present-day hospitality establishments. It is up to us to listen and respond to this need. Moreover, increased focus on privacy and on spending time with the group you are travelling with is expected.

Also, we expect an increased focus on fully-curated experiences at Panoptis Escape – not as an after-thought but as the main reason for travelling to that destination. So instead of ‘a visit to X historical landmark’, guests are more likely to now appreciate ‘a guided visit to X accompanied by a tasting session of food from that era, and followed by a sunset cruise so you can enjoy X from a new vantage point’, for example.