At the beginning of 2020, no one could have predicted how a global pandemic would upend lives so drastically in a matter of months. Freedom to travel was compromised — and still is, for some. During these unpredictable times, the way of travel and how we see luxury travel has changed, and the new way is here to stay (Phagura, 2020).
Sustainable luxury travel was considered to be an oxymoron in the past, as people would often imagine sustainability and luxury could not go hand in hand (Lee, 2017).
Presently, the new luxury is more about the process and the experience rather than the product. It embodies the concepts of zero-waste manufacturing, energy efficiency, closed-loop design, and the disposal chain. There is a great importance on the human ethics and environmentalism guiding the formulation of this circular economy, where innovation is part of every step (Luxiders, 2020).
“‘New Luxury’ is not about what’s new, it’s about what matters.”
Juan DeLeon, editorial director of Highsnobiety and co-editor of the book,
The New Luxury
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the overall travel industry is worth approximately $8.8 trillion, accounting for one in 10 jobs globally before the pandemic (Gollan, 2020). For the hospitality industry to get back to where it was, the tourism sector needs engage even more sustainable practices; otherwise, future growth could be at risk (Lee, 2017).
Post-pandemic, we can see more luxury travelers wanting to explore the wildest places through experiential travel, and to create experiences like never before. People are more interested in provenance and storytelling on how, where, when, and who — rather than just sleeping in grand, luxurious hotel rooms. Additionally, awareness on how every decision can play a significant role in preserving nature is crucial for responsible tourism (Tuppen, 2019).
The typical 21st-century luxury consumers are millennials and members of Generation Z, driving 85 percent of the overall global luxury sales growth. These generations are well-educated and pay close attention to social and environmental issues (Brands, 2019). As these younger generations exercise greater caution with their purchase decisions to ensure the company values resonate with their own, the large high-end brands who desire to secure their status on the market try to rapidly evolve with the growing trends towards more ethical and sustainable luxury (Luxe Digital, 2020).
Due to the significant changes lately, that have disrupted the hospitality and tourism sector’s future, sustainability is the key to ensuring innovation, brand equity and quick changes. The aftermath of the pandemic allows an opportunity for companies to design more unique characteristics and market their new visions of a more sustainable future, while building their brand value (Niemtzow, 2018).
The hospitality industry’s opportunities will come from implementing their long-term vision with short-term gains to work towards the bigger picture of a more sustainable future that can contribute to everyone, everywhere (Hospitality Net, 2020). Advantages of creating more long-term relationships with customers through transparency, local communities, awareness, and effective communication can built strong loyalty in an industry where it is challenging to retain customers due to a competitive and crowded market (Brands, 2019) & (Niemtwoz, 2018). And, sustainable luxury could be the answer to building loyalty among today’s typical, 21st-century consumer.
Anni Lindqvist is a research scholar with the HFTP Middle East Research Center. She is also a student at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management in Dubai, UAE.