ILTM leaders explore luxury development in Asia and Chinese travellers

ILTM leaders explore luxury development in Asia and Chinese travellers

The International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) Leaders Forum – 15 thought-leaders from the global luxury travel industry – met for the second time at ILTM Asia in June to evaluate today’s affluent Chinese traveller and their outbound interests, the impact of airlift on hotel, cruise and destination development and the potential for the regional Asian cruise market.

Leaders from a range of luxury travel sectors represented at the Forum agreed that China will imminently overtake the US in travel expenditure, both within and beyond their country’s borders. China is now home to the largest number of self-made millionaires and billionaires in the world. The country’s economic growth has generated a burgeoning class of wealthy individuals who are increasingly sophisticated and educated and appear to be following the Western trend of ‘spending for experiences’.

The inaugural Leaders Forum at ILTM (Cannes, December 2010) stressed that achieving the right balance of a geographically diverse source of business is crucial at all times. Those present at this second Forum agreed that each and every luxury outbound market is seeking a customised experience that is both personalised and authentic. Elite travellers have an increasing respect for different cultures and traditions although appreciate being spoken to in their own language. Leaders Forum participant and Global Brand Leader – St. Regis & The Luxury Collection at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Paul James commented:

“Our programme for the Chinese Guest started at the 19 hotels which have the largest Chinese audience outside of China and is being rolled our globally in 2012 to address the increasing volumes of guests from Asia.”

Luxury Travel Leaders Explore Luxury Development in Asia and Affluent Chinese Travellers

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Leaders Forum participants also addressed the fact that appropriate airlift is essential to deliver this diversity to drive the growth of property, cruise itinerary and destination development, not just in Asia but globally. Airlines are essential to delivering luxury travel experiences and whilst the panel observed that luxury travellers do not always book the most expensive class of air-service on short-haul flights, air carriers determine where to fly and how often, based on the potential for avolume and the number of business and first class seats that can be sold.

With new cruise terminals to be unveiled in Singapore (2012) and Hong Kong (2013), the outbound Asia cruise market is poised to boom given the additional imminent breakdown in cabotage rules, which prevents travellers from sailing between two points in one country without first going into international waters. With a large proportion of Asian travellers only undertaking short-cruise itineraries, members of the Leaders Forum note an exceptional opportunity for domestic spend if the industry – with airlift an essential partner - works together to both craft shorter itineraries than western cruises to meet this demand and alsopromote the many different luxury cruise experiences.

Steve Odell, Silversea Cruises’ Senior Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for the UK, Europe and Asia Pacific and Leaders Forum participant commented:

“A significant percentage of Asian markets do not have an understanding of cruising beyond a two day gambling jaunt. We believe the luxury industry has a vital role to play in creating a network of dedicated travel advisors to educate,cultivate and drive the regional cruise industry.”

Panellists from the range of sectors represented at the Leaders Forum agreed that there is a huge potential for high end travel consumption both within and beyond China’s borders for the estimated 100,000 million outbound Chinese travellers as supported by the country’s economic boom and wealth explosion.

Simon Mayle, Marketing Manager of ILTM added: “Chinese travellers not only have the disposable income to spend on luxury items, but the penchant to splurge on upscale travel experiences both within Asia and increasingly further afield. The second meeting of the ILTM Leaders Forum confirms that industry co-operation is essential to meet this demand and harness the resulting rewards.”

Luxury Travel Leaders Explore Luxury Development in Asia and Affluent Chinese Travellers

The ILTM Leaders’ Forum is a representation of world-renowned luxury hoteliers and hotel representation companies, high end tour operators and travel advisors who gather to discuss issues impacting their globally valuable sector. The ILTM Leaders Forum will meet again Monday 5 December at the 10th anniversary edition of ILTM in Cannes, France to continue to address globaltrends in global luxury travellers’ buyer behaviour, as well as explore the importance of the buyer and supplier relationship.