How The "New Normal" Includes Luxury Travel

Lynn Elmhirst, Open Jaw Trends Editor

Uniworld's Newest 'Super Ship' La Venezia, Launching Spring 2021

Even as COVID has closed travel down, conventional wisdom has been saying the pandemic is increasing demand for luxury travel – or at least many of the key elements associated with luxury travel. Things like: more space, more privacy, maximum attention to cleaning… and fewer people. 

But there may be something more in play than customers willing to, “pay a little bit more if it means their safety and peace of mind,” Mary Jean Tully, Founder/CEO of Tully Luxury Travel, says.  

Michelle Palma

Luxury in a New Era – It’s not all about money

COVID has reminded people that, “travel is a gift,” claims Michelle Palma, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises’ Canadian President. “They’re recalling how precious travel is and how easily it can be taken away, so they are spending on a return to travel – starting at the top.”

Travel has been ‘reset’ by COVID,” agrees her colleague at TTC, Brad Ford, President of Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold Canada, “Priorities have shifted - those who want to travel are looking for meaningful experiences – sustainability, personal connection, also a connection to the community, the planet, wildlife.”  He points to trips featuring experiences for guests to ‘Make Travel Matter,’ fulfilling the motto of TTC’s Treadright Foundation. 

Brad Ford

Uniworld, Insight Vacations, Luxury Gold as well as other TTC luxury brands Red Carnation Hotels and African Travel make up the company’s new Velvet Collection, which launched this summer in the midst of COVID travel shutdowns. 

The Velvet Collection reframes how travel advisors grow business with TTC luxury brands, via a single point of contact with the TTC sales team, and includes increasing sales through “obvious combinations of brands in one trip,” explains Palma. She says the initiative, “supports advisors to help rebuild through a demand for luxury.”

Stephanie Bishop, Managing Director for Globus Canada agrees. “Luxury is subjective.  It’s not always about more money, it’s about being able to have the experience you really value,” she said, adding that Globus’ ‘Undiscovered’ series of experiences in off-the-beaten-track places, as well as Avalon Waterways’ ‘Active & Discovery’ shore excursions all allow travellers to connect with their different passions. 

Stephanie Bishop

She points out that when it comes to fulfilling bucket list experiences, where you’re “putting your dreams at the forefront”, pricing drops in importance. “That’s luxury,” she says. And it’s why she and her team want to, “help advisors to sell - not with their own wallet in mind.”

According to Ford, travel advisors are telling TTC that “price is no longer the anchor” of conversations about future travel bookings.  

Palma agrees. “People booking new travel are not waiting to book the big ticket items – they want them now.”

Pivoting to New ‘Luxury’

Ford predicts the “new normal” in 2021 will see “more advisors selling luxury” as it’s being re-defined.

It’s not just the type of product or a new philosophy of travel that allows advisors to deliver ‘luxury’ to clients post-COVID.

“Luxury is about more than the trip,” Lucy Viera, Vice President of Away by TTI Travel tells Open Jaw, “It is the luxury of the experience; from the initial call to the advisor, to the collaborative planning and design of the trip, to the post trip follow up; the luxury traveller appreciates this process.”

“COVID has been so painful to go through,” acknowledges Bishop, “but it’s a ‘blank canvas opportunity’ to design a new destiny.”

And she says for advisors looking to the post-COVID future, “Luxury will be a big part of new success.” 

What do you think?  Please tell us below.


Cathy Larsen - October 30, 2020 @ 13:09
I had written a piece on 'Redefining Luxury Travel' in 2018 and it seems it is even more relevant now....

Redefining Luxury Travel

Luxury is probably the most overused word in travel but for lack of a better word, perhaps it is the definition of luxury travel that has changed and evolved. To some it is the luxury of time, an authentic experience, immersion into culture or simply sitting in an outdoor café, enjoying a gelato and taking in the local life.

On a recent trip onboard a “luxury” cruise line, luxury to me was defined by relaxation, enrichment and the all-inclusive experience. To enjoy every day, exactly as I wished while exploring the world’s most beautiful places— with everything included. As my husband was busy, I had two girlfriends that were only too happy to pack their bags and join me.

The voyage began in the beautiful port of Monte Carlo. Walking onto the small ship of just 600 guests, I was struck by the peacefulness and personal space. Nowhere in sight was a photographer, a staff member selling beverage packages, shore excursions or the latest in fashion accessories. Our suite was large with a walk-in closet, 5-piece bathroom with double granite sinks and a good size veranda. Opening a chilled bottle of Prosecco from our complimentary in-suite bar, we stepped out onto our veranda and toasted to the experiences to come.

We stopped at small little known ports, without another ship in sight, and were able to wander the towns and historical sites at leisure. With longer port stays, we had time to immerse ourselves in the local culture. On a 14 hour port call in Dubrovnik we were able walk the old wall of Dubrovnik before the heat of the day, take a local taxi boat to the island of Lokrum to enjoy an afternoon swim in the Dead Sea and finish off the day in Old Town, wandering the floodlit streets with the mesmerizing Alpine Swifts above. Magical!

The new definition of luxury is your own personal preferences that combines extraordinary destinations, experiences and cultures at a price that represents value for money.

Andrew Newman - October 30, 2020 @ 13:08
Honestly, if Insight, Tully and Group excursions are considered luxury - I hate to think what 'average' looks like!

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