One of the saddest days in the history of travel was when Concorde made its last commercial flight in October, bringing to an end the era of supersonic travel by civilian aircraft which may never be repeated. As celebrities sipped the last of the champagne and toasted British Airways, the talk turned to what next for the rich and the super-rich?
But the truth is that Concorde, at the end of its 30-year life span, was no longer a luxury experience. Standards of comfort and catering had fallen below what many airlines provide in their first-class cabins, but that was forgotten in the adrenaline rush of take-off on one of the world’s great icons.
Luxury travellers demand more than simply the best flights, cabins, transfers and hotel rooms. Many are seeking an exclusive and private experience, and spa treatment is enjoying a renaissance as cash-rich, time-poor business people seek relief from stress.
An exhibition not yet belonging to ETTFA but likely to join in 2005 after holding its third event is International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM), held for the second time in December 2003 in Cannes, France.
The exhibition doubled in size in its second year, and staged a conference with speakers from organisations including American Express, SeaDream Yacht Club, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, and Silversea Cruises.
One of the findings was that 3% of travellers account for 20% of travel expenditure, with an annual spend on travel of about $25,000 per head.
ILTM managing director David Hammond says: In spite of the global economic downturn and political crises, the top end of the travel market is evolving very quickly. Travel can now compete for luxury spend with fashion, jewellery and fine wines.
People are prepared to pay highly for access to unique experiences, and can be attracted to events where they can interact with their own peer group.
It may not be feasible for general travel exhibitions to focus specifically on the luxury sector, as exhibitors tend to be scattered throughout the show in their own or shared stands. But some exhibitions welcome events that run alongside their shows.
The Moscow International Travel and Tourism Exhibition (MITT), from March 24-27, is launching an Incentive and Business Travel Forum this year. Another organisation will stage the Moscow Golf and Luxury Travel Reception, at the prestigious Pushkin Museum, on March 25.
ETTFA president and MITT organiser Stanislava Blagoeva-Duschell, of ITE Travel Exhibitions, says: Most outbound travel from Russia is in the luxury category, as the people who can afford to travel are the elite.
At MITT we have most cruise lines and hotel groups, and representation by yacht and air brokers.
Luxury air charter is a fast-growing area, offering enhanced service, flexibility and security. UK tour operator Elegant Resorts marketed the “ultimate Christmas gift” last December – a trip on Royal Jet private charter from London to Dubai with on-board spa therapists, and Rolls Royce transfer to the super-luxury Burj Al Arab Hotel for seven nights.
The price? A mere