Rising affluence, improving international flight routes and a
growing hunger for travel are the key factors driving travel
industry growth in Asia Pacific. As demand for plane tickets and
hotel rooms soar, niche sectors are developing and luxury travelers
could be the ‘next big export’ from Asia.
Leisure travel and the luxury variety, in particular is still in
its infancy in many Asian countries, however, and the industry is
trying hard to predict future trends. Defining the concept of
luxury travel for a new generation of Asian travelers was,
therefore, a central theme of the inaugural Asia Luxury Travel
Market (ALTM) show held in Shanghai June 18-21.
Featuring 300 invited luxury travel buyers from across Asia and
300 upscale exhibitors from around the globe, ALTM is a spin off
from the successful International Luxury Travel Market, held
annually in Cannes, France. Billed as the first show to focus
purely on Asian luxury travel, it attracted the world’s top luxury
hotels, resorts and spas, tour operators and tourism boards from
Dubai, India, Malaysia, New Zealand and Thailand.
The three-day show kicked off with a conference assessing future
travel trends in Asia.
“There is no other region in the world with such an exciting
growth potential for luxury travel than Asia Pacific, which is home
to the world’s most populous nations and fastest growing
economies,” said Serge Dive, co-founder of ALTM. “The luxury travel
industry in Asia is already significant, but the potential for
sustained growth is huge, given the explosion of wealth and
prosperity in the region.”
Dive added, however, that the travel industry must approach the
Asia Pacific market very differently than in the west.
“The vision of luxury is completely different here,” he
Roy Graff, managing director of ChinaContact, agreed. Using
China as an example, he said: “In the west, luxury travel is an
industry, not a niche, here it’s still at the craft stage. The
middle class is still emerging, and leisure travel is very new. Ten
years ago, the concept of luxury was simply a visa to visit a
foreign country and a plane ticket.”
Delegates agreed that the luxury travel market in Asia is
layered, with Japan and Korea already well established, and new
market players, like India and China still feeling their way.
“Japan is a huge market for us, and Korea is picking up,” said
Sonu Shivdasana, chairman and CEO of Six Senses Resorts & Spas.
“I’m sure China will follow, as people live in thriving cities like
Shanghai, which are very compressed, and they want to get out and
experience a new lifestyle.”
Currently, Asian travelers are still preoccupied with using
overseas trips as a way to demonstrate status making shopping and
product-related travel more popular. But according to experts, that
“The next generation of Chinese travelers will be more focused
on the fun and experiential service aspects,” said Graff.
Learning about the needs and objectives of Asia’s current and
future luxury travelers was a key objective for ALTM
“The word luxury can be perceived as very negative in some
markets, where it is often associated with wastefulness and being
anti-environment,” said Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso. “So,
we’re here to really get a feel for what’s going on in Asia, and to
listen and understand about the needs in Asian markets, as well as
to speak with and meet suppliers.”
International luxury hotel chains have been researching and
planning for growth in Asia for many years. Today’s boom in hotel
development in the region has two objectives: to capture inbound
visitors to the region and to familiarize outbound Asian travelers
with hotel brands that they can use while traveling overseas.
Brand marketing is a key aspect of appealing to Asia’s ‘new
luxury traveler.’ Ritz-Carlton, which will open the world’s tallest
hotel in Hong Kong later this decade, has just launched a Chinese
and Japanese language web site. Leading Hotels of the World is
planning to do the same. It set up an office in Shanghai two years
ago, but admits that outbound luxury travel will remain low for
“Realistically, we are not expecting mass luxury volumes from
China for a while,” said Mark Greedy, vice president Asia Pacific,
Leading Hotels of the World.” It’s not easy to identify true luxury
travelers here yet.”