In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
World’s super-wealthy spend their riches on luxury travel adventures
Bespoke, lavish, one-of-a-kind trips are catnip for growing number of millionaires, says report by Boston Consulting Group.
Their wardrobes are packed with haute couture and designer accessories but for the world’s super-rich shopping is no longer enough: lavish one-of-a-kind travel adventures are the latest status symbol.
Helicopter skiing in Alaska or a getaway to luxury goods group LVMH’s exclusive hideaway in the Maldives are the current trends for the growing number of millionaires, according to a report.
It predicts that, despite the eurozone crisis, spending on luxury goods will hit $1.5tn (£975bn) this year as the wealthy look for novel ways to spend their riches.
The study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) identifies a shift from “owning a luxury to experiencing a luxury” with bespoke treats now accounting for more than half of the $1.4tn spent on luxury goods and services last year.
Luxury sales have boomed in the last two years as the industry recovered from the hiatus caused by 2008 global financial crisis, which provoked a sharp fall in conspicuous consumption.
The sector has also been buoyed by the growing number of millionaire shoppers in markets such as China and Brazil, who are picking up the slack as consumers in traditionally important luxury markets such as western Europe, Japan and the US continue to spend more cautiously.
“The gap in income inequality is growing, which is unfortunate, but there are more and more millionaires every year,” said Jean-Marc Bellaiche, a BCG senior partner who heads the firm’s luxury practice.
Bellaiche said sales of luxury experiences grew 50% faster than demand for physical goods last year. The trend is explained, in part, by demographics – as the consumers who drove the luxury boom in the 1990s start to retire, he said.
“They do not want to own new things, so are the primary customers for experiential luxury offerings,” he said. Their options are not limited to exclusive safaris and spas, they can book themselves in for a five-star hospital stay where they will be waited on by a butler and the en suite facilities include a marble bath.
The attitude to luxury is also apparent among their children who, the report says, now want more than the latest designer fashions. “Members of Generation Y tend to define themselves more by what they’ve done and experienced than by what they own,” said Bellaiche.
“They are drawn to instant pleasure and lavish experiences – helicopter snowboarding in Alaska or a weekend shopping spree in Paris.”
The shift is evident “even in brand-obsessed China” where personal luxury goods serve as a strong badge of status and success, he added.
The business of providing luxury experiences – from art auctions to exclusive travel packages – is now worth $770bn, according to the study. BCG predicts a 7% increase in luxury spending this year, albeit at a slower rate than the industry has enjoyed in the last two years.
Stock markets around the world have been shaken since April as the eurozone crisis, the faltering US economic recovery and signs of a slowdown in China, have made some analysts take a more cautious view of the outlook for luxury sales.
New Zealand’s 100% Pure brand under threat
NZ tour operators are angry over plans to build a tunnel through an area made famous by the Lord of the Rings films.
They fear the private bus tunnel will ruin Fiordland World Heritage area and destroy the “100% Pure” brand the country has built up from its decade-long tourism campaign.
More than 15,000 people have signed a petition demanding the project be scrapped.
A private company plans to build an 11km bus tunnel in Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks in the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area on the South Island.
The tunnel would take bus loads of tourists from Queenstown to the spectacular Milford Sound fjord.
Glenorchy resident Patricia Ko started a petition opposing the move on Change.org.
“Putting a bus tunnel through this world heritage area is akin to building a chairlift to the top of Ayers Rock or putting a parking lot on top of the Great Barrier Reef,” she said.
“I can’t believe that the government might jeopardise New Zealand’s most valuable and precious natural tourist destination, and destroy our communities at the same time.”
Vladka Kennet, who is owner-operator of inbound travel company True Travel, said the tunnel would immensely and irreversibly affect tourism in the region.
“The majority of my clients come to New Zealand to experience the pure, almost untouched natural environment that the area has to offer,” she said.
“It is the solitude, tranquillity, the end of the road destination, remoteness and the feeling of being one with the land physically and spiritually.”
Surfing: Places where catching a tube can be a lot of fun
Once you’ve tried surfing, you could be hooked for life – and the opportunities for learning the art of ruling the waves are wider than ever. Alf Alderson assesses the options, from Scotland to the Maldives.
What’s the attraction?
There was a time when surfing holidays were the preserve of laid-back dudes with a VW campervan, bleached blonde hair and a take-it-or-leave-it attitude (usually the latter) to the nine-to-five grind. Times change though, and these days it’s possible to catch the Tube into work on Friday morning and ride a “tube” into the beach on Friday evening. A surfing holiday can encompass everything from a weekend camping in North Devon, to a luxury “surfari” aboard a charter yacht in the Indian Ocean, and there are options to suit everyone, from “kook” (total beginner) to hard-core “shredder”.
Some of Britain’s wildest coastline and most consistent waves are to be found in the Outer Hebrides – and it’s not as cold as you might expect, thanks to the Gulf Stream. If you’re looking for a real surf adventure in the UK, the empty golden beaches, jade green waters and powerful waves of Lewis and Harris should fit the bill. Stornoway-based Hebridean Surf Holidays (01851 703088; hebrideansurf.co.uk) offers basic accommodation from £20 per person, and surfboard hire for £10 a day. Learn-to-surf lessons in “secluded and sheltered” locations start at £30 for two-and-a-half hours.
The really wild west
Vancouver Island in British Columbia is the home of the laid-back town of Tofino, which is at the heart of the burgeoning Canadian surf scene and has such good waves it hosts major international surf contests. The coastline is fringed by rugged mountains and forests populated by bears, cougars and wolves, so if the surf goes flat there are plenty of adventures waiting. Cox Bay Beach Resort (001 250 725 2600; coxbaybeachresort.com) offers packages from C$259 (£161); flights from Gatwick or Manchester to Vancouver cost £328 with Canadian Affair (020-7616 9184; canadianaffair.com).
Who said that?
“You’re done, once you’re a surfer you’re done. You’re in. It’s like the Mob or something. You’re not getting out.” – Kelly Slater, world surfing champion
“There’s no sport I know of that has all the ingredients of pure enjoyment that surfing does.” – Peter Cole, pioneering wave rider
Treehouse hotel offers rooms to take home
One of the world’s most unique hotels is offering guests a rare chance to take their room home with them — to hang in the garden.
Treehotel first captured imaginations last year thanks to its blend of art and nature, offering a woodland retreat where each self-contained room blended perfectly into the treetops of Harads wood in Sweden.
Among the most striking of the 24 hideaways, available to stay at from around $650 a night, was the Mirrorcube, a room of glass with a mirrored reflection that appeared to float effortless and nearly invisibly in the woods and contained a wooden bed.
In a unique twist, the Mirrorcube is also available for customers to buy and take home, enabling them to construct a treehouse-like hotel room for guests in their backyard, complete with queen-sized bed.
Treehotel didn’t respond to a request for detailed information, but reports suggest that it’s priced at a whopping €275,000.
Still, for that astronomical price tag you get one of the world’s coolest hotel rooms, and Treehotel handles transport and construction of the Mirrorcube, which must be erected around an existing tree (or custom-made system) and is then hermetically sealed to avoid condensation.
Inside, the structure features an armchair, table and chairs, as well as a ladder to a roof terrace, complete with its own lounge chairs, although Treehotel warns that snow must be cleared if it’s installed outside in the winter.
Electricity is also needed to power the stylish Tham & Videgård lighting, although there’s no plumbing so emptying the waste tank is a regular chore for those that want to operate the Mirrorcube in their own backyards.