From rising hotel prices to tailor-made experiences, Little Emperors founder Rebecca Masri reveals the trends shaping the future of luxury travel in 2023.
Little Emperors is a private members hotel club, offering access to preferred rates and guaranteed benefits at the most exclusive hotels around the globe, handpicked by a team of travel advisors.
With membership fees from £250 per year, and both a web and app-based presence, it is a useful tool for modern travellers. “Members typically find they recoup the money they spend on becoming a member in the savings from just one hotel booking,” says Masri.
Why are Millennials so significant to the future of luxury travel?
Masri says: “Millennials have replaced Baby Boomers as our primary clientele. Approximately 93 per cent of our members are under 50. With remote offices on the rise, family duties arriving much later in life, and the nomadic lifestyle paving the way, wealthy Millennials seem keen to tap into that sense of freedom.”
What do Millennials want?
Masri says: “Millennials seek authenticity and shareability when travelling. They want an easy booking process – LE takes three clicks to book and retains preferences and booking details so you don’t need to repeat them every time.
“They want excellent visuals – two years ago, we hired Laura Mizon, (ex–Mr & Mrs Smith) as our CPO, and she recognised how key content is for us. Millennials are ‘buying with their eyes’, and as such we plan to eventually remove all sentences from our app. All they need are images, videos, floor plans and so on.
“They want relevant information – we are all subjected to so many adverts everyday – most of which are not relevant. We know our members – we know how much they spend, if they have kids, how old they are. And we can talk to them, predict and shape trends, and we do this through membership engagement.
“Social is also important to them. Instagram–friendly destinations have seen a significant increase in Millennial affluential visitors. Iceland, Jordan and New Zealand are some of the new destinations that were able to take advantage of the craving for original and beautiful travel experiences.
“Online influencers visually sharing their journeys have led to a new wave of aspirational living. A recent survey amongst our members told us 85 per cent check hotel social media before booking. A strong online and social media presence is important if a hotel hopes to attract Millennials.”
What post-pandemic trends and behaviours have you been observing among your members?
“We have seen a huge rise in demand and bookings for one–time bucket list trips that are further afield. People are interested in places such as Rwanda, New Zealand, India and Bali – the Capella Ubud is a great example, with its swing into the jungle.
“We have also observed that affluence is no longer tied to the physicality of what you own. New status symbols can instead be found in the rich experiences that you live.
“Rather than spending days on sun loungers in five-star beach resorts, our members are enquiring more about tented safaris in Tanzania, cooking classes in San Sebastian, or surfing lessons in Hawaii.
“Not only will these experiences make for shareworthy photos on Instagram but they deliver a deeper cultural connection and a strong sense of place,” says Masri.
She adds: “The curiosity among travellers to experience an independent hotel or new brand has been so great that Little Emperors has added 180 new hotels to its booking platform this year to keep up with demand.”
According to data from Little Emperors, more than 50 per cent of affluent Millennial travellers believe that travel is about discovery and adventure, and 70 per cent want to learn from the cultures they visit.
Masri says: “Six Senses and its growing portfolio has seen an increase in over 40 per cent bookings from our clients based on their unique programmes and ability to embrace their local cultures.”
She adds: “Environmental sustainability and social responsibility also play an important role in providing a sentiment of authenticity that appeals to younger affluent travellers. For example, in Singita, Tanzania, you can experience first–hand the perfect combination of luxury and care for our environment, with everything locally sourced and sustainable.”
Masri also notes a “continual shift towards wellness”. She says: “The wellness side of our business has really grown. Wellness for us has gone from ‘I need a hotel with a sauna’ to ‘I want to do a tailored programme’. These tailored programmes are something we see hotels brands such as Chenot, which recently open in Montenegro, offering more and more.
“The pandemic has underlined that ‘health is the new wealth’, and has given rise to increased demand for highly tailored therapies and treatments with expert instruction.”
Combining work with holiday time is becoming the norm. Masri says: “When you can work from anywhere, why not work from a new location? That’s the question that many people are asking themselves as work–from–home and hybrid work conditions continue.
“In fact, 61 per cent of remote workers expect to be working hybrid for the next year and beyond, and 27 per cent anticipate that they will work fully from home.”
Where will people be travelling to in 2023?
Masri says: “Our biggest growing destination has been Costa Rica – this country ticks all the boxes for this conscientious and social media–obsessed generation. Costa Rica has another key appeal: the complete absence of Covid red tape, and has been open since November 2020.
“The destination has ecolodges, surf lodges, new hotel openings and more – all of which satisfy the environmentally conscious, lifestyle seeking, Millennial traveller.”
Why are hotels so expensive right now?
Masri says: “At Little Emperors we have seen the ADR (average daily room rate) increase by 29 per cent compared to last year, and an overall 14 per cent increase in price since pre–pandemic levels. This is partially owing to:
- Huge pent–up demand – due to people being desperate to travel post–Covid restrictions, as well as a surge in delayed trips and group bookings (weddings, team bonding, etc).
- Gas price increases.
- Labour shortages.
- Inflation (ordering toiletries, food and other items increases costs on the hotels).
- Exchange rates.”
Will hotels be more expensive in 2023?
“As a general rule, hotels have put a 5 per cent increase on hotel prices for next year but people are afraid it will be even higher. I think it might go down a bit. But it will be last-minute prices that are the highest.”
How are consumers responding?
Masri says: “The pandemic led to the shortest lead-times we have ever seen but now people are booking much further in advance. We have seen an 20 per cent increase in bookings for next year already. People are even booking as far as Christmas 2023 and sometimes hotels haven’t even released their rates.
“Consumers are also booking shorter stays. This is a major u–turn from during the pandemic when travellers were staying for extended periods due to being able to work–from–home. The prices today are so high, people want to stay in the same hotels, but only possess the budget for shorter stays.
“People are increasingly turning to travel agents (like us). Traditionally, many associate travel agents with being more expensive. At Little Emperors, we see ourselves as a new breed of travel agents (we like to be called “advisors” or “disruptors”) who no longer charge hourly rates for advice, but instead a small annual fee.
“It’s easy to recoup in just a one-night booking, and even better, we get you free things such as daily breakfast, early check–in, late check–out, airport transfers, spa credits and restaurant credits.”