For a long time, things like lavish accommodation, state-of-the-art amenities, and exclusive perks epitomized luxury travel, but trends are shifting.
According to a study conducted by My Travel Research.com (reported via Aspire), travelers are now looking for understated luxury rather than flashy displays of “ostentation,” something driven by “higher spiritual and emotional motives”.
As a result, more people are opting for travel that incorporates learning and enrichment (one of five key trends the report identifies as defining the market) to satisfy this need for personal fulfillment and self-development.
But this sub-group of experiential travel is not limited to half or full-day offerings. Increasingly, providers are developing longer and more immersive learning programs for travelers that want to go home with more than a nice tan and some quirky souvenirs.
At resorts like The Siam in Bangkok, holidaymakers keen to broaden their skill set can sign up for one of their specialty courses such as Muay boxing or Thai cooking. As professional instruction can be booked for up to a week, vacationers-turned-students can master much more than just the basics, and leave feeling accomplished.
Upmarket resorts are not the only ones to focus on the value of enrichment in the experiences they provide. Luxury cruise company Silversea has curated a number of “expedition” packages that see passengers explore remote locations like the islands of Micronesia and deepen their knowledge through on-board lectures with eminent experts, and field studies or excursions related to their specialism.
Some companies even offer travelers the chance to earn a recognized qualification. Go Learn To.com, offers a range of “inspirational holiday courses” including a 10-week long scuba diving program, taught from the coastal waters of Byron Bay, Australia. During their time away, participants learn all the skills necessary to lead their own dives, and if successful, are awarded a PADI Divemaster certification on completion.
Acquiring new skills is a particular draw for millennials who are more likely than any other generation to opt for travel that combines leisure and learning, says Travel Technology Solutions, a company that works closely with travel agents.
For these travelers, learning-centered experiences can also be a chance to build “personal connections” and have “deeper cultural interactions,” factors that help ensure they get the most from their trip, TTS reports.
But, while millennials have the largest presence in this market now, it may not be for long. “As consumers become older, luxury becomes more about enrichment than materialism,” said Travel Futurologist, Ian Yeoman in an article for eHotelier.com.
As a result, baby boomers too, are beginning to opt for travel that is more immersive and can provide meaningful or one-of-a-kind experiences rather than “pre-packaged” options.
Some even go as far as to suggest that enrichment travel that includes learning new skills, being creative, and visiting new places may be essential to maintain health and well-being in older age.
With attitudes towards “luxury” travel shifting in favor of experience-rich alternatives, learning could well become a central feature in vacations.