For some, travel is life-defining and can even be life-changing. Gone are the two weeks in a year of a package holiday along with the masses, today’s travelers have become more discerning. They want a getaway to deliver something more than a well-trodden tourist stay in a cookie-cutter place. Instead, many vacationers are on a quest to find hidden depths to destinations, explore their own potential, and go beyond traditional luxury to find real meaning as they connect with different cultures and places.

The seven top luxury travel trends of 2020 are as inspirational and imaginative as they are aspirational. There is an overall desire to interact, integrate, and leave a positive impact. These trends have evolved as more people travel and want to experience where they go in a way that feels authentic and ethical.


Experiential Travel

A tourist feeding one of the elephants at the Samui Elephant Sanctuary. Image: Samui Elephant Sanctuary

As reported in Travel Weekly Asia, millennials want to experience travel that is “beyond the ordinary”, so that they are engaging with destinations in a ‘real’ way. With disposable income and a desire to explore the world, what Forbes calls the “experience economy” is sculpting travel trends to include a greater level of personal experiences. These can range from visiting attractions that are off the beaten track, to interacting with communities and being immersed in the local culture.

These experiences go above and beyond the traditional tourist activities and even extend to stays too. Luxury villa rentals promise a unique experience, for example, where guests can indulge in private dining to sample authentic local cuisine, watch a movie in their own in-villa theatre, and look out to a breathtaking view from their infinity pool.


Wellness Escapes

Yoga practitioners performing a warrior pose on a villa view deck with a spectacular view of the nearby mountains

In line with the growing interest in healthy food and lifestyles, retreat-style holidays are becoming more popular. This is the polar opposite of what a vacation used to be about, which was a couple of weeks of pure indulgence and letting diets disappear. With stress being one of the biggest killers in the modern world, more people are seeing a getaway as a time to recalibrate, de-stress, and make some big life changes.

Luxury villa vacations are great for wellness breaks. From meditation and a private yoga class in the morning, nutritious personalized meals, to facilities like spa rooms and in-villa gyms are all readily available during your stay.


Unspoiled Destinations

Couple paddle boarding on pristine waters of Koh Yao Noi, Thailand

There has long been a sense of competitiveness within the luxury industry of holidaymakers seeking out stunning places outside of the well-trodden tourist routes. Going on vacation somewhere less visited embraces a greater sense of excitement and encompasses an air of exclusivity. With some well-known hotspots over-developed and over-crowded with visitors, 2020 and beyond will see an opening-out of new possibilities.

However, it is good to note that even the most famed holiday locales can still offer a sense of untarnished wonder. A good example of this are the Thai islands of Phuket and Koh Samui and Bali in Indonesia, that while havens for holidaymakers can still offer beaches and green spaces that are tranquil, quiet, and protected. A great way to rediscover a popular resort is to visit during the low season, yet another travel trend that is on the up.


Family Holidays

A family enjoying each other’s company with some pool time fun

It may sound strange to include a family vacation in a 2020 list of travel trends, but it is undoubtedly a valid entry. The once annual trip is being taken over by more holidays as home-schooling rises and more parents become freelance or are able to be more flexible in where they are when they work. Families with kids born since 2010 (Gen Alphas) are, according to an Expedia Group, taking more than three trips per year.

According to Short Term Rentalz, the top priority for this market is keeping everybody entertained and happy. A luxury villa is a splendid home-away-from-home, offering features that bring families together yet provide enough space to avoid being on top of each other. Often two families travel together, or the group extends to include a wider circle of family members.


Culinary Adventures

Guests learning to prepare a meal with Chef at Ani Villa

Knowledge about food and different cuisines is more in-depth than it has ever been, with a greater appreciation of good quality dishes. Along with sampling local restaurants, including gourmet eateries in destinations such as Phuket, many tourists want to replicate flavors at home. This ties in with a wider trend relating to holidaymakers learning new skills during their time away. Often, time and busy lives hinder the enjoyment of simple pleasures such as preparing a homemade dinner for loved ones.

Thai ingredients make up some of the world’s most palatable culinary delights. From the Thai’s strong affinity for spicy food to their delectable Thai desserts, learning how to balance the salty, sweet, sour, and hot taste sensations is deliciously enjoyable with private cookery classes at your luxury villa looking out to the Andaman Sea or the Gulf of Thailand. Beyond creating great food, cooking is an exploration of the heart of a country and its culture too.

Other travel trends include solo traveling that is also about connecting with others and sociability. There is also a rising interest in multi-stop travel, as well as exploring en-route stopovers.


Green Tourism

Rice Terraces in Bali. Image by Monica Volpin from Pixabay

Responsible tourism has become a more finely tuned concept, with greater awareness of any environmental impact and a more conscious effort to be part of a sustainable world. This trend is gathering pace during the new decade, with studies suggesting that the vast majority of travelers want to book an eco-friendly stay. Regardless of flight-shaming, whereby tourists are put under the spotlight for creating a large carbon footprint, the desire to travel is at an all-time high. This means a greater emphasis on making earth-friendly choices once tourists are on the ground.

AFAR magazine suggests that while over a third of travel spending comes from a small percentage of the population, according to an ILTM report, the travel industry is listening to Gen Z. While this generation is only just entering the workforce, they are bringing a bigger social conscience along with their future spending decisions.

Related article: How Luxury Travelers in Southeast Asia Can Adopt the ‘Conscious Travel’ Mindset


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