Wolf Worster is the founder and CEO of Sirreti, an exclusive membership community operating in the luxury & ultra-luxury vacation rental market. Firmly established as a trusted source within the industry, Wolf has a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and insights. In this in-depth article, Wolf shares his thoughts on the key influencers shaping the future of luxury private accommodation.
The Evolution of Luxury Private Accommodation
In recent years, luxury travel has evolved due to changing societal norms, technological advancements, and a growing emphasis on authenticity. Those that operate in the luxury vacation sector, such as luxury private accommodation companies, have had to evolve alongside these trends and changes to suit their client’s changing needs and tastes. Despite global events causing a cost-of-living crisis, luxury vacation rentals continue to grow in popularity amongst the super-rich, and the global luxury travel sector is expected to be valued at $82 billion by 2032.
The concept of ‘luxury’ has shifted from pure opulence to a more holistic and experiential offering. However, it remains that luxury travellers are also expecting quality that equals that of world-class hotels from private accommodation, and the standard of service climbs higher year after year. Furthermore, because working practices have become more remote since the pandemic, those that can afford to travel often are choosing private rentals for even lengthier vacations, with the length of stay rising by eight percent in 2022 alone.
Let’s take a look at some of the travel trends that have evolved over recent years and how these trends have affected the luxury private accommodation sector.
A Shift Towards Authenticity
In the past, luxury travel was synonymous with opulence, exclusivity, and extravagance. As societal values have evolved, so has the definition of luxury. In recent years, there has been a shift away from materialism towards experiences. Instead of compartmentalised luxury, the focus has shifted towards creating memories and stories that will last a lifetime.
Authenticity is also a key consideration, and the need for autonomy and privacy has also increased, especially amongst well-known or high-profile clients. Therefore, luxury private accommodation is a perfect option for UHNW individuals who still want hotel-quality service whilst maintaining total privacy. Luxury Private Accommodation includes properties such as villas, chalets and apartments.
The concept of ‘Villa Agencies’ began in a formal way in the 1980s, when the owners of independent luxury private accommodation began to market their properties through 3rd party agents. Among the first of these agencies include Wimco in 1983, Hostedvillas in 1995 and Fivestargreece, Dynamiclives and Suncabo in 2000. All aforementioned agencies are still as popular as ever. Luxury villa holidays have always been popular in Europe, with the most visited destinations being Italy, Spain, France, and Greece. In North America, the most popular luxury villa destinations continue to be in Mexico, specifically Punta Mita, Cabo San Lucas and Tulum.
Experiential Luxury: The Modern Standard
The 21st century has ushered in a new era of luxury travel defined by experiences rather than possessions. Today’s luxury travellers value personal growth, cultural immersion, and the opportunity to connect with both the environment and local communities. They also want to stay in unique locations (read our review of La Casa Cosme Palacio). This has led to a rise in ‘experiential travel’, where the experience of staying in truly unique properties is of unlimited value. Private accommodation located in sublime locations, such as nestled in the rolling hills of Tuscany, or a villa clinging to the cliffs of Ibiza, for example, are unique enough to wow and entice modern luxury travellers.
Wellness and Mindfulness
Luxury travellers are increasingly prioritising their physical and mental well-being, even when on vacation. A trip away is now another opportunity to continue their wellness journey, a particularly prevalent trend since the COVID-19 pandemic. Private rentals with spas and gyms have proven to be increasingly popular and these amenities are now considered as standard. Access to outside contractors who can provide exclusive services such as beauty treatments, massages and even fitness training are also requested frequently. The focus is on relaxation, rejuvenation, and achieving a sense of balance amidst the stresses of modern life.
Culinary and Cultural Immersion
Luxury travellers have developed a refined palate for authenticity, leading to popularity in culinary and cultural experiences, and stylish private accommodation that blends seamlessly into its surroundings. As opposed to simply relocating somewhere for a short stay, luxury travellers want to truly immerse themselves in local culture for extended periods. Adventures involving local cuisine, wine tasting (we recommend wine tasting at Bodegas Can Rich in Ibiza), and cooking classes are considered valuable components of a luxury trip. Properties with interior and exterior design that echo the charms of the local culture have proven to be continuously popular.
With growing environmental awareness, luxury travel has evolved to embrace sustainability and many private rental companies and property owners are aware that the planet is at the forefront of many guest’s minds. Eco-friendly accommodations, carbon-neutral transportation, and responsible tourism practices have become essential to the luxury experience. This trend reflects a broader commitment to preserving the world’s natural and cultural heritage. Property managers should take time to consider the overall environmental impact of their property whether in terms of the materials used throughout or even simply the toiletries they place in guests’ bathrooms. Qalia is the first responsible tourism standard for conscious luxury in the luxury vacation rental market. They provide the framework for a solid foundation for luxury rental organizations and properties to implement responsible sustainability practices into their operations.
Technology’s Role in Shaping Luxury Travel
The rise of the internet, social media, and phone apps has democratised access to information and transformed the way people plan, book, and share their experiences when travelling. However, it remains true that many UHNW clients prefer to book directly via a trusted agent or Property Manager. Additionally, innovations in transportation, such as private jets (Netjets) and Superyachts, have redefined convenience and exclusivity for luxury travellers, adapting the way that UHNW clients reach their destinations.
Social media has a large part to play in terms of which destinations, resorts, experiences and restaurants ‘trend’ amongst travellers. For property managers, having their property deemed as ‘Instagrammable’ is the ultimate boost for business. However, this in turn can be detrimental to the exclusivity and privacy offered at many properties, a double-edged sword of sorts.
The Future of Luxury Private Accommodation
In conclusion, the modern luxury traveller seeks meaningful connections, cultural understanding, and personal growth, all while minimising their impact on the planet. As we forge ahead, what is offered by Luxury Private Accommodation operators will undoubtedly continue to evolve, driven by changing values, technological advancements, and an ever-expanding world of possibilities.