10 definitions of ‘luxury travel’ from within the industry

How do you define luxury travel? People’s perceptions of what makes travel luxurious seems to vary wildly, so we asked 10 people who work in the industry to tell us what luxury travel means to them. Their responses provide an interesting insight into perceptions from within the industry. If you’re not one of the ten to have responded, feel free to add your own definition in the comments that follow. Hammock “Luxury travel today is defined less by thread count and Michelin stars and more by access to the people, places and experiences that represent all that is authentic about a destination. There’s no denying that comfort factors still apply and high standards of accommodation and dining will always feature on the luxury traveller’s wish list. However, today’s luxury traveller seeks more depth of understanding and immersion into local culture than ever before. People don’t just want to see – they want to participate. The sales process is also critical and whilst the online proposition can be an asset in terms of booking more simple arrangements, clients looking for luxury experiential travel require a deep level of sophisticated knowledge and confidence during the sales process.” – George Morgan-Grenville, Chief Executive Officer, Red Savannah “Luxury travel is a privilege truly experienced by few. To our private & custom tour clients it means having the right balance of local insight, independence and flexibility. They decide overnight locations in advance and choose daily from a menu of recommended sights, cultural experiences and personal leisure time. Many appreciate the luxury of “insider” access to castles, farms, fishing vessels, kitchens and artisan studios – incredible places that help them get under the skin of Irish society in a way that is personally meaningful. It is impossible to put a price on the stories they can tell of sampling fine whiskeys with eminent Dublin spirit traders or their child’s impromptu lesson in Gaelic from the old shepherd they met on a country lane!” – Andrew Carr, Managing Director, Kennedy & Carr Ireland Travel “For me luxury is not about the marble bath-tub or the gold taps, but about the location, the hosting, the guides. The ultimate luxury for any wildlife enthusiast or safari-goer? Exclusivity. Having the experience to yourself. Feeling pioneering, exploratory, included. Whether this be an incredible, remote area such as the relatively unexplored Niassa National Reserve, Mozambique, an unusual, and over-looked, wildlife experience such as the annual bat migration in Northern Zambia, or an amazing safari camp offering the highest level of guiding and private vehicles as standard such as Alex Walker’s Serian Camps one thing is guaranteed “Your very own African experience. Take the ultimate luxurious African trip and be where nobody else is!” – Becx Whitefield, Owner, TripAfrica “Luxury is a much overused term. One traveller’s luxury is another’s ordinary. For WEXAS our focus is on delivering a seamless and personal service helping our clients to plan and then enjoy authentic, quality experiences that will be long remembered. The mode of travel and type of accommodation used can vary from a 5-star hotel or a boutique property to a unique building or an eco-style lodge but the common theme is that the experience is a special one. True luxury is a great travel experience, enjoyed in relative comfort. – Steve Allen, Managing Director, WEXAS Tailor-made Travel “The definition of luxury travel to me is to undertake a new experience and immerse oneself in a new destination whilst indulging in the very best levels of personal and attentive service, lavish and sumptuous accommodation, exquisite and unrivalled levels of gastronomy and informative and educational guides. It is travel without stress, pressure of time or daily routine, where your every need is pre-empted and your every expectation is met and exceeded.” – Gareth Harding, Sales Director at The Cruise Line Ltd. “People’s travel aspirations are changing, and this is true throughout the market. The new definition of luxury is no longer a 6-star hotel with flunkeys and banquets and ever more exquisite spas, but is an experience created for your own personal preferences that combines enrichment, enjoyment and education, with the time to appreciate your surroundings at a price that represents value for money. It is individual travel created out of the wealth of opportunities on the internet, economic constraints and a growing sense of responsible travel that allows us all to learn and discover and choose to count bats in Mongolia or go fishing in China – and gives us something to really boast about when we get home.” – Selina Jackson, Director, ReadyClickAndGo Ltd. “If one were limited to a single word when defining ‘luxury’ travel, that word would be accommodation. Where will you put your head to pillow after a day’s touring adventure. Be it on safari, by rail or along the sand dunes of Jaisalmer, there simply are magnificent choices in all regards. Thereafter, one should decide upon joining a group with very limited membership or choose customized travel, with a private driver and guide. The luxury of a custom tour allows one to choose to spend more or less time at a particular site and to end the day when they so please. Add to that the undivided attention of ones private guide. “Luxury” travel should also include private passage, such as visiting select rooms within the Forbidden City in Beijing, otherwise closed to the public or perhaps an evening with the Maharaja of Jaipur. No doubt one would also want to be positioned to enjoy the finest of cuisines, be it within the setting of that special accommodation or a well-known eatery nearby. It is this combination of luxurious resources that actually allow the traveler to enjoy ones time in anticipation of the coming journey nearly as much as the journey itself.” – Robert Kenyon, Owner, First Cabin Travel Corporation
“I believe luxury travel is about having time to enjoy the landscape; an opportunity to luxuriate in culture, to stretch out, observe and literally loose yourself in the place you’re visiting. One of my personal luxurious treats in Italy is to start the day with a real cappuccino (served at the right temperature – not boiling hot, but just drinkable) accompanied by a freshly baked pastry. Perfetto.” – Lorne Blyth, Director,  Flavours of Italy Ltd. “There has been a dramatic change in how we define the concept of luxury travel over the past few years, largely due to the current economic climate. The current climate has deepened the definition, making it much more multi-layered than it once was. It has pushed consumers away from conspicuous consumption towards more authentic, simple and genuine experiences that incorporate elements of environmental awareness and social responsibility. Sure, the traditional perception will always hold true for some travellers, but more and more travellers are valuing the personal element experienced on their travels. This begins from the preparation stages, the service they receive, the people they meet and the memories they return with.” – Engi Bally, PR & Marketing Manager, SilverDoor “Luxury travel does not just mean opulence, comfort and a plethora of amazing amenities on offer at a destination; it is the full journey of the traveller from the point they make that first phone call to discuss their needs. The service they receive, the knowledge of the travel consultant, the journey to their port of call should all have an air of being a cut-above before they arrive at a resort or location that will astonish. Luxury travel means you can sit back, relax and enjoy the experience safe in the knowledge that every aspect will surpass expectation.” – Rory Pilkington, Managing Director, Bailey Robinson

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. Very helpful info!! My husband and i are thinking of doing a luxury cruise through the Adriatic this Summer, and I very much agree with First Cabin’s assessment that accommodation is key! That and having someone with the expertise to send you to those hard to find, little known places and people that make a journey memorable.

  2. I fully agree with First Cabin’s assessment. I consider luxury to also embody a high experience of the culture of the country one is visiting and this too was always foremost in our travels with First Cabin. Our family has travelled with FC since 1994. We’ve been across China: Pakistan: two safari trips to different parts of Africa: India: Nepal: Burma: Bhutan: Thailand: and “luxury” and privacy (in the most remote areas “luxury” was relative but always the best of what was available) were always the over-riding themes. When we travel, we want to have unique experiences but it is a priority of ours to have them with luxury!

  3. Luxury travel is all about presentation. From unique and detailed sightseeing programs, selection of local operators, vendors and guides, to the thread count and welcoming smile of the hotel staff, its all about the presentation. First Cabin Travel is the finest luxury presenter I know.

  4. Robert Kenyon, First Cabin, knows “luxury travel”. I am sure any one who wants an unique adventure, not just a vacation/trip, should work with Robert and experience first hand the difference.

  5. It is less the destination, and more the welcome you receive at a place you are delighted to be. I prefer to go as a visitor, not a traveler. I’d chose “First Cabin”, Robert Kenyon. He knows the places AND the people.

  6. I agree with First Cabin Robert Kenyon’s definition of luxury travel. Customization and accommodation are the keys to true luxury travel.

  7. I have not experienced First Cabin (though comments here indicate I should – I hope they are all on commission!). But on comments above, my vote goes to Bailey Robinson’s definition.

    Luxury is different for everyone, with the common denominator being made to feel special, that what you are doing is out of the ordinary, and that those providing it know exactly what they are doing (but do not come across that they have done this lots of times before, which would detract from your feeling special). Yes, great accomodation is good – but it is rather meaningless if you feel like just another guest on the conveyor belt, seeing just what countless other people have already seen.

  8. Thank you very much for this nice list of quotes. Luxury Travel is such a good thing. I would love to make just luxury trips!

  9. It’s really about knowing exactly what would suit the customer and having the knowledge to make it a holiday of a lifetime. All the stress and responsibility should be taken away from the customer. It certainly doesn’t have to be a posh hotel – it could be staying in a nomad’s yurt before horse riding over remote landscapes, but all planned exactly with expert knowledge, maybe with some special experiences such as hot air balloon flights thrown in!

  10. For us luxury travel is all about having the visitors being escorted by a friendly, knowledgeable guide that is willing to share about the culture, tradition and other unique features of the place. It is about sharing the road less travelled, making sure the visitors have exclusivity & experience the authentic product be it on a cultural trip or on an adventure trek. The guests has to be immersed in the daily fabric of the local people’s way of life & experience. These have to be coupled with a decent place to stay and adequate food served. KARMA in the kingdom of Bhutan

  11. What stands out among these impressions, for me, is that the designation ‘luxury travel’ goes beyond the material aspects of the holiday – with luxury, good linen and good wine are a given – and emphasises instead the quality of service. Exclusivity rightly gets a mention here, but for me the key thing is the interpersonal service which you no longer get on the average holiday. To get great service, it has to be luxury travel.

  12. Everyone’s idea of ‘luxury travel’ is bound to differ to some degree, it’s all about what makes people happy. For me, excellent service – the kind that lets you totally relax so that you don’t have to lift a finger – is definitely on the list. I also look for unique destinations, stylish surroundings and exceptional food. But overall, the experience has to be one that is unforgettable, for whatever reasons, as long as they’re positive!

  13. Thank you for sharing this article. We are approaching this sector with our vacation rentals but we are experimenting a completely different tipology of requests. And for us, which is the first time, it’s really important to understand what luxury means into the minds of travellers! Grazie, Fabio.

  14. Hello Fabio… I think you’ll find – as Alexandra mentions above – it means different things to different people. Many people ‘shy’ away from the word these days, for exactly this reason. It isn’t always easy to manage expectations when definitions and interpretations can vary wildly.

  15. Luxury travel for me would be a travel where you do not worry about logistic, have interesting local activities to participate in, meet people with different cultural background ( and try to understand them!) and have a relaxing wellness treatment at the end of the day.

  16. Very interesting article. I 100% agree. Today, luxury travel is synonymous of smart travel. No hassle, take time, discover exclusive places and people, out the beaten tracks, staying in touch with the local culture.

  17. I thought about it and wrote an essay about it. Here is the start of it:
    “Luxury travel is no easy thing to describe. For me it is some kind of mindset. You are longing for some kind of exclusivity not anybody has access to it. Of course money is needed to reach it, but sufficient financial resources alone are not enough. What you need in the first place is striving for uniqueness. You want to go to a place where not anybody has been there before, you want to have experiences that are not only new to you but also to many others, you want to stay at a trendy hotel that is not known to the great masses, you want to eat in a hip restaurant where only insiders go.”
    Find the continuation on my blog: https://swisstraveler-franziska.blogspot.ch/2016/05/my-definition-of-luxury-travel.html

  18. To me, luxury travel is not about the number of stars an establishment has. Rather, it encompasses exclusive surroundings, tasteful decor with all the mod cons in place, impressive cuisine and most of all, exceptional service.

  19. Thank you.great information.but i’m still wonder,does luxury travel mean higher cost b’cause it’s not for mass amount,the customised service?is it true luxury travel could contribute much more to sustainable tourism?pls anyone,i’m newbie here.thanks😊

  20. As in almost everything in a successful business, understanding your customer’s definition of “luxury” is the key. Ultimately, the customer determines whether a trip meets their expectations. It’s better to learn their requirements up front and adjust accordingly (which sometimes means turning away business), than to fail to meet their expectations and lose a customer (and all their potential referrals) forever.

  21. The article is very interesting and I just would like to point something that,frankly for me, can make all the difference in what concerns the meaning of “luxury travel”: age.

    Now with 53years, I can identify clearly the difference between what luxury travel used to meant for me in my twenties and today.

    There is a big difference and find that and provide a good service,is really the challenge for those who are in the business.

    Personally I’m doing that for hobby and see the evolution is really very interesting, as we can see by the different comments.

  22. Very interesting and helpful info for me. From this I could understand more about the luxury travel that I was confusing. It’s worth reading.
    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hmmm… not sure I agree with that as a definition, Susmita. I could stay in a clean, budget hostel with very basic facilities, but still be satisfied… I don’t think it then necessarily follows that it’s luxurious.

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