Your editor for this publication has been on the conference circuit lately, listening to a lot of presentations on what’s new and trending in the worlds of luxury travel and adventure travel. One big trend is, those two are converging like never before. More luxury travelers are mixing in adventure activities and wanting to stay somewhere nice while they’re doing it. This has been good news for hybrid companies Mountain Lodges of Peru, Explora, and Catherwood Travels. But you also have luxury yoga retreats, luxury surf lodges, and surfers staying at very high end places like Mukul in Nicaragua.
It is becoming clear to the industry that luxury travelers are no longer content just to have a typical destination experience and then go back to the spa for a massage. It’s all about “experiential travel” now, with upscale vacationers trying to be more like backpackers when they’re out and about, getting a more authentic feel for the place. Yet bragging rights are still hugely important with this crowd and social media has, for better or for worse, amplified this trend. As Paula Froelich, editor of Yahoo Travel, said at the Adventure Travel Mexico conference, “If you don’t share it, you weren’t there, right?”
Speaking of ATMEX, the organizers of the event just gathered some major research on how adventuring fits into the overall travel picture. They’re still compiling it all, but check out this cool infographic on the types of travelers and how much they spend on gear each year.
At the ILTM Americas conference I attended last month, social sharing was again big talk, including that people tell their friends how annoyed they are—in broadcast form—every time they have to pay for Wi-Fi. This is reflected in TripAdvisor negative sentiment as well. If you want good reviews and social shares, it’s a whole lot easier if people don’t have to pay to post them.
One interesting thing that came out of a study from Brand Karma was that “Latin American luxury travelers care most about bedrooms and breakfasts while North America luxury travelers concentrate more on service concepts like attitude and cleanliness.” So I guess if a Latin American hotel gets all four of those things right, they’re going to have most of the bases covered.
It’s also worth noting that mobile smart phone usage has a whole different cachet once you get south of the Rio Grande. While it’s a mass-market item in the USA, many Latinos balk at the data fees, so it’s a clear sign of affluence to be carrying one. High-income households accounted for 16.4% of the smartphone audience in Chile, 45% in Mexico, and 53.9% in Peru.
Latin America definitely has a lot of upside potential in the future. Right now North America has 36% of the world’s wealth, while Latin America has 7%. Brazil and Mexico continue to show the most potential and both are predicted to become top-5 world economies by the middle of this century, if you believe the pundits. They both need to spread the wealth for that to happen though. Right now 12 families control one-third of the stock market value in Mexico and the 11 billionaires in the country account for 12.5% of the total GDP.
Alvaro Valeriani from Hyatt said surveys show 2/3 of Brazilians expecting to do more traveling in 2015, while 55% of Mexicans said so too. Tourism in Latin America is up 50% in past decade and accounts for 6.6% of GDP in the region, with that number growing each year.