Appetite for Luxury Travel Continues

7 December 2010

Rich still desire luxury tourism despite credit crunch, says VisitBritain research

Rich tourists still have an appetite for the exclusive luxury experiences that Britain offers despite the economic downturn, according to a new VisitBritain report.

The report ‘’Luxury Travel: Understanding the Luxury Consumer’’  identifies seven new trends in luxury travel that are capturing the imaginations of the world’s wealthy elite.

It comes as VisitBritain is preparing a worldwide advertising campaign in the spring to attract more ‘’High Net Worth’’ individuals – rich people with more than $1 million in spare cash – whose numbers worldwide grew by 17.1 % in 2009 to 10 million. For the first time there are as many in Asia as Europe and North America – about three million.

The report identifies a fashion among the rich for dream-like, unreal ‘’fairytale’’ holidays. Many want fantasy experiences where, for example, guests re-live the lives of residents in a British stately home. Another trend is for frictionless ‘’flow’’ holidays described as ‘’turning the mute button on life.’’ It shows the wealthy have a growing appetite for luxury holidays planned with the skill of an art curator or choreographer, full of surprises and a compelling story they can talk about to their friends.

The report identifies three tiers of luxury: the ‘’gold’’ for the wealthy who love bling and showing off, ‘’platinum’’ for the rich who are less overt while ‘’black’’ luxury is for those who love understated wealth but revel in utter exclusivity and the feeling of total freedom money brings. VisitBritain is using these insights to create a major new marketing campaign to be launched next spring aimed at boosting Britain’s burgeoning high-end tourism business.

Patricia Yates, Director of Strategy and Communications at VisitBritain said: ‘’Britain is already regarded by many of the international jet-set as the original home of luxury, thanks to our centuries-old aristocratic traditions and history of service.

‘’This report shows that while every country has 5-star hotels, luxurious spas, designer shops and championship golf courses Britain stands out because it has the original world renowned luxury experiences and brands . For example a stay at Claridges shopping in Selfridges or eighteen holes at St Andrews have a cache that can’t be found elsewhere.’’

For further information, please contact:

Paul Eastham, Head of Global Corporate Communications on 0207 578 1130 or 07884 326 354

 Notes to Editors

  • VisitBritain’s comprehensive research to understand more about luxury travel is extensive and has been published on our website:
  • VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, is responsible for inspiring the world to explore Britain and for developing the UK’s visitor economy.
  • Every year 17million visits are made by international consumers to the 57 websites that make up VisitBritain’s global family of websites,, which together provide information in 21 different languages.

‘’Luxury Travel: Understanding the Luxury Consumer’’  summary and examples

1.  Sit Forward and Sit Back Holidays”

On a Sit Forward Holiday, consumers want to maximise their experiences and soak up knowledge and skill to use and  gain status.

Example: A backstage tour and private box at Shakespeare’s Globe  in the  richly decorated and historically authentic Gentlemen’s Rooms with premium views of the stage, champagne served in your box and a pre-performance meal with wine in the Brasserie.

On a Sit Back Holiday, people want to relax and re-boot.  Busy High Net Worth travellers juggle an ‘’always on’’ lifestyles constantly connected to technology with little opportunity to switch off. They want to escape and be cocooned in a luxurious bubble.

Example: Escape from it all at the Serenity Spa at Seaham Hall – an Asian-style spa in the North East of England, set a gloriously isolated hotel with beach views.  The grand Georgian building is inspired by the works of Lord Byron, who was married here in 1815. Wonderfully-named Day Spa Rituals include Hours of Idleness, Heaven and Earth and She Walks in Beauty

2.  Flow – The New Posh Package

This trend is about the perfect holiday carefully tailored to each traveller’s requirements transporting them to a world of seamless pleasure. All friction is removed, they forget their worries. No expense is spared but importantly everything has to be included in the original price – as even high end consumers require value.  Consumers describe this experience “as pressing the mute button on real life”.

Example: Loyd and Townsend Rose will match their guests to a particular castle and organise every aspect of their stay. Live like a laird for a week in a Scottish castle such as Dalcross Castle in Inverness-shire and let LTR cater to your every whim, whether you would like to blend your own bottle of malt whisky, have access to golf courses that are notoriously difficult to get times in, or be measured for a kilt in the comfort of the castle and have the finished garment delivered to you by the end of your stay.  


Experience the high life at The Chester Grosvenor and Spa in England’s Northwest; take a scenic 60 minute helicopter ride with panoramic views across the stunning Yorkshire Dales to The Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey near Skipton. Upon landing on the front lawn, you will be met by a representative of the hotel and enjoy a glass of Laurent Perrier Vintage 1996 champagne before being treated to a “Devonshire Afternoon Tea“. Then back to toast your hotel on its 145th birthday, the black-and-white timbered listed building is in the centre of historic Chester, close to the Roman walls, Chester Cathedral and the famous Eastgate Clock.

3.  The Art of Curation and Choreography

The world of luxury is shifting from the ostentatious to something more refined. Luxury is not having more, but having the “latest”, the rarest and the best. Luxury travel organisers edit the finest experiences like a top art curator picks pictures or a clever choreography creates a dance to produce unobtrusive service allowing luxury consumers to completely immerse themselves in the experience.

Example: London Luxury’s World’s Finest: Art, Antiques and Design experience is introduces international visitors to London’s sophisticated, but often impenetrable fine art, antiques and design scenes. On a private three hour experience an expert insider leads clients on a private tour, with exclusive access to some of the world’s most cutting edge design galleries, and influential art and antique dealers.

4.  Luxury as a Fairy Tale

For many, luxury travel is a childhood dream come true – like seeing an unreal fairy tale or revisiting history.  A luxury holiday detaches them from everyday life, cannot be replicated in the real world and should constantly surprise travellers.  They must live the dream, though, not merely observe it.  “Clients want me to make their dreams come true. Simple!”oneBrazil tourism trade executive told us. This is a big opportunity because Britain is often associated, especially in countries such as China and Russia, with myths, legends and fairy tales because of its strong literary history and its rich history. It offers opportunities to show a magical side of Britain which has a powerful sense of playfulness and fantasy. Example: Guests re-live the lives of residents in a British stately home in rural countryside in a very plush, indulgent manner.

Example: Delight in being one of the first guests to check-in to new London Syon Park hotel, in the grounds of the Duke of Northumberland’s Grade I-listed Syon House. What could be more ethereal than sweeping into the lobby to find a floor-to-ceiling butterfly house or delving deeper to discover the artisanal ice cream parlour? (opens February 2011)

5.  Storytelling

Stories are extremely important part of deciding which luxury holiday to take. They must have the potential to take on a life of their own in consumers’ minds and when they tell others about it. Luxury travellers often want their holidays to establish their social status or kudos by giving them the chance to tell the story of how they did something new and unique or use an experience in their daily lives.

Example: Make the perfect Italian feast with Theo Randall or have Mark Hix teach the art of shucking oysters and smoking a kipper. Spend an afternoon with celebrity florist Nikki Tibbles, creating wonderful table displays? Sophie Conran’s bespoke country house parties at Temple Guiting in the Cotswolds can organise the perfect party and experience for guests. 

6.   Serendipity

In today’s digital world travellers can experience much of their trip on the internet before they have left home. It can mean very little comes as a surprise. That’s why luxury travel must work hard to deliver magic, surprise and serendipity. “Now it’s even less about traditional luxury…It’s more about something unexpected… People call and say, ‘Surprise me!” said a travel agent in Russia. Example: British boutique hotels which often offer a fun, quirky retreat and knowledgeable concierges who are able to inject surprise by suggesting amazing activities.

Example: The Feversham Arms Hotel and Verbena Spa has an unassuming entrance, tucked away  on a cute street in the quintessentially English small market town of Helmsley, North Yorkshire. Inside however, it has been transformed into a sumptuous cocoon of luxurious suites and fine dining. Each night guests are surprised with a different treat at turndown, whether that is a foodie treat following their gourmet dinner, or a thoughtful book on the area. Perfect for romantic surprises – guests booking Romance or Proposal packages will be delighted with rose petals scattered on the bed on the last evening; a collection of candles comes as standard to add to the atmosphere. Other little treats include a rucksack of homemade chef’s goodies and a walking guide for outdoorsy types or tickets and private picnic hamper filled with full afternoon tea for a romantic journey on the North Yorkshire Moors Steam Railway from Pickering to Whitby.

7.  Three tiers of luxury: gold, platinum and black

Gold is “bling-luxury” where people show off their wealth in every way possible. “They’ll choose the more expensive option BECAUSE it’s more expensive” said Chris Bicalho, Brazil tourism expert. Platinum is a less overt, comfortable luxury.  The consumers live their lives according to a set of principles and don’t need to flaunt their wealth to establish their worth amongst their peers.  Black is understated, minimal but substantial.  It is the ultimate in exclusivity, somewhat old fashioned and established. It’s about old money, or at least a feeling of confidence in wealth and a person’s position in society.  It is top of the tier and is about being part of the club, in the know or having the freedom to be whatever they want to be.

GOLD – Check into Diane von Furstenburg’s beautiful new Piano Suite at Claridges in London and hire a supercar to drive to Knightsbridge for a personal shopping experience at Harrods: By Appointment.

PLATINUM – Head to the rural outpost of one of London’s best hotels – Coworth Park in Berkshire is the latest addition to the Dorchester Collection. It’s the only hotel in Britain with polo fields, close to Ascot for racing, Wentworth for golf and Windsor Castle and Great Park for history and heritage.

BLACK – Be welcomed to Edinburgh’s Prestonfield House Hotel’s handsome team of concierges clad in Howie Nicolsby’s stylish black kilts before being whisked off to the Salon Prive for the ultimate in private dining. Prestonfield’s smallest private room is a luxurious retreat for just two guests. Hidden off of a stone turret stair, this glamorous and romantic opera box of a room is a perfect hide-away with your waiter just a bell-call away.


Paul Eastham, Head of Global Corporate Communications

VisitBritain, 1 Palace St, London, SW1E 5HX

T: +44 (0) 20 7578 1130 | M: +44 (0)7884 326 354 | F: +44 (0)207578 1001

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