The Latest Updates to Luxury Travel

From grief retreats and flexible ‘bleisure’ trips to virtual reality tourism and sleep-centric hotels, luxury travel embraces change to offer deeper, more meaningful experience

By Faeeza Khan

Changes in customer behaviour and preferences have ushered in a new era of luxury hospitality and tourism. Travellers now seek unique wellness retreats that offer personal transformation and address challenges like grief and poor sleep. Additionally, they are exploring unusual destinations and travel experiences that are not overexposed by social media influencers.

Emerging Destinations

Travellers now seek to avoid overcrowded tourist hotspots and look beyond traditional Western European destinations for off-the-beaten-path experiences and cost savings. According to the New York-based travel blog Headout, Ethiopia is ranked the second most emerging tourist destination worldwide. Being the only African country never colonised, Ethiopia has preserved its unique culture and traditions, attracting travellers with its lesser-known temples, remote beaches, and inland wilderness areas. Popular emerging destinations include Georgia, Turkey, Colombia, Bulgaria, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Bleisure Travel

‘Bleisure’ travel, where travellers combine business trips with leisure, is a growing trend. Instead of adding a few vacation days at the end of a business trip, travellers now schedule their vacations within the same period as their work trips, adopting a holiday-first mindset. This flexible approach allows them to work from anywhere. Hotels and resorts are responding by offering packages specifically for bleisure travellers, featuring high-speed internet, coworking spaces, and flexible check-in and check-out times. Some hotels even offer fully equipped private offices or meeting rooms. Bleisure travel is boosting South Africa’s tourism rebound.


TV shows and movies shot in beautiful locations have sparked the travel trend known as set-jetting. Many travellers visit picturesque filming locations inspired by their favourite shows. Simon Lynch, global sales and product director of luxury travel tour operator Scott Dunn, said they’ve “noticed this trend accelerating among our guests, with bookings for France in 2023 already 20 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels, thanks to the halo effect of hit shows such as Emily in Paris. The idyllic, sun-drenched filming locations of HBO’s The White Lotus also seem to have inspired our guests seeking ultra-luxurious winter-sun escapes.” While location vacations are not entirely new, they received a significant boost after people spent extended periods indoors during the pandemic, binge-watching TV shows and films.

 Transformation Retreats

Transformation retreats provide tools to help people achieve their full potential, leading to a surge in travel for personal betterment. Pumula Retreat, a yoga and wellness centre on the South Coast of Kwazulu Natal, recently hosted “Exhale, A Grief Retreat with Ashika Soorju.” At Euphoria in Greece, a team of doctors, mentors, nutritionists, therapists, and fitness instructors work together to support and encourage personal growth. The Heartbreak Hotel in the UK offers a “Moving Beyond Betrayal” retreat to help women accelerate their recovery from heartbreak. South Africa’s Emoyeni Retreat Centre features the retreat “Finding Meaning and Purpose” led by Buddhist monk Khenpo Jamyang Gompo, who guides participants to a deeper understanding of how negative emotions arise and how to find meaning and purpose in all circumstances.

Virtual Reality Tourism

Virtual reality is yet another major trend disrupting the tourism industry. Travellers can now explore hotel interiors, restaurant settings, outdoor attractions, and more from their homes through online VR tours, making it easier for them to imagine themselves at the location. Instead of relying on brochures and computer screens, travel agents can offer clients a virtual experience, helping them choose hotels or destinations they might not have considered otherwise. The VR platform VisitScotland allows users to explore different regions of Scotland, providing detailed information about each location. The Atlantis Dubai resort offers a virtual tour, where viewers can experience the hotel before deciding to book. Tourism KwaZulu Natal conducted a VR activation in Botswana to promote KwaZulu Natal as a travel destination.

In unknown cities, VR can pinpoint tourist spots like museums, parks, and galleries, offering on-screen information about them. Another application of this technology is a virtual booking interface, where the entire booking process occurs within virtual reality.

Luxury Yachts from Hotel Brands

Some of the world’s leading hotel brands have launched a new breed of luxury yachts in the comfort and style their on-land hotels have become known for. The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection – Evrima – is the first luxury hotel brand at sea. Being a luxury cruise ship vessel, it boasts 149 suites each with a private sea-view terrace, five restaurants, six lounges, and plenty of exclusive hotel amenities such as a personal concierge assigned to each suite. At the end of 2022, Four Seasons announced their ninety-five cabin yacht to set sail in late 2025. The suites are spacious and have modular walls that can combine some rooms to create enormous suites. There will also be a one-to-one staff-to-guest ratio on board. Luxury hotel group Aman’s Aman at Sea is a 50-suite luxury yacht that will bring the spirit of Aman to the world’s oceans in 2027.

Sleep Tourism

Poor sleep is a common problem in society. Many are not getting the recommended amount of sleep and their sleep isn’t of a high quality. Sleep tourism is a rapidly growing area of the tourism industry that places a strong emphasis on sleep. Sleep-centric hotels are popping up around the world. The UK’s Zedwell Hotels promises its visitors a deep sleep in their soundless, windowless and air-purified cocoons. From the calming scent of essential oils to the specially curated playlist, the experience starts as soon as you walk through the door. Swedish luxury sleep brand Hästens’ Sleep SPA in Coimbra, Portugal offers “Bed Talks” which gives guests the chance to learn from sleep expert Dr Edie Perry and they also boast an impressive pillow menu. Bryte is a US-based company that produces smart mattresses which use AI to adjust body support and room temperature to maintain deep sleep. London’s The Cadogan offers a “sleep concierge” which offers guests a sleep-inducing meditation session with hypnotherapist and sleep expert Malminder Gill.

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