The future of luxury resorts: What do young travellers want?

21/05/2024 by Ali Sajwani

When it comes to vacations, we all have different priorities. From location and amenities to the local cuisine and weather, each of us has a specific set of criteria in mind when booking our perfect getaway.

At the same time, the global hospitality industry pays close attention to broader market trends in terms of what guests are looking for within each segment. One shift that has proved particularly interesting during recent years is the growing number of Millennial and Gen Z travellers visiting luxury resorts. Of course, just because rising numbers of Millennial and Gen Z travellers are embarking on more expensive vacations, it doesn’t mean they are looking for the same experience as Gen X and Baby Boomer consumers.

So, as tourism professionals from around the world reflect on this year’s edition of Arabian Travel Market, I’d like to explore what young travellers want and how their preferences are reshaping the industry’s luxury segment.

The rise of ‘bleisure’

As its name suggests, ‘bleisure’ combines elements of both business and leisure tourism. Younger demographics in particular are demonstrating a greater willingness to mix work and travel, enjoying the comfort and relaxation offered by luxury resorts without falling behind on their professional commitments.

According to research conducted by Cebr on behalf of Edyn, more than half of Millennial and Gen Z respondents (51%) cited remote working facilities as an important consideration when choosing accommodation abroad. Greater flexibility in terms of when they take their vacations, coupled with the ability to work remotely, is enabling ‘bleisure’ guests to capitalise on lower tariffs.

Indeed, many luxury resorts are adapting their offerings to fit the fluid and hybrid lifestyles of younger, digital-savvy travellers, supplementing existing amenities to facilitate individuals who wish to work during their stay. In turn, these destinations are succeeding in boosting occupancy during traditionally off-peak travel seasons.

Going it alone

While it is true that greater numbers of Millennial and Gen Z consumers are starting families, many others are looking for solo travel experiences. According to data published by Condor Ferries, 58% of Millennials say they would go on vacation alone, and 26% already have.

Personally, I do not find this trend surprising. Vacationing with family and friends can be great fun, but solo travel allows people to challenge their personal boundaries and embark on adventures without having to consider the needs of others. Given the shifting attitudes towards mental health and wellbeing among younger demographics, I can understand why some might see lone excursions as the perfect opportunity to clear their minds, destress and learn more about themselves.

Giving the right impression

Many young travellers now opt for aesthetically pleasing holiday destinations, specifically for the purpose of uploading photos and videos to their social media channels. In fact, 48% of people cite Instagram as an influence when choosing a destination for their next holiday.

On the surface, ‘Instagrammability’ may seem like a superficial reason to visit a destination, but I think this trend reflects a broader requirement among younger travellers – namely the prioritisation of experiential vacations. Millennial and Gen Z travellers are looking to experience exotic landscapes, iconic architecture and well-designed accommodation. They want to enjoy truly luxurious destinations while informing others about what’s on offer.

As you might imagine, the widespread desire for ‘Instagrammable’ locations is having a pronounced effect on the luxury hospitality industry, as high-end resorts work to create more opportunities for guests to snap themselves in their lobbies, rooms and even while they’re eating. In my opinion, the growing popularity of photogenic locations is serving to elevate standards within the luxury resort segment, opening up new and exciting opportunities for experiential travel. This trend is also providing free marketing for many destinations, so it really is a win-win situation.

A focus on authenticity

Many Millennial and Gen Z consumers are looking for luxury resorts that offer more than surface-level ‘bling’. Indeed, younger travellers are demanding unique experiences that provide opportunities to immerse themselves in the culture and heritage of the communities they are visiting.

According to the aforementioned Condor Ferries research, an overwhelming 86% of Millennials travel for cultural enrichment, actively avoiding tourist hotspots. What’s more, over half (60%) of respondents rank authentic culture as an essential part of their vacation.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, to see high-end resorts going above and beyond to ensure guests have access to authentic experiences. From traditional décor and cuisine to local heritage tours and educational programmes, today’s luxury hospitality providers are placing as much emphasis on enrichment as they are on opulence.

Responsible travel options

Last but not least, younger travellers have played an instrumental role in placing sustainability at the top of the luxury hospitality agenda. While this is an issue that spans the generations, with people of all ages placing a high importance on environmental and social responsibility, many Millennials and members of Gen Z are looking to minimise their carbon footprints and embark on vacations that positively contribute to local communities.

In terms of demographics, the youngest consumers are leading the charge for sustainable travel. According to a study conducted by Expedia Group, 56% of Gen Z respondents want green and eco-friendly accommodation, and a similar proportion (54%) say they are willing to pay more for green options. Younger generations are also demanding more ethical tourism activities, such as those that benefit local businesses and conservation efforts.

As Managing Director – Operations and Technology at DAMAC Properties, I am constantly on the lookout for emerging trends within the high-end hospitality segment. With a portfolio that includes luxury resorts such as DAMAC Towers by Paramount Hotels & Resorts and Paramount Hotel Midtown in the UAE, not to mention our upcoming Mandarin Oriental Bolidhuffaru Reef Resort in the Maldives, our team is going to great lengths to cater to modern travellers’ evolving requirements.

It is great to see Millennial and Gen Z consumers having a positive impact on the luxury resort segment, helping to raise standards across the board. I look forward to seeing how young travellers continue to reshape this industry in years to come.

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