Robert Arrow, Director – Consumer Travel, Seera Group, shares interesting year-end and forecast 2021
Inbound to Saudi it is going to be about luxury in terms of being the first in for the raw and real experience, being able to explore special places such as Al Ula, Al Ahsa or Gizan area without the crowds. Awakening in the morning to a vista without anyone else around. The luxury that you can set up a luxury tent, RV or similar where no one else has done so before.
Activities and experiences in KSA are also evolving with the luxury international inbound traveller in mind. The story telling, the pride in the cultural heritage is creating a 'cocktail currency' of luxury. More and more events are being added to the annual calendar, which in their own will bring more 'luxury clients, luxury lifestyle and eateries ' to the country. A prime example is the F1 in Jeddah in 2021 an event that is synonymous with true glamour and lux.
Also the level of accommodation is elevating for the luxury leisure traveller both for domestic travellers and the inbound traveller, before the luxury hotels of Riyadh, Jeddah and Al Khobar were mostly for corporate executives but now the likes of Four Seasons Riyadh, Ritz Carlton Jeddah and the soon to be branded JW Marriott Riyadh are all reinventing their high-end leisure offerings for those looking to explore the new world without compromising the worldly luxuries they have become accustomed too.
New hotels are also coming in thick and fast, the Shangri La Jeddah a prime location on the Corniche, great for those exploring the Red Sea city full of cutting edge homegrown designers but also those looking for a luxury weekend break to enjoy the F&B and new spa. Banyan Tree is to open the first luxury desert resort in Al Ula, Nobu is open in Riyadh and so many more are on the way.
As Saudi opens further and gears itself for more and more tourists in 2021 and beyond, the experiences are elevating too. A key word for all the Regional Tourism councils in KSA is sustainability and authenticity again philosophies prime in the eyes of the modern luxury traveller. Although still in their infancy destinations such as Neom, Diryah, areas of the Red Sea etc are showcasing some of the upcoming unique experiences again this allows the luxury traveller the opportunity to enjoy before many others and also with the space and privacy that will not be possible in a few years to come.
In regard to international and outbound luxury trends from Saudi Arabia and the region, the main trend we are seeing is space and privacy. Whether it be when travelling, when in destination or an experience around the world. Private Jets are being requested and quoted more than ever, both because they offer a level of privacy and safety that many feel does not come with commercial travel at the moment, but also schedules are heavily reduced around the world so getting from A2B is not as straightforward as before.
When in destination, especially for relaxation, private villas and larger suites are proving popular, this gives again the experience of not needing to expose the guest to too many people, having space to dine, entertain and relax in a larger surrounding whilst still having the luxuries of a full service hotel on hand 24/7 is proving very popular too.
Multi-generational travel is also of a higher priority than before too, many families have not spent quality time together in 2020 or have missed bigger celebrations so 2021 is a year to really reconnect and enjoy luxury experiences around the world together, this also allows families to holiday together in larger 'bubbles' and again utilise private suites and villas or travel by private aircraft together and actually realising it is quite cost effective to do this in a luxury environment.
Another interesting trend especially in the luxury arena for travel is the wish and wanderlust to explore countries and experiences that may have not been of interest, priority or importance before. People have had a lot of time to research and learn a lot more about the world in the past 8/9mths and the urge and want to push the boundaries of the travel bug are feeding the client to enquire more about new experiences to them, whether it be Safari's in Eastern Africa, new destinations across the globe or closer to home in Europe or as we would say secondary destinations such as Portugal, Croatia or Vietnam, or new forms of travel such as Cruising. The Red Sea Cruise experience this summer showcased to many high-end Saudi travellers the beauty and luxury of sailing in a smaller all-inclusive six-star environment. This has led to an interest in other luxury cruises in 2021 whether it be the new Ritz Carlton Yacht around the Mediterranean or something more obscure yet luxurious the Quark Expedition yacht to the North Pole in 2021.
With the closure of international outbound leisure travel across not only Saudi Arabia but the GCC throughout 2021, will trend to much longer summer breaks in 2021, taking in destinations that have been missed this year but have a strong heritage with the GCC traveller, such as London, Paris or Los Angeles but this coming summer season many are looking to take multi centre trips to see those places they have missed, explore new places and experience all the luxury lifestyle they have missed this year. Some are even seeing long let requests for accommodation in 2021 already for Southern Europe and some of major cities.
In summary, one trend that is being seen and apparent and will continue now to be very important is the support of a luxury travel advisor on hand before, during and post travel in 2021 and beyond. The extra anxiety and stress that the virus brings currently is and will be appeased with the knowledge of a well-informed, worldly travelled expert behind to help guide with Covid entry protocols, choosing the right hotel or accommodation to suit the luxury travellers needs and personal wants with their trip and being there throughout to guide them on what experiences, places to visit and bookings whilst on that journey, amounting to the continued importance of personalisation for all luxury travel whether domestic, short break, long break or special celebration in 2021.
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