According to world tourism consultancy IPK International, trips to urban destinations were the fastest growing segment of luxury travel in 2017—even over beach vacations and tour-driven holidays. The company’s latest study revealed that 29 percent of luxury travelers prefer metropolitan getaways. They conclude, “while beach destinations will forever be a staple in honeymoon and couples travel, luxury travelers are showing preference toward creating unforgettable and personalized memories over just pure luxurious indulgence.” This suggests a tendency towards a more fast-paced style of travel, easily satisfied in a city.
Affluent travelers have long favored off-the-grid destinations—away from a major city’s hustle and bustle—such as a private beachfront home in Jamaica, a historic villa on a vineyard in rural Tuscany, or a posh ski chalet in Aspen. Luxury Retreats’ most popular high-end rentals are reflective of this: Over 700 properties are at various beachfront locales, and more than 800 are classified as ski chalets. But the shifting desires and destinations of the newest luxury travelers haven’t been ignored. Instead, Luxury Retreats built a team to focus on urban markets around the globe, beginning with some of the world’s biggest cities: London, Sydney, and Rome. Above all, we determined that our guests want access, personalization, and authentic experiences. If all those things can be offered in the heart of Belgravia or just beside the Trevi Fountain, guests will go there.
According to Diana Soler, a Market Manager on Luxury Retreats’ urban team, the luxury vacation rental market is as equipped to provide a magical experiences in cities as it is in more remote areas, and can do it better than most hotels. “The vacation rental experience is personal; it’s a curated experience rather than just a curated property. Guests have a lot more flexibility with their time and activities, and they get access to different parts of the city where luxury hotels might not exist.”
Location is the biggest advantage vacation rentals have over most hotels, which are often built in the most touristy areas. “A lot of times our urban properties are in very local neighborhoods that travelers don’t typically get to access,” Soler says. “In a hotel, the environment is very controlled; you might be situated next to high-end shopping and restaurants, but it’s all very manicured for a tourist experience.” For the modern luxury traveler, distinct and more rare experiences are more important than the convenience of having luxury shops right next door.
“These rental properties are very genuine,” says Soler. “They’re in the neighborhood where you have Mom-and-Pop shops and that hidden gem of a restaurant. You’ll find unique and authentic experiences. That’s what sets urban vacation rentals apart.”
USA Today’s Jill Schensul concurs, writing: “Today’s luxury travelers don’t want to be told what to do—they want choice.” And having access to a particular part of town normally only visited by locals preserves that choice. With an end-to-end travel company like Luxury Retreats offering 24/7 concierge service and private chefs, the amount of control guests’ have over their itinerary is a more valuable replacement than having a chain restaurant in close proximity.
Then there’s the diverse culture, fashion, and entertainment only a metropolitan city can provide. These, according to Soler, are big draws for the influx of millennials entering the luxury demographic. Soler also notes that more accessible direct flights are also a factor in bringing a younger audience to major cities.
But overall, local expertise that a travel company can provide its guests is still crucial in delivering a luxury experience. A recent Skift article details a new trend called “silo travel,” where luxury travelers visit a place for a highly specific reason like the opening of a new restaurant or art gallery. If the professionals high-end travelers rely on to recommend new destinations have the inside scoop on these “silo” experiences typically found in larger cities, there’s a greater chance their luxury clients will go.
And with more and more unique and opulent accommodation options becoming available in key urban markets, we believe that cities are where the future of luxury travel lies.