Luxury Asian traveller now more discerning

An American road trip with luxurious campsite stays is a new itinerary offered by Scott Dunn.
An American road trip with luxurious campsite stays is a new itinerary offered by Scott Dunn.PHOTO: SCOTT DUNN

The new luxury Asian traveller loves to express individuality through travel and favours exotic holidays. Their collective wanderlust is a money-spinner for global travel brands.

Mr Simon Russell, group chief executive officer of Scott Dunn, which has recently acquired Country Holidays for its expertise in Asia, describes the preferences of the new generation of high-end Asian travellers, saying: "There is a clear movement from group to private travel, particularly to more exotic destinations outside Asia, such as Latin America and Africa, driven not only by an increased confidence and affluence, but also the desire to express individuality through travel."

Social media, notably Instagram, plays a huge role in this trend.

"People's personal 'brands' are being defined by where they've been and where they're seen," he says. "They favour spending on travel experiences over other assets and this is fuelling the travel market with a new generation of luxury travellers."

Mr Chang Theng Hwee, founder of Country Holidays, says Asian luxury travellers have now looked far beyond branded five-star hotels, premium air travel and great food.

"They are becoming very in-depth and discerning. The appetite for new destinations and new ways of experiencing a destination is ever growing,'' he says.

He also notices that these travellers, like his own family, like to indulge - and also rough it out. In 2015, he and his son trekked to Everest Base Camp, took a helicopter over mountains and ravines, and stayed in a heritage five-star hotel.

In South-east Asia alone, the share of global luxury travel sales is growing at a rate of 8 per cent to 9 per cent each year in terms of revenue, according to a report on the international luxury travel market by QYResearch published in November last year.

Meanwhile, Europe's share is decreasing, while the United States is flat, the report noted.

Put in perspective, Mr Russell says the European and North American luxury markets are still growing, but just not as fast as Asia - even if China is taken out of the picture.

The reasons are clear. "This is partly demographic - the population in Asia is more youthful."

Its young working professionals are key audiences for Scott Dunn and Country Holidays.

It is also because the market for bespoke travel is less developed, he says, so the room for growth is tremendous.

As a combined business, Scott Dunn and Country Holidays are now Asia's biggest bespoke luxury travel operator. This year, their clients, in Asia and beyond, can sample new itineraries such as an American road trip that mixes luxurious campsite stays with king-sized beds in national parks with rock climbing and white-water rafting.

Cold destinations are also a hot spot, says Mr Russell. Iceland's most famous volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, is a thrilling locale for snowmobile rides. Private guided walks across a glacier can be arranged.

Mr Chang, meanwhile, is rolling out jeep safaris in Central Asia. He is planning more "pampered adventures", for instance, in Italy's Dolomites, known for the cuisine and mountainous beauty.

His portfolio of wow experiences includes watching a rocket launch at an old Soviet cosmodrome and "diving" in a submersible to the sunken Titanic on the Atlantic floor.

And so the new Scott Dunn plans to whet the Asian appetite with remote and novel experiences.

Lee Siew Hua

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 14, 2018, with the headline 'Luxury Asian traveller now more discerning'. Print Edition | Subscribe