There are few people on the planet with a better overview of the global luxury travel market than Lindy Andrews, CEO of Luxperience, the only global business exchange located in the Southern hemisphere. Held each year in Sydney, Australia, Luxperience explores the connection between bespoke luxury and high-end experiential travel during a four-day program that attracts hundreds of luxury hoteliers, cruise lines, airlines (including Virgin Australia, in a convincing bid to steal Qantas’ crown as the country’s favorite airline), bespoke tour operators, travel consultants, and tourist bureaus.
Designed as an insider’s exhibition, meeting place and think tank, Luxperience is now setting records for the number of and quality of international participants, including tourism representatives for Dubai, Philippines, China, Macau, Thailand, Fiji, India, UK and USA. Most surprising this year was Bhutan’s persuasive pitch as the “new” Nepal – i.e. the world’s newest priority destination to visit while it’s still unspoiled. But it was New Zealand that made the biggest impression due to the sheer number of its luxury operators in attendance; Kiwis accounted for 26% of the registered Luxperience exhibitors.
Growing more than 50% in just the past year, Luxperience’s expansion parallels the growth of luxury buyers and sellers, and appears to reflect a marked improvement in services and amenities available in Down Under; noteworthy hospitality leaders now include the new InterContinental Sydney Double Bay, the remodeled boutique gem Pier One, stunning One & Only Hayman Island on the Great Barrier Reef, and Luxury Lodges of Australia, an unparalleled collection of extraordinary luxury lodges and camps. Because Luxperience has made such a significant impact on the profile of the luxury and experiential category in this region, and is recognized as a must-attend event, Pursuitist asked CEO Andrews, for her insider POV and expert analysis.
What is Luxperience?
Lindy Andrews: Luxperience was borne out of a perceived opportunity to raise this region’s global profile in the luxury and experiential category. Growth in high-end and experiential product in the Australasia Pacific region, as well as the high yielding and long staying outbound travel market from the region identified an opportunity for us. This year’s main objectives that we feel we have accomplished, were to maximize networking opportunities for our delegates and diversify our offering to exhibitors, enabling them to engage with a variety of travel buyers from various markets.
What important news and trends were revealed at the conference this year?
Our customers are continually evolving and we as an industry need to stay ahead of the game. Customization, design and culinary perfection are now a given, one of the reasons that we are seeing growth in lifestyle agents and concierge services.
What were some of the most notable highlights of Luxperience 2014?
Definite highlights were the event’s new location at the historic Pier 2/3 near the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge, the pre- and post-tour options for global buyers, and the stylish design of the exhibition space. We’re also very happy with the huge increase in both buyers and exhibitors attending the event this year.
Which countries has your research shown to top the bucket lists?
Internationally, the five most popular international destinations this year are Italy, South Africa, France, Australia and, new to the top five this year, New Zealand. New Zealand has been a leader in adventure travel for years so it’s not surprising to see it enter the Top 5.
In the past decade, how has the luxury market evolved in Australasia?
The luxury category is niche in terms of priority segments in Australia, however New Zealand has recognized the premium travel sector as a key growth segment. The region however, is recognized globally as a location for luxury and experiential travel. As far as products are concerned, the global buyers who attend Luxperience are consistently surprised by the standard and quality of product on offer, which rivals some of the best in the world. In fact, many of the luxury lodges in Australia and New Zealand top the global “best of” lists year on year.
Which luxury travel categories would you say are evolving the most?
There has been a shift in demand in high-end tourism. It now encompasses a wide range of immersive travel experiences including adventure and expedition travel, small ship cruising, wellness travel, cultural experiences as well as altruistic concepts.
What are your predictions for the luxury market and goals for Luxperience 2015?
This year we had 470 buyers — an increase of 56% from 2013 — and 228 exhibitors — an increase of 53%. For 2015 we are targeting 550 buyers and 300 exhibitors, including more exhibitors from Europe and Asia. Strong buyer numbers from the Americas reflect the change in economic status in this market so we will be targeting buyers from this region and we will also be targeting specialist buyers and private travel managers from Australia.
Your personal passion is exploring the world. What have been some of your most memorable “luxperiences”?
I’m inspired to “get mobile” at least twice a year for my fix of fine food and wine, festivals and art. An especially memorable business trip I hosted 150 corporate clients to dine at the foot of the Pyramids of Giza, be mesmerized by the Valley of the Kings, be transported on camels to their dinner destination in the desert to a felucca regatta in Aswan, and finally retreating to the luxury of a six-star resort nestled on the banks of the Red Sea.