Skiing in Asia
While Aspen or the Swiss Alps may come to mind when you think of the world’s most luxurious ski resorts, more and more discerning skiers are starting to take note of a premier ski destination in Japan: Niseko. Located on the northern island of Hokkaido, Niseko has long been known among pro-skiers for its unparalleled powder snow and terrain, but the area has seen a huge spike in tourism in recent years, attracting luxury travelers who may not even be the most seasoned skiers. The increase in demand for luxury accommodation in the region has fueled a rush of growth from foreign investors, with several new luxury hotels popping up every year.
This season’s most highly-anticipated new luxury hotels included AYA Niseko as well as AYA Villas (Niseko’s only ski-in-ski-out 4-bedroom villas), Aspect, Kamui, Haven, and Snow Dog. Big luxury hotel chains are also moving in- Hilton has a few Niseko properties, and both Park Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton have announced plans to launch luxury properties in the area in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Apart from a lively town, amazing restaurants, and an aprés-ski lifestyle that rivals that of Vail or Zermatt, Niseko draws luxury travellers with its onsens, or natural hot springs perfect for soothing your muscles after a day on the slopes. Tourists have many public onsens to choose from, but the most luxurious hotels even offer private onsens in your own suite, such as The Vale’s super luxe penthouses.
With the next two Winter Olympics being hosted in South Korea and Beijing, the spotlight will soon be on Asia when it comes to winter sports, and we can expect more skiers traveling from abroad to experience Niseko’s “magical” powder snow.
We have also seen luxury travellers be more open to staying in a private property such as a villa or apartment instead of a hotel. This is especially prominent for families and groups as it’s more affordable than staying in a luxury hotel; instead of booking 2-3 rooms at a pricey hotel, larger groups can stay in a 3-bedroom apartment or villa for a fraction of the cost.
Apart from price, private residences offer more in terms of amenities, from a fully-equipped kitchen and chef to private gyms and spa pavilions, from multiple dining areas to a full staff and butler service. Some of the most over-the-top villas will even feature amenities such as a Muay Thai boxing ring, tennis court, koi ponds, a private nightclub, and even a par 3 golf practice green. We like to think that the new notion of luxury in 2017 is going to be about privacy. And there’s nothing more private than having your own villa where you don’t have to share the pool!
While Airbnb has made private residences popular and available for the mass market and budget travelers, we solve the issues of “time and trust” for luxury travelers by curating only high-end residences that aim to impress. Our sales increased 2x when we pivoted to focus on villa bookings, proving that the luxury travel market is growing in the direction of private residences.
Experiences Worth Sharing
Social media has had a profound impact on the travel industry, with 76% of travelers posting vacation photos on social media (97% of millennials!). As a result, we’ve seen a rise in luxury travelers seeking unique experiences they can show off on social media. Today, accommodation is just a part of it; “luxury” is the entire package including bespoke, exclusive experiences worth posting about, often tied to the local culture. A shining example of an experience that redefines luxury is Saffire Freycinet in Tasmania, Australia, which offers a oyster farm experience where guests don waders and dine among a working oyster farm – white table cloth, champagne, and all.
For private villas and apartments, design is more important than ever. Luxury travelers do not want cookie-cutter accommodation; they pay close attention to architecture, décor, and finishings, which is why many developers work with renowned architects to design a private villa or luxury resort.
As far as destinations, luxury travelers often choose the most picturesque (read: Instagrammable) destinations, which is one of the reasons why we have seen an increase in requests for Santorini and the Maldives.
This trend is likely to continue as millennials grow older and have more disposable income for travel.
While eco travel has been on the up and up for several years, we have also seen a recent rise in wellness travel as health and fitness continues to be in vogue. While many luxury resorts now offer guests healthy meals, personal trainers, and complimentary yoga, some take it one step further by offering intense, bootcamp-like wellness programs tailored to the individual.
For example, ChivaSom International Health Resort in Hua Hin, Thailand is a favorite of Victoria & David Beckham, Elizabeth Hurley & more. The retreat offers tailor-made wellness programs with a team of consulting doctors, fitness instructors, spa therapists, nutritionists and health practitioners. In Queenstown, New Zealand, Aro-Ha is an all-inclusive, eco-friendly wellness resort where guests sign up for 5 or 7-day retreat that includes daily sunrise sessions of Vinyasa Yoga, kayaking, sub-alpine hikes, massages, and even horticulture lessons.
What we’re seeing more of is a fusion between holistic wellness, personalized experiences, and local rituals, not to mention luxury accommodation.