February 2

Horizon Scanning: Emerging Luxury Travel Trends

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February 2, 2024

The world has changed, and so have travellers – emerging luxury travel trends imbued with more than a hint of nostalgia. Do you find inspiration in travel memories belonging to another time?

Travel to Africa

Luxury travel trends in Africa point to authentic experiences, Image Credit: Shamwari Private Game Reserve

When Wanderlust Calls

Living in the age of information, when it comes to considering the year ahead and the promise it holds, it can all be slightly overwhelming. Even if your inbox has been sorted and filtered to achieve mailbox minimalism zen, there's the small matter of sifting through the myriad of inspirations you've collected.

Provocative headlines vie for your affection, tugging at your heartstrings. Wanderlust is a heady mix of the unscripted and best-laid plans. Where to start?

Yoga at sunrise

Find deeper connection to ancient lands during a Vinyasa and Yin yoga session, Image Credit: Singita

Nurtured by Nature

Why, at the very beginning, of course. As the demand for sustainable luxury travel experiences grows, travellers are yearning for a deeper connection with the natural realm than ever before. Science-led research shows that humans are hardwired to find restoration in nature. 

A study by Gregory Bratman at the University of Michigan in 2015 unpacked the calming effects of nature on the human psyche. Could your body prove the study's theory after 90 minutes outdoors? Remember that scenes awash with plentiful hues of green and brown are the most restful.

A rising tide of support for the blue tourism phenomenon speaks to the pacifying power of water. In the book Blue Mind, Walter J. Nichols ponders the ripple effect of this extraordinary element. The uncanny coincidence that our bodies and the earth's makeup are up to 70% water gives pause for thought.

Woman sitting and looking out at Okavango Delta view in Botswana

Botswana is the epitome of meaning luxury travel in Africa

Back to Life

The luxury travel trend towards nature-based tourism peels back the layer of luxury in favour of a pared-down experience, the norm in days of yore when budgets and expectations were modest for most. 

Eco-friendly holidays featuring biking and walking complement leisure pursuits such as hiking, paddleboarding, and surfing, celebrating Mother Nature's wonders and speaking for itself. Artful living with a lighter footprint is à la mode

Consumers now think twice before hopping on a plane, pausing to ask themselves if there's anywhere closer to home they could unearth similar experiences. There are, however, certain instances where the answer is a resounding "no", like Africa, a popular long-haul destination for the global north. 

A rustic experience which is exceptionally authentic

Secluded position on Chief's Island only reachable by light aircraft

Meeting Mama Africa 

Africa is widely accepted as the birthplace of humankind. "Mama Africa" is admired for her uncontested wild beauty and diversity. She's mysterious, sometimes dangerous, yet for those brave travellers who dare to try to know her, she's utterly unforgettable.

She's a quixotic collection of culture and communities – multi-faceted and inter-connected, like the maze of channels in Botswana's sparkling UNESCO-accredited Okavango Delta swamp or the game tracks that crisscross the spartan, whitewashed Etosha Pans in Namibia. Anyone who's ever summited Table Mountain, Cape Town's flat-topped granite landmark, will testify to the ethereal quality of the experience. 

Delving into the history and culture of South Africa's neighbouring sub-equatorial countries requires no small measure of bravery. While it's true that some of the stories in these parts reveal humanity's darker side, the indomitable tales of resilience will reward those drawn to the unique light of Southern Africa's people and places with many life-changing experiences.

Lodges in Moremi Game Reserve

Lodges in Moremi Game Reserve, Image Credit: Wilderness Mombo

So Over Overtourism

The modern-day traveller is less likely to buy into the fly-and-flop farce of palm-fringed megaresorts or cruises that thoughtlessly foist their passenger loads on fragile, disapproving port villages. 

Instead, their thoughts dwell on how a destination is managed rather than marketed, which fuels their search for well-balanced, responsibly run places and products.

It takes more than a bucket-shop sale to lure a savvy traveller from their comfort zone. Home is where the heart is, and the last few years have seen would-be travellers getting pretty cosy on their home turf. The prospective value proposition needs to be up to par – the travellers are calling on the tourism industry to up the ante and "walk the talk". 

Woman meditating on wooden deck surrounded by nature

Find ultimate serenity in the wild, Image Credit: Londolozi

Sustainable Segway

In Southern Africa, you'll find some of the world's ecotourism pioneers leading thriving conservation-led initiatives at the intersection of tourism products and consumer demand. 

For example, Weeva helps tourism businesses roadmap their sustainability journey through data-led insights. Whether you're a travel consumer or a stakeholder, we all share a collective responsibility to build a better tourism industry. Removing roadblocks and building bridges between global goals and destinations are urgent calls to action. 

In the decade of change that culminates in 2030, and with awareness of the net zero challenge, hospitality has seen some inspiring early adopters harnessing the Weeva 360° Framework, telling their sustainability story through data-led reporting. By doing so, they're actively contributing to the conscious traveller community and helping mainstream the idea of sustainable tourism. 

Take it easy at S

Leaders in transformative luxury travel, Image Credit: Singita

Making Waves 

A fundamental action point of the 28th annual UN meeting on climate change (COP28) held in Dubai last year is to make space for solutions-led storytelling. The pot of gold at the end of the sustainability rainbow has to be regenerative travel, defined as leaving a place in better condition than before; there are a few trailblazers in Southern Africa.

View from Bumi Hills Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe

We believe everything should be just the way you want it but better, Image Credit: WETU

African Bush Camps recognise their commitment to net-positive travel and build camps and lodges that blend into the natural environment, operating with as light an ecological footprint as possible. Their commercial practices embrace the local communities. With the help of their non-profit, African Bush Camps Foundation, they strive to empower and uplift the people within the countries in which they operate, namely Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia

Travel infused with meaningful encounters has stirred policymakers and private-sector business owners into action. They'll likely synergise and forge a new direction together. 

Forward-thinking destinations are experiencing a seismic shift in operations involving all stakeholders, considering the entire supply chain rather than measuring success by arrival statistics alone.  

Game drive sunset drinks stop

Game drive sunset drinks stop, Image Credit: African Bush Camps, Khwai Leadwood

Experience the Future of Travel 

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About the author 

Amy Knight-Dawson

Amy is a highly experienced figure in the tourism industry with a career spanning 25 years. She is a well-known and respected voice in the field and has authored several travel articles. Amy is passionate about sustainability and prefers to explore the less-travelled paths to seek out unique and unscripted experiences. Her love for nature draws her to coastal destinations, where she finds the raw power of the ocean most invigorating. She was born and raised in South Africa and now lives in the cosmopolitan city of Edinburgh, Scotland. As a member of the African diaspora and guest blogger for Rhino Africa, Amy shares her international insights and travel experiences, showcasing the beauty of the world and inspiring others to explore it.

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