Editors' pick: Originally published July 8.
There are many colorful predictions when it comes to the future of luxury travel.
'Clanning' experiences, immersive spaces and fantasy escapes in game-like environments are just some of the ideas being thrown around.
No idea what any of those things are? Not to worry, you've got about 70 years to catch up. (At least by some accounts).
Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts recently released a set of predictions about future travel trends, which included a heavy emphasis on immersive, virtual reality technology that will allow travelers to engage in a fascinating array of mind-bending experiences.
Clanning for instance, involves using virtual reality technology to create real-time sharing of adventure and luxury travel among friends or family members scattered around the globe. Such simulated, joint adventures could be anything from a walk through the Serengeti to an ocean swim with extinct marine life.
Didn't pack the appropriate clothing for your luxury vacation of the future? Not to worry. Yet another intriguing prediction involves customized wardrobes. As this vision goes, hotels would partner with fashion brands to sponsor guests' in-room wardrobes created via 3D printer. Such clothing would be customized to suit the local weather and the traveler's personal taste and size (as determined by online shopping habits).
Fantasy escapes meanwhile would be game-like environments created to allow travelers to engage in extreme or normally unattainable experiences.
Virtual reality may also be used to shape a hotel's interior design in the future, allowing a room's appearance to be tailored by guests, adjusting décor to their personal aesthetics and needs.
None of the predictions are on the immediate horizon. The ideas, floated by Faith Popcorn, a renowned futurist hired by the hotel group, are envisioned to unfold over the next 70 years.
Still the takeaway is hard to miss - technology, technology and more technology.
Some experts however, disagree slightly with such predictions, noting that the travel industry is awash in technology and that, more often, what luxury clients are seeking is high-touch, not necessarily high-tech.
"They want high-touch in the form of intimate, private, trusting and one-of-a-kind luxury travel experiences," explains James Berkeley, managing director of the London-based Ellice Consulting. "If technology can enhance those attributes -- simplified booking and logistics, superb service, trusted advice and ease of transportation -- then that's fabulous. If it cannot, it needs to be pushed aside, which is heresy to the technologists."
Berkeley, who works with 11 of the leading global hospitality businesses, is publishing a paper of his own focused on the future of travel. Titled "The Five Myths of the Luxury Traveler," the report discusses some of the overgeneralizations about this demographic.
Many travel professionals are running around trying to stay ahead of technology, notes Berkeley. But in doing so, they may sometimes be missing the boat.
"High-touch trumps technology," he explains. "There are times when technology gets in the way of the customer experience, like when you've checked into a really great hotel room but you can't turn on the television or the lights. Technology is an enabler, but is shouldn't replace high-touch."
Yet another myth identified in Berkeley's report is the notion that luxury travelers are always on the hunt for something new or different. This idea can also slightly miss the mark, says the luxury travel expert.
"Actually what people want is many of the same types of experiences," Berkeley continues. "The difference is how they want it delivered to them. In today's world, they want privacy, versus a mass exposure to an experience. They want something delivered to them in a highly personalized experience. That's what's being sought."
The report, Shaping the Future of Luxury Travel, boldly declares that we've entered a new era of luxury travel, one in which affluent travelers are popping up all over the world.
While travel overall is growing about 4.5% globally, luxury travel is growing even more sharply - between 6.2% to 12.8% around the world, according to the Amadeus report.
Emerging middle classes are increasingly seeking the material trappings of luxury travel and more mature markets are after new, evolved luxury offerings.
In such a climate, it becomes more critical than ever to provide relevant, personal and exclusive experiences in order to differentiate between old and new luxury.
"Luxury travel is subjective," states the Amadeus report, echoing Berkeley's sentiments. "For one traveler, it could be a private multimillion-dollar cruise around the Arctic on a famous yacht. For another, it could be the reassurance of having their dietary requirements automatically catered for throughout their entire holiday and a bespoke designer wardrobe waiting for them in their hotel room - without them having to ask...Curating something that appeals to them on a specific, personal level that goes above a traveler's norms is key to the next chapter of luxury travel."
The Amadeus report identifies six tribes of luxury travelers all of which have different needs and expectations that will define the future. There are luxury travelers focused on privacy and security, others seeking exclusive, unique or niche experiences and still others driven by authentic cultural experiences, to name a few.
The bottom line for the rest of us is that the trends driving luxury travel will eventually trickle down to the masses. Or as the report states, what's considered luxury today will continually shift to become mainstream tomorrow.
Take spas and spa visits for example.
Viewing a spa visit as a luxury is so outdated (in case you weren't aware). Spas were a luxury about a decade ago. Now they're everywhere, including airports. They've become mainstream.
The luxury traveler, however -- continually pushing the envelope -- is now seeking heightened spa experiences.
"You don't just get a simple spa treatment anymore," explains Rob Sinclair Barnes, strategic marketing director at Amadeus Airline IT. "You get a complete rejuvenation. There is a massive increase in seeking self rejuvenation or improvement - it's not just about your body, but also mental."
And despite all the distracting trappings of technology identified by Berkeley, there are some high-tech innovations included in the Amadeus report's view of the future.
Some of the most noteworthy include hotel linens made with Radio Frequency ID (RFID) technology and media content with travel inspiration technology.
The linen technology is used track the whereabouts of hotel room towels. Those yawning right about now, keep reading. The RFID chip in the towels can be read by sensors in the hotel room. All of which may seem meaningless. But the value here is that as housekeeping staff passes by a room, they can tell without knocking on the door and asking, whether your towels are lying on the floor and thus need to be replenished or are being hung to dry. In other words, far fewer unnecessary disturbances.
Now for the travel inspiration technology.
Have you ever watched a movie scene and wanted to find out more about the location in which it was filmed? Or perhaps a music video? At the recent South by Southwest Interactive conference United Airlines unveiled a prototype that helps travelers resolve such questions.
The technology, powered by Amadeus and launched by United Airlines, allows consumers to engage with movies, music, videos or any media content in order to access information about real life travel experiences.
"What we looked at is how do we inspire travelers?" explains Sinclair Barnes. "When you're watching television and suddenly think 'Where is that?' Now, you can pause the movie and bring up details that tell you exactly where the location is and how much it would cost to go there, and book it then and there."
The interactive media technology answers questions such as how to get to the location in question, where to stay once there and what to do while there.
The technology has already been proven in a prototype environment, says Sinclair Barnes. The next step is to cascade it out to the market. "We're seeing technology at every stage of the game in the travel industry," concludes Sinclair Barnes. "But luxury is the one pushing the boundaries in terms of how technology is being used."
Or as the Amadeus report also notes - we're living at a time when people can travel to outer space on Virgin Galactic or if the mood strikes, rent a private island on Airbnb for $500 a night.
In such a world, the possibilities seem endless.
And with technology, the possibilities are becoming even more dizzying. The question is whether such technology will be useful or distracting.