Luxury travel weathers the storm, says ILTM chief

Luxury travel weathers the storm, says ILTM chiefAs the luxury world gathers in Cannes for the International Luxury Travel Market, TTN quizzed exhibition director Debbie Joslin on what’s new at the show this year, as well as on emerging luxury travel trends
ILTM is the big luxury draw; below Joslin

Luxury travel weathers the storm, says ILTM chiefAs the luxury world gathers in Cannes for the International Luxury Travel Market, TTN quizzed exhibition director Debbie Joslin on what’s new at the show this year, as well as on emerging luxury travel trends

How big was ILTM 2005? How does 2006 compare?
In 2005 ILTM brought over 1000 VIP buyers from 60 countries on scheduled appointments together with over 1180 exhibiting companies. ILTM 2006 has seen buyer numbers increase by 10 per cent to over 1100, and exhibitor companies increase by five per cent to 1240 in attendance. Growth of ILTM is strictly controlled, to maintain the high quality standards of the event, with exhibitor space for the event being 98 per cent sold by July! The emphasis of ILTM will continue to remain on quality not quantity.

What makes ILTM stand out from the numerous travel trade exhibitions that are conducted all year round?
As ILTM is the only truly global business-to-business luxury travel show, we are in a unique position to provide insights into how the industry is evolving. We keep our eyes on the future; liaise regularly with our global partners, and endeavour to share research and findings with the wider luxury travel sector.
Only the most senior decision makers from the industry are permitted to attend, with post-show research from 2005 indicated that 89 per cent of all buyers were the final decision maker within their company. 
ILTM is also the only show of its type to have such a strict admission policy for both VIP buyers and exhibitors alike. All attendees of the show must be pre-qualified, and pre-registered to attend; this qualification process helps to set ILTM apart from its competition.
Strategic partnerships have also been forged since the event’s inception. These relationships include partnerships with retail travel agent networks, global media partners, and the host city of Cannes; these integral partnerships have helped to reinforce ILTM as the world’s premier business-to-business event for the luxury travel sector.

Who are this year’s new exhibitors?
Over 50 exhibitors make their debut at ILTM 2006, including the Turks and Caicos Island Tourist Board, as part of a new proactive marketing effort into Europe. Nomads of The Seas, a new luxury cruise company in Patagonia will be promoting their week-long voyages, Best of Patagonia will also be exhibiting for the first time, enhancing the South American contingent in Cannes. Vail Resorts are in attendance at ILTM for the first time, covering five mountain resorts of North America. Other first-timers are South Africa’s Saxon Hotel and Spa and the Arabella Sheraton Grand Hotel Cape Town and Virgin Limited Edition with its portfolio of global retreats. Oman’s Ministry of Tourism are back at ILTM, with a contingent of six companies sharing their stand including inbound operators, DMCs, airlines, resorts and spas, and Al Hamra Hotels will represent the emirate of Ras al Khaimah. Havana Connaisseur are the first Cuban company to attend ILTM, designing customised programmes for those wishing to relive Havana in the 1950’s.

What can we expect from the conference?
This year’s ILTM and Departures magazine conference theme is ‘Broadening Horizons’, and will look at the issues of private ownership, destination marketing, how luxury continues to redefine itself and the new emerging markets for luxury travel. Journalists like Peter Greenberg, travel editor of the Today Show on NBC Television, and accomplished hoteliers Raymond Bickson of Taj Hotels and Michael Hobson of the Mandarin Oriental Group, who are setting the pace of change, are scheduled to take part in the conference.
The conference is an integral part of the show, as it provides a platform for key figures in the luxury industry to put forward personal viewpoints about industry developments, offering insightful topics for debate and discussion.

What are the new trends and spends in the luxury travel market?
In a survey of 400 travel suppliers conducted by ILTM in July 2006, 70 per cent agreed that their clients are looking for a more authenticity from their travel experiences, and a further 59 per cent stated holidays need to be more experience led and enriching than ever before. The same survey indicated that the presence of the latest technology was not as vital as initially expected, as 74 per cent of those questioned felt that high tech facilities weren’t high up on their clientele’s list of priorities for a luxury holiday.
Is luxury, for instance, getting more diverse and more segmented as the market grows and matures?
Luxury travel is certainly becoming more of a global phenomenon than ever before, over 80 countries exhibiting at ILTM this year certainly reflects this diversity! Increasingly the industry sees greater potential within the emerging powerhouses of Russia, China, India and Brazil. Both in inbound and outbound luxury travel patterns. These markets open great opportunities, but also challenges in managing expectations and understanding cultural differences.

What particular Middle Eastern trends do you see?
Mid-year research from ILTM showed that Dubai was the world’s most talked about destination during 2005 by the luxury travel industry. Luxury brands are rapidly developing portfolios in the Middle East much faster than the norm. The growth in tourism infrastructure within the Middle East is unprecedented on a global scale, The UAE are leading the way, with the neighbouring nations of Oman, Bahrain quickly following Dubai’s initiatives.

How much is luxury going to lose market share to budget and mid-market travel? Or is the mass consumer buying a luxury product more often now, instead of only on a special occasion?
The luxury travel market seems to be glowing with health; ILTM’s mid year research stated both numbers of clients and their spending on the increase. Almost three quarters of respondents experienced double-digit growth in client numbers over the last 12 months, with 67 per cent having similar levels of growth in client expenditure over the same period. These figures are well above the growth in global travel across all sectors, currently standing at around 4.5 per cent for the first four months of 2006 as reported by World Tourism Organisation figures issued in June 2006. Luxury travel has proven to be less impacted by external market forces such as recession then general travel has.

(The International Luxury Travel Market 2006 runs at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France, from December 4 to 7.)