What Does Soaring Innovation in Modes of Transport Mean for Luxury Travel?
To explore is a distinctly human urge. Driven by perhaps the less favoured forces; greed, competition, etc. But ultimately, what links all three of these things is a natural curiosity — which many scientists have argued is essential for collective progress and prosperity.
All we need is a handful of pioneers to blaze the trails for the rest of us.
Throughout history the way has been lit by the likes of Marco Polo, Magellan, Drake, Shackleton, Amundsen, Scott. With every corner of the known world now found, exploration has become much more about the individual than the collective. And has woven itself into the fabric of travel — luxury’s tapestry in particular.
By our definition, the luxury of travel has always been grounded in experience, but carpe diem culture catapulted to the forefront of consumerism following the pandemic and recessionary pressures with no indication of its waning.
Whether it’s remote Arctic retreats or a four-day trek across Botswana’s enigmatic salt pans, these kinds of rare experiences in untouched or little-traversed places become great stories. And stories are the world’s new social capital.
Despite a significant consensus to the contrary, indulgence isn’t a dirty word. Overindulgence is.
Just as a brand is the sum of their every interaction, an individual is the sum of theirs. And with (mostly) everyone — the U/HNW included — more enlightened and open to progress than ever, how you travel is just as reflective of your identity as where you travel.
An insight the luxury industry acts on with a stylish kind of zeal — in the air, on the water and out in space.
2023: A Space Odyssey
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on. The commercial cosmos is here. Hopefully sans any homicidal AIs.
A decade ago, a small organisation in the Netherlands known as Mars One unveiled plans to build a colony on the red planet by April 2023. More than 200,000 registered interest to become a part of this interstellar society. And yet, Mars One will probably never be, thanks to a total depletion of funds in 2016.
But what Arthur C. Clarke wrote in his 1968 novel still rings true today:
“A hundred failures would not matter, when one single success could change the destiny of the world.”
And plenty are going after the win.
On a mission to ‘make life multiplanetory’, SpaceX launched the first fully commercial spaceflight in April 2021. The company’s Falcon 9 model and Dragon capsule rocketed into orbit with a former NASA astronaut and three UHNW civilian crewmen.
Also a frontrunner in the ongoing commercial space race, Space Perspectives have designed a spacecraft capsule — a carbon-neutral vessel propelled by a SpaceBalloon™, the key contributor to its footprint-free status. A set of credentials which certainly haven’t hindered the capsule’s aesthetics.
Inside ‘Neptune’ — the chosen name for the capsule itself — passengers are invited to chat over cocktails, set the mood with adjustable lighting, select the perfect playlist for the climb and marvel at the 360° panoramic views (the largest ever flown to space) as the craft makes its way 100,000 feet above the earth’s atmosphere.
Guests can lift off from land on the Florida coast or from Perspective’s MS Voyager — a floating spaceport set to be the first of many.
Going a few atmospheric layers further, Virgin Galactic are the world’s first commercial spaceline: connecting people the world over to the wonder and awe created by space travel.
Galactic believes space belongs to everyone, and following the genius of the late Professor Stephen Hawking, the idea that the more passengers they can take to space, the greater human perspective will be.
As much as luxury travel can be intensely intimate and individual, the collective purpose for exploration can still linger.
Mile High Club
Private aviation just got sexier.
Although, it’s always been a highly seductive way to travel, hasn’t it? A designation of luxury for decades.
Now though, current codes and innovative brands are giving the concept a modern twist.
The main aversion to private aviation for new luxurians is a neat combination of its environmentally harmful nature and the inevitable flight shaming that follows. To remedy this grounding obstacle, the production of sustainable aviation fuel is well underway led by UK-based private charter service Victor.
At the same time, Switzerland-based broker Climate Jet Club developed and launched an ‘empty-leg’ app in January to counteract passenger-lacking flights. Using map-based and real-time technology, users can easily locate or share flights and reserve what would be otherwise empty seats.
Avoiding the carbon conundrum altogether, OceanSky Cruises are spearheading the luxury airship industry. In partnership with experiential travel company Pelorus, the “lighter than air” airships will be cruising through the clouds come 2024, offering ultra-sustainable luxury expeditions to far corners of the world, including the very top.
Passengers will soar from Svalgard (known as ground zero for the climate response) to the North Pole, slowing to float at low altitude for some wildlife spotting before a six-hour sojourn to hike, ski, swim in Arctic waters and enjoy a snowy lunch setting.
It’s a carbon-free cloud nine.
Boats That Rock
Five-star hoteliers and hospitality groups are flooding the market with yachts, ships and cruises, bringing each name’s iconic brand spirit to a new channel.
Last winter, The Ritz-Carlton launched the first of what will be a fleet for the brand, welcoming guests onto Evrima in Barcelona. The 190m yacht held its naming ceremony in November amid growing hype surrounding the second and third additions to the Ritz-Carlton Yacht collection — Ilma and Luminara.
Both are set to launch in 2024 and 2025 respectively.
Four Seasons are also bridging the gap between their world-renowned laps of luxury and the laidback lifestyle of yachting with a fleet of their own and a dedicated campaign titled ‘Love Makes Waves’.
Coming in 2025, passengers will be invited to “revel in the splendour of modern sea voyaging – marked by bespoke craftsmanship, personalized service and a dedication to excellence – offering an unmatched luxury lifestyle experience at sea.”
A standout among the rest, thanks to a Condé Nast Traveller headline hailing it as “the future of luxury cruises”, the first Orient Express ship will set sail in 2026 — a maritime reinvention of the legendary brand.
Known as the Orient Express Silenseas, its unveiling comes 140 years after the brand gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘luxury travel’.
The experience aboard will take inspiration from the French Riviera’s golden age while the ship itself could be something from the future, boasting a ground-breaking 1,500 square metre wind propulsion system as well as a hybrid natural-gas-powered propulsion system.
Safe to say the Orient Express brand is as buoyant as ever.
The Reinvention of the First-Class Experience
Whether it’s wanderlust, a desire for temporary nomadism or our intrinsic need to explore, the best luxury brands are taking the term ‘spiritual voyage’ fairly literally. And it’s not too hard to join them — all it takes is a little storification.
If you’re a pre-established brand, whether it’s hospitality, automotive or tech, give the same spirit of your experience in new ways. How can it be magnified when you introduce sea or sky? Where do your core values sit when you subtract location?
New or established though, the success of stylish luxury travel like the examples mentioned here lies in the story. These experiences are not only the best dinner party tales, they’re transformational, identity-enhancing durations of life. They leave sunstreaks on the souls of those experiencing them, who will tell others who will tell others.
The strongest brand spirits and stories are ones so overarching yet intimate they offer something distinctive to every passenger that will stick long after they step foot back on land.
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