The Changing Face of Luxury Travel

by Lili Li
Photos courtesy of Scott Dunn
11 Sep 2018

There are as many versions of luxury travel as there are luxury travelers. With requirements for seamless personalized services still on the rise, travel companies are on their toes to ensure nothing is beyond reach

“Now, more than ever, luxury is an experience,” says Mr. Chang Theng Hwee, CEO of Scott Dunn Asia. Long years as an intrepid traveler and founder of his own travel agency have not turned him into a worn-out globetrotter or a jaded tourist. On the contrary, he believes there are still destinations to unlock, experiences to be had, and people to meet.

“Our demands as travelers have expanded; we're seeking more from our holidays than just relaxing on a beach. We want to be immersed in the local culture, see extraordinary things others haven't seen before, experience something completely opposite of what we can find at home, and come away feeling like we've experienced something enriching and exclusive.”

Mr. Chang developed a passion for travel early. While still at the university, he organized an expedition with friends to the Himalayas, braving a territory unknown to him with a guide book instead of a local guide. Although he began his career at a bank after graduation, his goal was to save enough money to start a travel agency. In 1994, he launched Country Holidays with his wife.

Country Holidays fulfilled its market’s hankering for exotic destinations and, as the market developed, for luxury vacations. Early this year, Mr. Chang sold Country Holidays to luxury travel operator Scott Dunn. He found strong connection with the vision and content of the luxury travel purveyor. Portfolio spoke with Mr. Chang to gain insights into luxury travel today.

How different is luxury travel today from, say, a decade ago?
Guests now are travelling to destinations, not because they know there is a luxury hotel chain there, but instead because there is a unique opportunity to experiences something out of this world. For instance, exploring the far reaches of the beautiful unspoilt Skeleton Coast and be in awe of the hidden treasures it can offer on a truly unique flying safari, or joining a small expedition to go in search of the illusive snow leopards in the Indian Himalayas.

What do luxury travellers seek today? How do they compare to the ones before? 
It's all about someone designing a highly personalised Individual experience that can't be bought online. Rather than saving up for luxurious possessions, people are now opting to spend their money on memorable experiences. It's the access all areas, the unique places that can't be found on google or the hidden view point that only a local guide can find for the ultimate holiday photo. Previously the most Integral element of the holiday was the accommodation and Its enviable location, whereas today guest would rather prioritise the experiences, even If this means compromising slightly on the accommodation.

Impeccable service, unique destinations, top grade accommodation facilities - how have their meaning and expression changed in recent years?
When It comes to Impeccable service there Is no doubt that this is something guests are still seeking. However, today, it's all about how personalized the level of service is, and we find it's the little, more personalized touches that guests really appreciate and remember: From knowing the guest’s favourite wine, to leaving a welcome note in their hotel room on arrival, to ensuring the best table with a view has been booked for them.

In terms of destinations guests continue to seek the off-the-beaten track – more remote destinations that offer something unique. The world is a lot more accessible, so these far-flung destinations are increasingly 'easy' to reach even if it's for a short break.

We've found the 'top grade accommodation facilities' adapt to guests demands by offering more than just 'standard' experiences, but to experiences that entice guests to stay with them purely for 'that' particular experience. Take for Instance Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru's exclusive DeepFlight personal submarine adventures, Nihi Sumba's Nihioka Spa Safari, or heli-skiing at Deplar Farm In Iceland.

Where do you draw the line on the demands of luxury travellers who can afford anything and everything?
We’ll never say never to a challenge, and will always try to meet our guest’s requirements. The challenge of making what seems impossible possible is why guests come to Scott Dunn. Over the years Scott Dunn has done it all from once closing a pyramid in Egypt for a private dinner for an esteemed guest to organizing a wedding in a hot air balloon over the Masai Mara in Kenya.

Where do you stand on preservation of nature, culture and heritage? How is this reflected in your leadership of Scott Dunn Asia?
In travel, times are changing. Hotels across the globe are looking to the future, and the Earth, to find sustainable ways to improve their green credentials and minimize their impact on the planet, and tour operators such as ourselves should be leading the way to encourage this. Should guests ask we can provide them with a range of stylish, urban boltholes, a remote green-minded getaway and eco-friendly hotel, as well as lodges and retreats to inspire a stay that doesn't cost the Earth.

How do you reconcile your desire to protect, say, the environment and your professional commitment to deliver new experiences?
We take the time to carefully select the hotels and ground handlers that we work with, especially those that carefully curate their experiences. Our 'Make a Difference' portfolio enables our guests to engage with one of our handpicked philanthropic experiences, gaining an incredible Insight Into the vital work of charities and NGO's across the globe.

From meeting coffee farmers in Guatemala to monitoring endangered rhino in South Africa and visiting the Sumba Foundation to help tackle island poverty, our unique selection of charitable experiences enables guests to contribute in a positive and sustainable way to the conservation and humanitarian efforts taking place worldwide.

Scott Dunn has an array of destinations around the globe. To speak to a country specialist, click here