The Big Idea: The Great Escape

RIP, VIP cup lists. Since luxury travel began to re-emerge as the pandemic waned, it has been carp passport, leaving the industry to balance the pent-up demand of a burst dam with a host of permanent obstacles.

One of the results has been the willingness of travelers to spend more for the good experience. “When the world was put on hiatus, the wealthiest had time to dream big,” says travel specialist Keith Waldon of Departure room, noting that most of its clients’ budgets have doubled year over year. “Whatever they do before, people want to do it at a higher level.” Cari Gray Gray & Co. observed a similar trend. “Now it’s not just a driver but a driver on standby,” she says, “and not just a yacht for the day but for the week.”

No wonder hotels can no longer rely on oversized penthouses or impeccable service as the clincher, notes Scott Dunn Private directs Jules Maury. “It’s about what you can get out of a destination,” she says. Discover the new yacht operated by Borgo Santo Pietro that Maury has reserved for clients; he takes them on Tuscan coastal getaways with a chef trained at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant. The recently opened Villa Petriolo nearby is a 395-acre farm with miles of hiking trails and a resident falconer, while Sweden hotel in the trees just added a 365-square-foot Biosphere guesthouse, designed by Bjarke Ingels, covered with 340 birdhouses; input from local birdwatchers should maximize nesting. Safari camps are heavy in the trend of treehouses (or other private accommodation integrated with nature), too. And a company called 700,000 hours is a sort of mobile feast of hotels: every six months it uproots itself for another exotic location – rural Cambodia, perhaps, or Brazil – and settles in an idiosyncratic structure, be it a palace or a barge.

Traditional travel brands are also choosing to expand beyond brick and mortar. Waldon reports huge customer demand for this year’s launch of the incessantly delayed Ritz-Carlton yacht, currently scheduled for August; Aman will also launch a 50-suite, 600-foot ship in 2025, named Project Sama. Orient Express, sidelined as a brand for several years, will soon return to the limelight under new ownership, Accor. It will add more trains – with private bathrooms, a first – as well as namesake hotels, connected as a luxury network.

Travel now even crosses the final frontier. Blue origin and co. will soon be joined by Spaceship Neptune, an eight-seat capsule with a helm that glides 100,000 feet through the sky to the edge of space, a six-hour trip that costs $125,000 per person. Waldon has already made offers for two million-dollar takeovers, and the operator, perspective from spacereports that all trips in 2024, the launch year, are sold out.

Space is demanded in every sense of the word. Waldon reports that customers are en masse booking trips everywhere from Italy to Montana — sometimes four or five separate trips and destinations via a single request — through 2025, to ensure there’s room for them. “It’s so far out that it’s often hard to get rates, but we just stop there,” he says, noting that there’s a new mantra among his wealthier clients: “Life is precious , nothing is guaranteed and everything is high.”