The industry disruptor on the three trends he predicts will shape the future of travel in the continent
Over the last 10 years, Serge Dive has redefined luxury travel. After a seminal trip in 2008 sparked an idea – to create niche communities for travel professionals and give them a platform to transform their businesses – he has spent the decade since inspiring people in the industry to think differently, taking his perspective-shifting events across the globe from Marrakech to Miami. His latest venture, Further East, hit the shores of Seminyak beach, Bali, in November 2018. The context behind its creation? To once more redefine the travel industry, this time in Asia, while celebrating the continent’s rich heritage and powerful future.
Here, Dive shares his perspectives on the future of luxury travel in Asia – and how he believes hospitality professionals can tap into the trends shaping our ever-changing industry.
Authenticity is your greatest asset
“Everyone wants to come to Asia. Everyone is building in Asia. But (luxury travellers) want to discover the real, fascinating Asia,” Dive warns. Indeed, globalisation is problematic for hotels and native brands, who risk losing their authenticity, sleepwalking into an increasingly cookie-cutter identity. “I think that the greatest challenge is to resist the temptation of globalisation that will dilute your brand’s identity – and embrace your uniqueness,” he advises. Showcasing the continent in a truly Asian context is critical to Dive and his vision for Further East: with a holistic understanding of the marketplace, he has some wise words for Asia’s hospitality professionals.
“What Asia now needs to do, now and in the coming years, is truly capitalise on its assets – and, marketing-wise, to truly cherish and display its traditions to international customers, while inventing its own future,” he predicts. This belief underpins Dive’s long-term strategy for Further East. “We believe that Asian products should be displayed in a truly strong, Asian context (like we provide at Further East), rather than at generic travel trade fairs that are potentially destructive to brand equity.”
Dive is fond of reminding his team that our time on earth is at a premium, so it’s important to make your actions count. “(There are only) 700,000 hours or so that a human is living on this planet – we want each one of those hours to count,” he urges. That’s where luxury travel, which hinges on transformative experiences, comes in. But it’s crucial to cater for the travellers of today – Millennials and those snapping at their heels, Generation Z – and the customers of the future.
“Today’s luxury traveller is very diverse – this is what makes the market so fascinating,” says Dive. “Most of them can be separated into two families – those who crave fantasy, like a concept hotel, and those who crave a return to nature, specifically experiential or transformational travel. We also see two motivations: some see it as a way to enhance their personal brand. These are the ones trying to cram as many experiences (from food to excursions) in the shortest amount of time. On the other end of the spectrum, we see others who use travel as a way to alter their life path; connect with the world; and even try to save the planet.”
Look beyond tech (and into the past)
While many in the luxury travel industry are frantically finding ways to weave tech into every facet of their operations, Dive is less convinced.
“I am a huge skeptic when it comes to gimmicks – despite the hype, I think that VR and AI won’t be experiences in their own right; instead, they will help customers test travel products from their living room.” Indeed, he predicts that nostalgia, not tech, is the burgeoning trend set to disrupt the future of the travel industry in Asia.
“I think we are actually returning to an analog way of travelling. I think that nostalgia is returning because tastemakers are fed up of both tech and products born from globalisation.” For Dive, this desire for a bygone era will present itself in the Asian travel industry in two key ways: a thirst for cinematic adventures and hotels inspired by a “technicolour fantasy” – in his own words, “glamorous ‘grande-dame’ hotels inhabited by a thriving intelligentsia, dressed in tuxedos and haute couture.”
Life should be amplified – and optimised
Nostalgia aside, what is the next buzzword set to shape the travel industry? “I would choose two – amplified and optimised,” predicts Dive. “I think that luxury travel is the promise of a life optimised and amplified; optimised because we want be the best person we can be and do the best things we can out of the precious hours that we are on this planet. Amplified, because we want each of those hours to be as remarkable and memorable for us and our loved ones as much as possible.”
If the future of luxury travel in Asia resembles anything close to his vision for Further East, one thing is for certain – it will never be boring. From its oceanside location and holistic approach to its diverse guest list of iconic hospitality brands, it demonstrates a disarmingly different way to do business. Watch how the first edition of Further East went down here…
“(Our aim) is really to become the most influential travel trade event for the high- end inbound travel market to Asia,” he reveals. And much like the industry itself, Dive rarely stands still – his next event is already in the works. One thing is for sure: disruption awaits.