Kuoni picks out key trends in annual report

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The Maldives has retained its position as Kuoni’s top selling destination for the second year running.

The Indian Ocean destination is the operator’s top seller for 2013. It is also top for honeymoons and the second ranked place for holidays for singles.

Kuoni’s ten top selling destinations for 2013 are the Maldives, Thailand, Sri Lanka, the US, the UAE, Mauritius, Malaysia, Barbados, Singapore and St Lucia.

The operator’s annual travel trends report predicts that Vietnam is set to rise in popularity.

Although outside the top 10 chart this year, the Asian country is seen as gaining in popularity due to a greater choice of flights and new beach options.

The report also identifies emerging trends, including social media, the re-definition of luxury, downtrading and the increasing popularity of all inclusives, the thirst for experiences, ‘girlfriend power’ (groups of women travelling together), responsible travel and increased demand for higher levels of service.

Kuoni’s top five family-friendly places are Kuramathi in the Maldives, Atlantis the Palm in Dubai, St James Club on Morgan Bay in St Lucia, the Verandah Resort & Spa in neighbouring Antigua, and Long Beach in Mauritius. One to watch is the Holiday Inn Mai Khao in Phuket.

The trends report says social media is driving much consumer behaviour with many holidaymakers checking out TripAdvisor and similar sites before clicking the ‘buy’ button online or before visiting a travel agent.

Moreover, consumers will follow their favourite bloggers and tweets from friends to form their opinions.

They view this online word of mouth recommendation as the best unbiased review they can garner and it increasingly colours their final choice of holiday.

Kuoni said a new phrase - ‘luxury fatigue’ - has entered our lexicon and it refers to those sophisticated consumers looking for something different, such as made-to-order and made-to-measure or in holiday terms, bespoke.

High-end hotels and resorts, that might previously have raised an eyebrow at children, are now building family-sized villas to accommodate high-pressured high-earners who want to bond with their children and relatives.

Set against the uncertain global economic outlook, aspirational consumers are becoming increasingly price sensitive and trading down.

The need for recession-friendly products and services is key and in response to this, Kuoni launched a sub-brand called Smart to fill this emerging niche.

“As the sophisticated luxury customer has progressed to an increasingly pared-down lifestyle, so the interest in ‘experiences’ has increased,” the reports says.

“This impacts most on the hotel, restaurant and travel industries but also extends to stores.”

More groups of women travelling together is one noticeable trend. They travel for girlie shopping weekends, city breaks, quality time to catch up or on wellness breaks.

They are joined by an equal number of ‘silver surfers’ - child-free, mortgage-free middle-aged travellers with disposable income on their side.

They travel with companions, particularly widowers, and there is a growing trend for women holidaying with friends post-divorce, the reports states.

Customers are expecting greater levels of personal service today and in the future as a differentiator between suppliers.

“Service will be king... and the service provider should go out of its way to keep the customer happy, because people are buying less,” the report says.

“The emergence of a new, planet-conscious consumer will colour holiday choices, so too Generation X and Y who are techno-savvy and will draw on social media to help make their choices.

“More sophisticated and knowledgeable consumers will demand more of their holidays, for one, and also expect improved customer service.

“At the top end of the pile, luxury is being re-defined and will shape future hotel developments, in terms of incorporating facilities for children and what constitutes out-and-out luxury."

The world’s austere economic outlook will drive a greater need for opportunities to escape the doom and gloom, the report says.

“The power of a holiday will not diminish and the allure of the Maldives, Thailand and Sri Lanka will continue.”

Kuoni has 21 high street shops and is present in John Lewis stores in London's Oxford Street, Southampton, Readin