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Cream of sector heading to Shanghai.

AS THE luxury travel sector gears up for one of the year's major events, TTN has an exclusive chat with SIMON MAYLE, marketing manager of International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) Asia which takes place from June 13 to 16 in Shanghai, China.

What's new for attendees at ILTM Asia this year? Now in its fifth year, ILTM Asia invites the world's definitive collection of luxury experiences and prestigious luxury travel products to meet with 360 of the most discerning buyers of luxury travel from the Asia-Pacific region. New participants this year represent some of the most interesting growth sectors and regions from the world of luxury travel including design hotel the Waterhouse Shanghai, luxury rail provider Eastern & Oriental from Orient-Express, The Maharajas Express and The Leela Palaces from India, Naiade Resorts, offering a range of luxury destinations in Mauritius and The Maldives, and destinations including Fiji. The rapid growth in Asian travel markets has created a real need for the industry to understand the region's many cultures and specific luxury travel trends in order to deliver the highest standards of service to all. Responding to this demand to learn more, the organisers of ILTM are inviting a number of key travel influencers to share their perspectives in a new education programme to be launched at ILTM Asia. The programme comprises four buyer-led seminars offering suppliers an exclusive insight into major source markets -- India, Japan, China and Australia. In addition, the event hosts three supplier-led seminars giving exclusive advice on how to sell different products -- spa and wellness programmes, authentic and sustainable travel and luxury cruises. There will also be a session for both buyers and suppliers on the role of online and social media in the luxury travel sector and how luxury travel brands can effectively use online and social media, whilst maintaining their core luxury values. The ILTM Asia Ultratravel Forum will begin with the findings of ILTM's global research project 'The Future of Luxury Travel -- A Global Trends Report', to be presented by Horwath HTL which is undertaking the detailed research. The presentation will be immediately followed by a panel discussion which will address 'Is the Asian luxury traveller dictated by culture, wealth or both?', hosted by CNN journalist Michelle Han. Confirmed panellists include Paul Dickinson of Virgin Atlantic, hotelier Loh Lik Peng and Steve Odell of Silversea Cruises. Closing the forum, ILTM Asia is honoured to be able to present a truly exclusive one-to-one with the visionary and founder of one of the world's most luxurious travel brands Amanresorts, Adrian Zecha. This forum finale will be conducted by Graham Boynton, group travel editor of the UK's Daily Telegraph. The ILTM Asia Ultratravel Forum takes place in the Shanghai Theatre, Portman Ritz-Carlton, on Monday, June 13. How is the luxury travel sector developing within Asia particularly with the growth, both actual and predicted, of the new middle- and wealthy-classes and how do you perceive this growth continuing in the coming years? It is predicted that within the next five years, China will become the world's third largest luxury market, producing an estimated 20 to 30 per cent growth in demand for premium brands. According to research conducted by the Hurun Report, China's leading luxury publication, the number of Chinese rich going abroad for the purpose of tourism is increasing year on year, growing by 33 per cent in the last two years alone. But it is not all about China. The booming outbound Asian travel markets this year also include South Korea and Malaysia, which are all increasing at more than 20 per cent. Interestingly, Asia is a particularly important destination for Asian travellers so the continent is more than likely to become the top travel region in the world, which will have a significant impact for the luxury sector. Further growth is coming from India with ILTM Asia exhibitor Small Luxury Hotels of the World reporting a 129 per cent growth from India in 2010.

On a wider global scale what is happening within the luxury sector? The world is preparing for 100 million outbound travellers from mainland China and 50 million from India by 2020. The International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) Leaders Forum (24 thought-leaders from the global luxury travel industry who met at ILTM in Cannes in December 2010) confirms 2012 as likely to be the first year of significant post-recession growth since 2007. Whilst overall the recession showed that luxury travel was not unsusceptible to the global economic climate, India as well as China has experienced significant growth in this period. The Indian luxury market is predicted to grow at a rate of 21 per cent with luxury travel growing at approximately 15 per cent in the next five years, again representing this fast-emerging, high-spending sector across Asia as a whole. Other growing markets include Russia, where luxury sales are expected to grow by five to 10 per cent, and Brazil and the Middle East are both forecast to be major epicentres of future growth. The luxury industry will stay on a high level, but the message from the ILTM Leaders Forum was clear -- the luxury traveller is constantly evolving, the industry needs to adapt and remain adaptive in the future. Consumers are more cautious with their travel decisions and the industry must adhere to the promises it makes. Maintaining the highest level of standards of service and satisfaction as well as offering unique and authentic experiences that get under the skin of a destination are essential for the luxury travel industry to continue to grow successfully and sustainably.

Is the perception of luxury changing and how are the classical luxury providers adapting? There is no doubt the demands of today's luxury travellers have changed. Today's luxury traveller is ultimately seeking a 'meaningful' travel experience -- and in this context that means the pursuit of something that is authentic, reflects the local landscape and is genuinely real. The charm of regions which are unaffected by modern developments attracts an increasing number of luxury travellers from all four corners of the world. Myanmar and Cambodia, for example, offer a rich cultural heritage and extraordinary history as well as unspoilt nature. Also at ILTM Asia, Orient Express will profile The Governor's Residence in Yangon, Myanmar, and its incredible Road to Mandalay luxury cruise, which leaves from the royal city of Mandalay in Myanmar. Who can have failed to have read about Song Saa Island Resort, introduced to the luxury market at ILTM 2010 and now taking part in ILTM Asia 2011. Song Saa is an ultra-luxurious and intimate collection of villas located in Cambodia's untouched Koh Rong Archipelago, set to open in November 2011. Products like these and many more at ILTM Asia demonstrate that luxury providers are listening to their markets and responding.

This year saw the first ILTM Ultratravel Forum at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) -- where did the impetus for this come from? The Middle East is a popular and increasingly accessible luxury destination for many. ILTM's VIP buyers want to know more about the fascinating Middle East market and particularly the growth of the luxury travel market in this region. Their clients continue to be attracted by the rich cultural heritage across the region and the high level of service. For this reason ILTM brought a select group of international buyers from the US, UK, China and India, amongst others, to discover more about what the region has to offer luxury travellers.

What was included and how was it received? The ILTM Ultratravel Forum at ATM comprised a high-profile panel from a cross section of international luxury travel brands addressing the theme 'Understanding the Middle Eastern market and what it offers luxury travellers'. Sir Rocco Forte, hotelier and chairman of The Rocco Forte Collection, spoke during the forum and defined the Middle East as one of the key luxury travel markets worldwide. He provided notable insights, talking about current hotel openings in the Middle East and Africa. Sir Rocco Forte is a well-known expert in this region as he opened his first hotel at Dubai Airport in 1978. He used the ILTM Ultratravel Forum to predict considerable long-term potential for growth in this sector. In addition to this, ILTM arranged a series of pre-scheduled meetings for its hosted buyers with luxury properties from across the Middle East exhibiting at ATM.

Will you be repeating the forum? The feedback from the VIP buyers has been extremely positive and it was a productive use of their time. With such an excellent response in year one, it's highly likely that this exclusive ILTM programme at ATM will evolve further. Copyright 2008 www.tradearabia.com

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Publication:Travel & Tourism News
Geographic Code:90ASI
Date:Jun 1, 2011
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