Business class or—better yet—first class? Will four stars do? Or will only five stars make the cut? Questions such as these have dominated debates over what constitutes “luxury” in tourism. But in this day and age, our focus has shifted to a completely different topic.

“During the pandemic, carefree travelling in and of itself has turned into a luxury good,” says Professor Heinz-Dieter Quack, director of Germany’s Federal Tourism Competence Centre. “Even though this situation is sure to prevail in 2021, the tourism industry will slowly pick up speed again.”

Will this mean a return to our old standards of luxury? “Not necessarily,” says Professor Martin Lohmann, a scientific advisor to the research group Urlaub & Reisen and publisher of the annual journal Reiseanalyse. “We mainly go on vacation to recover from everyday stress. Over the last few years, however, we have seen one trend grow stronger: Young luxury travellers in particular are looking for more than a five-star accommodation with top-notch service. These customers want to create unforgettable memories through unique encounters and one-of-a-kind experiences.”

Will those who can afford high-end travel be even more demanding and take an even closer look at what’s being offered? Anja Kirig, a researcher at Zukunftsinstitut, sees this development as follows: “After the pandemic, tourism will once again become a special, rare experience. Instead of looking for quick and quickly forgotten fixes, travellers will cherish experiences that leave a lasting impression.”

Kirig also predicts that travellers, especially those somewhat advanced in age, will also choose their destinations more consciously and carefully. According to the researcher, these travellers will also base their decisions on which guarantees and safety measures service providers can offer. This trend opens up opportunities for providers who both cater to travellers’ increased safety needs and who can offer ingenuous, empathetic, and flexible solutions to discerning customers. Despite the pandemic, many of our readers still yearn for memorable travel experiences.

Success awaits those providers who are savvy enough to offer products that meet this very demand and who can cleverly integrate the changed circumstances in the wake of COVID-19. Clients—especially those with substantial financial means—will turn to travel consultants and tour operators who perform this balancing act most elegantly.

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