Members of the global luxury travel industry looked into the future of travel and saw tree houses, “experience leave” from work and Airbnb-style accommodations with hotel amenities.
Those ideas and more were part of the industry’s first “unconference,” a TED Talk-style model with rotating speakers that was the centerpiece of the annual convention LE Miami, which brings together boutique hoteliers and luxury travel suppliers.
About 600 global travel industry members attended the keynote event for the conference’s fourth year in Miami at the SLS South Beach Hotel.
Each of the dozen presenters offered their idea for the next vacation innovation — in three minutes and 45 seconds.
“We wanted to create a condition where people can see in the voice and the eyes of someone else, their dreams for the future,” said conference founder and CEO Serge Dive.
When organizers sought future travel concepts in the last month, they were “inundated” with responses, said conference director CJ Holden. The convention and expo continue through Thursday at the Miami Beach Convention Center and several other South Beach and Brickell hotels.
“We thought of the way Airbnb or Uber would have a conference,” Holden said. “We are trying to inspire the travel industry to be a lot more creative.”
Sharing-economy firms Airbnb and Uber were central inspirations for many presenters, who believe the future will be grounded in the nascent trends of authentic travel experiences that connect with local communities.
Among the concepts revealed Monday:
▪ “Deconstructed” hotels: Miami-based Oasis Collections wants to bring the charm of Airbnb together with the reliability of a hotel stay.
The model seeks to inject consistency into the homesharing concept by adding professional cleaning, hotel-style toiletries and linens provided by the Oasis team, said CEO and co-founder Parker Stanberry. (On Airbnb, hosts arrange the cleaning services and other amenities.)
Stanberry’s proposal would replace a concierge with a city guide mobile app and a lobby with a private members club — all aimed at submerging members into the local community while not losing the comforts of a hotel setting.
“Eventually I think the line between living somewhere and visiting it could disappear,” Stanberry said.
▪ Impact hub: Connectivity would be central to a hotel hub-and-spoke model presented by New York-based Travel+SocialGood.
Under this concept, hotels would partner with local, sustainable businesses that appeal to millennials. The hotel is the hub and the businesses are the spokes, said chairman Gilad Gorem, where interactions with the businesses earn points in the hotel’s loyalty system. Some hotels already offer community and volunteer opportunities, but the arrangements are generally informal.
“The key to the millennial traveler’s heart is impact,” Gorem said. “A little more TOMS shoes, a little less Tom Ford.”
▪ Treetop vacations: Perhaps the future of accommodations isn’t in hotel rooms or shared homes, but up in the trees with nature, proposed Kent Lindvall, owner of Sweden’s Treehotel, one of several treehouse accommodations around the globe.
The stunning suspended homes, some in the shapes of UFOs, glass cubes or birds nests’, were the unique offering that revived Lindvall’s then-failing bed-and-breakfast operation in 2010.
When a friend who was filming a documentary on tree houses built the structure on his property, guests at his small hotel would go up and see it, always returning with a smile.
That’s when he knew there was something there, Lindvall said — a place to stay unlike any other.
“Today, it’s even created a model we call ‘place innovation’,” Lindvall said.
▪ Wellness travel: Jacqueline Gifford of Travel+Leisure envisioned vacations in which consultants help families pack, coordinate transportation to a week-long resort and delivered food specially prepared to meet clients’ needs, such as low-calorie feasts.
Such eating habits will continue when travelers go home and until they head back to the office. The concept advocates for a healthy work-life balance, even when travelers return to work.
It creates “a respectful work culture where people don’t email on the weekends or after hours because, frankly, we all need a break,” Gifford said.
▪ Experience breaks: Dubai-based travel services provider Dnata offered a twist on the health orientation.
Fatima Hawkins, senior manager of luxury and experiential travel, said Dnata’s concept is based on the understanding that workers need leave beyond the usual vacation to experience the world, much like mothers need maternity leave to be with their children.
One month a year, workers would pack their bags and move to an exotic location of their choice to live and work. Monday to Friday they would continue to work remotely while immersing themselves fully in another culture, Hawkins said.
Eventually, she hopes the model will move into vocation travel, in which companies sponsor the trips for their employees.
Hawkins said the arrangement would be a win-win: more fulfilling experiences for employees and refreshed workers for employers.
“Travel is really coming back with stories and doing all this while you’re still on the company payroll,” Hawkins said.