Published on February 28th, 2013 | by Mark Chesnut
Luxury Travel in Latin America: What’s Hot for 2013
In a special feature report I did recently for Travel Weekly’s World of Luxury 2013, I spoke with a variety of travel industry experts and insiders, about what’s hot in the luxury travel market this year. Several of the people I interviewed for the article, called “Luxury Goes Modern,” also weighed in on what travelers are looking for in Latin America.
Among the things you’re likely to be seeing more of in the luxury travel segment in Latin America:
• More Local Flavor. Materials and products produced locally are considered a selling point for many hotels today, according to Herman Bern Jr., president of Bern Hotels & Resorts, a Panama-based hotel company that owns the Le Meridien Panama, the recently opened Westin Playa Bonita, the soon-to-open Westin Panama City and Villa Bonita, a private villa that rents for $6,000 a night. Bern’s tour operator division, Gamboa Tours, allows travelers to connect with the destination through volunteer activities that give back to the local community.
• More Luxury in Select Destinations (and, possibly, better deals). Cities like Panama City and Bogotá have experienced exceptional growth in new luxury hotels in recent years, and will continue to debut new luxury properties in the near future. In Panama City, new hotel brands opening their doors recently — or about to do so — include Hilton, Trump (in the form of the Trump Ocean Club), Waldorf Astoria and Westin, while existing hotels like the upscale Bristol Panama have expanded their luxury offerings. Bogotá, meanwhile, has recently welcomed new properties like the JW Marriott Bogota and the Hilton Bogota.
Growth like this will likely mean you get more for your money, according to Bern. “There is a huge growth in the supply of the luxury segment, and because there is a lot of growth, there will be a lot of value,” he said. “The offer has grown more than actual demand, so you will find really great deals.”
• Increased Demand for Luxury Tours. “South America, particularly Rio, Cartagena, Buenos Aires and Patagonia will continue to be on the ‘It’ list for 2013, as well as destinations in Southeast Asia like Bali and Bangkok, and Europe along the Dalmatian Coast,” according to Tony Gonchar, vice president of the Representative Network for the American Express U.S. Consumer Travel Network.
• More In-flight Gadgets. “We believe our customers will continue to value the ability to remain connected, entertained, fully-charged and recharged throughout their journey no matter where they fly with us,” said Rob Friedman, vice president of marketing at American Airlines, which recently announced a merger with US Airways and continues to be a major player in the Latin America airline scene. In recent months, American announced plans to invest in inflight WiFi, universal AC power outlets and entertainment on demand, lie-flat seats in the premium cabins of 777 aircraft and as much as 50% of the 767-300ER fleet.
“For example, with our new widebody and narrowbody deliveries we have borrowed elements that customers might see in five-star hotels, and infused them into our aircraft to ensure a more comfortable, modern inflight experience,” Friedman added. “We currently have a partnership with James Park Associates (JPA) to collaborate on the overall design, trim and finish of our new narrowbody aircraft, which will reflect the look and feel of the new American and will complement the interior design scheme of the airline’s highly anticipated Boeing 777-300ERs and redesigned 777-200ERs to provide customers with a more consistent experience between aircraft types.”