Trends to Watch for Affluent Travelers

A top hotel’s chef-concierge previews what may be the year of the “great escape.”

Travel in 2021 looks promising now with the COVID-19 vaccine slowly making its way around the world. And after many months of sheltering in place, social distancing and “quarantine fatigue,” I predict that travel, both domestic and international, will bounce back with promising rigor—especially from affluent travelers. Luxury will remain aspirational, and experiential travel will continue to provide experiences of cultural immersion for the tech-savvy, adventure-deprived consumer. 

The affluent leisure traveler will continue to enjoy long getaways during the ongoing pandemic, safely flying aboard their private planes to exotic destinations or renting luxury beach houses complete with a private chef and butler services. Visitors to Los Angeles last year rented luxury furnished homes in Beverly Hills or West Hollywood to safely quarantine, with their own private pools for their kids to enjoy under the California sun.

At the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, we have had many guests book staycations averaging a few days to several months. I often get asked by our discerning clientele to plan itineraries for off the beaten path, so they can experience the city like a local, instead of a tourist.

New Yorkers who visit Los Angeles are not interested in chain restaurants that they can get in New York; instead they prefer local or family-owned restaurants where the tourists don’t go. 

Here are some of my suggestions, which I believe will be more relevant than ever this year.

KEEP IT MOVING: Guest itineraries can include road trips. We have had many guests stay with us at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills who rent an exotic car or drive their own vehicle up the Pacific Coast Highway to staycation in Santa Barbara or explore Big Sur and (prior to COVID-19) visit top wineries in Napa Valley.

The adventurous foodie is not necessarily going to be interested in a chain restaurant or the latest trendy hot spot. In Los Angeles, foodies who’ve already dined at Spago or Matsuhisa will want to experience the offerings from our local culinary rock stars, like Jordan Kahn’s Vespertine, Suzanne Goin’s a.o.c., Evan Funke’s Felix Trattoria, and Ori Menashe’s Bavel and Bestia.

The adventurous foodie is a concierge’s dream because their dining preferences does not have to be limited to fine dining. It’s about locally sourced ingredients, authentic emotional connections to the neighborhood’s heritage and charm, recognizing the poetry behind the chef’s culinary inspiration. It can be that popular local food truck in downtown L.A. that serves the best birria tacos or pupusas, or the best vegan ramen in Sawtelle.

The dining trends of affluent travelers to Los Angeles are varied. They want to know where the chef sources his ingredients, whether the beef is grass fed or if the Wagyu served is A5 Wagyu. They ask whether their salad greens are from a local organic farmer and if the pasta is homemade. There is an elevated appreciation for artisanal preparations. 

New Yorkers who visit Los Angeles are not interested in chain restaurants that they can get in New York; instead they prefer local or family-owned restaurants where the tourists don’t go.

LUXURY SOCIAL DISTANCING: As safety remains of utmost importance, the affluent traveler can vacation aboard their own private chartered yacht. It is the ultimate kind of social distancing to be out at sea. Either make it a day trip from L.A. to Catalina Island or just enjoy a sunset sail off Marina del Rey. This is a great way to relax or celebrate special occasions.

BESPOKE, ALWAYS: As retail is allowed to remain open in Los Angeles, my most frequent requests involve shopping, whether it’s prearranging a private appointment with a sales manager at one of the high-end boutiques on Rodeo Drive or coordinating a VIP personal shopping experience curated by a top celebrity stylist who brings the wardrobe to your suite for a truly bespoke shopping experience. Just need styling advice? I have arranged a virtual fashion styling session with a celebrity stylist to provide expert wardrobe consultation.

The discerning traveler wants to learn about the heritage of the brand, the artisanship involved. In some cases, old luxury is new again, from hand-stitched leather to limited vintage design pieces. Being a consumer with a conscience remains a trend that will have longevity. From designer faux fur to gourmet plant-based cuisine, travelers have a sense of responsibility to the environment as much as to their own health and wellness. Even the new trend of vegan tourism is poised to grow once people are allowed to travel again, with vegan-focused tours active in destinations including India, Thailand, and even Italy.

AT YOUR SERVICE: Hotels have elevated their cleaning and sanitation protocols. The affluent traveler may approach luxury hotel services in a more organic way. While text messaging has been a popular tool for communication between staff and guests, and it certainly is at the hotel where I work, I do find that the high-end leisure and business traveler will appreciate the in-person interaction or telephone conversation with the lobby concierge. There’s a comfort in that, what I like to call the “warm and fuzzies.” They also want self-care, indulging in spa services after countless months of quarantine. They want to be pampered and be able to pick up the phone from their room and call the concierge for just about anything they can think of.

When you can travel again and decide to stay at a luxury hotel, stop by the concierge desk. We can remain contactless if need be, but come talk to us. Ask questions! Be open-minded and we are happy to recommend the best local anything so you can enjoy a truly authentic experience.

I remain incredibly optimistic about travel and tourism bouncing back this year and cannot wait to welcome our guests to Beverly Hills.