Fast-pass tourism: Fad or the future?
Fast-pass tourism: Fad or the future?
24 SEPTEMBER 2019 7:31 AM

Four Seasons has just purchased another jet to run tours from hotel to hotel around the world, and there are other options available. What are the implications of “fast-pass tourism” for the hotel sector?

Do you want to see the world? I mean, really, see the world?

Of course you do, who doesn’t? But historically, your options have been either to figure out your own fiendishly complicated travel itinerary in a piecemeal fashion or to set aside anywhere from three to seven months for a world cruise.

The cruise is a great option for some, but let’s face it—that’s an awfully long time to be away when many would-be world travelers are cash-rich but time-poor. In our increasingly frenetic world, what we really want to do, if we’re honest, is jump to the front of the queue and use the leisure time that we have available as efficiently as possible. Right or wrong, most of us want to cram our holidays full until they’re bursting at the seams. Welcome to “fast-pass tourism.” In the immortal words of Freddie Mercury: “I want it all, and I want it now.”

The demand for ‘fast-pass tourism’ is a commercial reality today and an increasing number of hotel operators are waking up to the opportunities that this trend presents. Four Seasons, who introduced the concept in 2015, has recently announced that it will be upgrading its custom-designed private jet and will be expanding its portfolio of global experiences, taking 48 guests on whirlwind trips from property to property around the world on three-week itineraries. You can also jet from Aman to Aman on a 22-day global experience, and Banyan Tree offers a similar concept. Sure, it’s way more expensive than sailing the seven seas at well over $100,000, but it’s all done and dusted in a fraction of the time.

In this situation, the operator is the ultimate concierge, providing the means of transport, the accommodation and all the ground handling services for the entire trip. The guests, many of whom are committed “brand junkies,” get to stay in some of the world’s most exceptional hotels and tick off a whole tranche of bucket-list destinations, while enjoying the company of a select group of like-minded traveling companions. And this can all be done before the estates or boards that they manage even notice that they’re out of the office.

It’s fair to say that Greta Thunberg won’t be signing up for one of these trips anytime soon, but demand is reportedly strengthening, and levels of repeat visitation are high. Not every operator will be in a position to ride this trend. Some team-ups may take place, as delivery requires an extensive portfolio of flags in both urban and resort locations around the world, but it’s likely that others will join in as they seek to deepen the relationship that they have with their most loyal customers. We’re seeing this strategy of enhanced engagement applied with the emergence of loyalty schemes such as Accor’s “Live Limitless.”

The comparatively short stays that these fast-pass tourists have in each hotel will necessitate that service at every property is efficient and impeccable the first time and every time, and that guests are able to get a real sense of local authenticity as part of their condensed experience.

It may also be worth noting that if hotel operators don’t pick up on the market demand for fast-pass global itineraries, we may well see the likes of Airbnb moving in. Airbnb is already expanding into the luxury sector, and you may have noticed that they recruited Fred Reid from the Virgin America airline earlier this year. Just saying.

Ben Martin has a considerable catalogue of experience as a consultant focusing on real estate economics, with a particular emphasis on resorts, residential, leisure and mixed-use development. He has completed projects across a broad range of countries in Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa and his clients have included government organisations, leisure and entertainment providers, property development companies, financial institutions, development corporations and local authorities. Mr Martin is involved at all stages of the study process, from preliminary site reviews to the design and development of tailor-made financial models that reflect the recommended development programme for the project. Having gained more than two decades of experience as a consultant in this sector, he now plays a key role in the management of project research and economic appraisal within the Hospitality Advisory Group at HKS Inc.

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