Time is something of a sore spot in modern life. Ask the majority of people how they are and the likelihood is that one of the first things they’ll say is “busy”, and it seems that despite hundreds of time saving devices there’s ever more to do and less time to do it in. In reality, we actually have more leisure time than people 40 years ago, but changes in our working culture have made people feel more harried than ever. As this feeling takes hold, the travel industry is responding, making “value for time” rather than value for money a key part of the experiences they offer.
This appears to be down to various reasons. As the line between work and life becomes ever more blurred, we may have more leisure time, but it doesn’t feel this way. Emails keep pinging on our smartphones, we can take our work home with us and the usual 9 to 5 has transformed to being “logged in” constantly. Furthermore, whereas work used to feel like it had a clear end – say 500 items produced, or a field harvested – now it seems infinite, while multi-tasking ensures that nothing feels as if it’s come to a satisfying conclusion.
Perhaps counterintuitively, this is especially true for the well paid. It’s a cliche to say that time is money, but if an hour at work translates to more cash in your bank account, your perception of time is going to change. An hour spent relaxing is an hour that has cost you money. The people working the longest hours now are the best educated and the best paid, bucking previous trends that dictated that being comfortably off meant you had more time to yourself.
With time appearing so precious, any waste can cause huge frustration. Even with holidays being designated for relaxation, people want a return for their investment of time – whether this is packing in cultural experiences or relaxing in a more profound and life changing way. For example, this meditation retreat promises to unpack deeply felt stress and change people’s outlook in just three days – creating a far more intensely relaxing experience than a week spent lying on a beach.
Furthermore, luxury holiday providers usually include a concierge as standard, or even a private butler, to ensure that absolutely none of the time their clients spend travelling is taken up with mundane tasks like booking restaurants. With an “expectation to have an experienced, powerful concierge”, luxury travellers want the details sorted out for them, so they get as much out of the holiday experience as possible.
This has been reinforced by our shifting cultural perceptions of travel. Rather than a simple holiday, travel bloggers, social media and journalism have elevated the idea of travel to something far more romantic and profound. Travel is meant to inform and enhance our personality, and provide rare experiences that change us forever. “Travelling”, as opposed to “going on holiday”, is a concept beloved by the users of social media platforms like Instagram, and now if people spend two weeks on a tropical island they can feel somewhat short-changed if they didn’t have the extraordinary experience they were expecting.
This adds pressure for luxury travel providers to create something unique – even transcendental – for their clients. With time being so valuable, people want something amazing from their days or week abroad, something they can remember and share for months after the event. Whether it’s hot air balloons over the Dubai desert or locations that haven’t been explored by holiday-makers before, the need to provide something different is getting stronger than ever.
When people allocate time purely for relaxation and discovery, and feel they just don’t have enough time on their hands to waste any of it, they feel disappointments more keenly. The perception of our busyness isn’t set to change – in fact we feel busier than ever – so it seems that the luxury of time is going to becoming an ever more integral part of luxury travel.