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Introducing the ‘Native Explorers’: Asia Pacific’s Disruptive Travelers of the Future

In a recent survey conducted by Marriott International, a global luxury hospitality leader, a fascinating trend has emerged in the Asia Pacific travel industry.

Affluent millennial and Gen Z travelers, dubbed ‘Native Explorers,’ are reshaping the way people approach travel. Unlike previous generations, these young explorers are well-traveled at a younger age, with 25% having already visited at least two continents outside of Asia Pacific by the age of 26.

The survey, commissioned to gain insights into the attitudes of affluent millennial and Gen Z travelers, aimed to help luxury brands adapt to their evolving aspirations. It revealed that Native Explorers, despite having the means, prefer to spend their travel budget closer to home for the next two years. An overwhelming 85% of respondents believe that there is much more to discover within the region itself.

Among the top travel destinations for Native Explorers, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand took the lead, reflecting their interest in nearby countries. However, they also seek to experience the new in familiar destinations like Australia and Thailand, approaching these places through a culture-centric lens. While some Native Explorers opt for nearby, fuss-free holidays, they still possess a sense of adventure. For 43%, nature escapes and wellness experiences are key, and 36% are on the lookout for hidden cultural gems yet to be discovered.

Marriott International’s Chief Sales & Marketing Officer for Asia Pacific, Bart Buiring, remarked on the survey findings, stating, “We’re witnessing a clear shift among global travelers toward more meaningful and unique experiences in both familiar and new destinations. This trend is particularly evident in Asia Pacific among Gen Z and Millennial travelers.”

The survey highlighted that Native Explorers redefine luxury travel by prioritizing authentic connections and experiences. For 37% of respondents, human connection, genuine hospitality, and being part of a community are critical components of luxury travel. These travelers seek once-in-a-lifetime experiences and pinch-me moments, such as VIP access to sold-out concerts (52%) and exclusive culinary workshops with celebrity chefs (36%). Marriott International’s loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy Moments, offers such unique experiences to its members, fulfilling their desire for extraordinary encounters.

Craftsmanship remains vital to luxury travel for over 50% of Native Explorers, who value service excellence and state-of-the-art facilities. Personalization also plays a crucial role, with 32% expecting bespoke services like dedicated travel advisors and tailored itineraries. The Ritz-Carlton recently launched the elevated Ritz-Carlton Club experience, catering to these demands for personalized luxury, offering unique indulgences, curated culinary journeys, and personalized encounters.

Interestingly, the survey revealed that nine out of ten Native Explorers prefer to explore their destinations with the assistance of their luxury hotel rather than hiring a local guide. They enjoy sampling local cuisine through the hotel’s gourmet dining (45%), experiencing the local culture through curated programming (39%), and trying local wellness rituals available at the hotel spa (34%). Furthermore, 76% of respondents opt for hotels and resorts with destination-inspired concepts, indicating a thirst for cultural discovery.

Marriott International is well-prepared to meet the demands of Native Explorers with its diverse luxury brands portfolio. The company plans to open hotels in popular travel spots like Sydney and Bangkok, as well as emerging destinations like Fukuoka, Japan, and Jiuzhaigou, China. Currently, Marriott International operates nearly 500 luxury hotels and resorts in 68 countries and territories worldwide, with 159 properties in Asia Pacific alone.

As the travel industry evolves, the rise of Native Explorers in Asia Pacific marks a significant shift in travel preferences and behaviors. These young travelers seek authentic experiences, prioritize meaningful connections, and embrace the richness of their own region. Luxury brands like Marriott International are adapting to these changing trends to provide the exceptional travel experiences that this new generation of travelers desires.

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