Survey by Marriott International in Asia Pacific reveals young luxury travelers are ditching long-haul to explore their own backyards
A regional survey by global luxury hospitality leader Marriott International has coined a term to describe a new generation of travelers set to disrupt the industry over the next few years. ‘Native Explorers’ recognizes a tribe of affluent millennial and Gen Z travelers in Asia Pacific who are bucking the trend by traveling in reverse order to generations before them. While their predecessors may be saving up for more costly long-haul travel later in life, Native Explorers are already well-traveled at a younger age, with one in four notching up no less than two continents outside of Asia Pacific by the time they hit 26. Despite having the means, Native Explorers claim they will be spending their travel dollars closer to home for at least the next two years, as 85% believe that they have yet to fully discover all the region has to offer.
The survey across Australia, China, Japan, India, Singapore, and South Korea was commissioned to better understand the attitudes of affluent millennial and Gen Z travelers and help luxury brands meet their evolving aspirations.
With their sights firmly set on holidays closer to home, Native Explorers rank Japan (52%), South Korea (42%), and New Zealand (39%) as their top three travel destinations. They are also seeking out the new in familiar hotspots such as Australia (39%) and Thailand (32%) through a culture-centric lens. Although one in four Native Explorers would prefer to beat the jetlag and pick nearby, fuss-free holidays, their sense of adventure shouldn’t be underestimated: 43% look for nature escapes and wellness experiences and 36% are looking for hidden cultural gems they have yet to discover.
“Globally, we’re seeing an undeniable shift among travelers towards more meaningful, one-of-a-kind experiences in both new and familiar destinations. This is particularly evident in Asia Pacific from our findings on Gen Z and Millennials’ travel patterns and behaviors,” comments Bart Buiring, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Marriott International Asia Pacific “With young affluent travelers in Asia Pacific gravitating towards under-the-radar holidays and culturally-rich itineraries, we’re expanding our luxury portfolio in the region’s most sought-after destinations like Nara, Sydney and Jiuzhaigou in China with a target of opening 12 properties in 2023 alone.”
Luxury defined by authentic connections and experience, with craft still key
Native Explorers are redefining what luxury travel means – from elusive and exclusive to meaningful connection and experiences. As they transition towards understated and authentic holidays, one in three respondents (37%) called out human connection, genuine hospitality, and being part of a community as critical components of luxury travel.
Majority (58%) believe once-in-a-lifetime experiences and pinch-me moments are what make the luxury travel experience. Top picks include VIP access to sold-out concerts of their favorite artists (52%) and exclusive culinary workshops with celebrity chefs (36%). Marriott Bonvoy Moments, a platform where Marriott Bonvoy Members can use points earned from travel and everyday activities to bid on exclusive packages, fulfills this desire by offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences, ranging from unrivaled access to the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team to closed-door sessions with celebrity chefs and artists.
Craftsmanship remains crucial to luxury travel, over 50% believe service excellence and state-of-the-art facilities are key tenets. Personalization remains a key deciding factor in choosing a luxury hotel, with 32% expecting bespoke services such as a dedicated travel advisor and 32% preferring to stay with hotels that offer tailored itineraries and customized amenities. The Ritz-Carlton elevated Club experience was launched recently to take guests into a world of personalized luxury experiences. From pre-arrival to departure, the elevated Ritz-Carlton Club experience is available across all Ritz-Carlton hotels in Asia Pacific, where guests will find unique indulgences, curated culinary journeys, and personalized encounters that create meaningful moments.
Explore destinations through luxury hotel comforts
Caught between their desires to discover and luxuriate, a staggering nine in 10 respondents prefer to explore the destination with assistance from their luxury hotel, rather than research and hire a local guide of their own. Almost half (45%) prefer to sample local cuisine through the property’s gourmet dining, 39% want to experience the local culture through the hotel’s curated programming, and 34% are keen to try local wellness rituals available at the hotel spa.
Native Explorers’ thirst for cultural discovery extends to their accommodation choices, with a majority (76%) of respondents opting for hotels and resorts with destination-inspired concepts. Brand affinity remains key for Native Explorers with approximately one in three opting for destination-inspired abodes under an established luxury brand. W Hotels’ evolved design direction takes a thoughtful approach through the lens of both the brand and its location, so no two W hotels look the same.
Marriott International’s luxury brands portfolio is poised to meet the demands of Native Explorers
Marriott International’s luxury brands portfolio is poised to meet these reimagined travel desires with hotel openings that inspire the modern traveler. The company plans to take its unrivaled portfolio of eight dynamic luxury brands to the region’s most popular travel spots such as Sydney and Bangkok and emerging destinations like Fukuoka, Japan and Jiuzhaigou, China.
A global leader in luxury hospitality, Marriott International today operates nearly 500 luxury hotels and resorts in 68 countries and territories, including 159 properties presently in Asia Pacific. The region contributes half of the company’s global development pipeline of nearly 200 luxury properties.
Please refer to appendix for Marriott International Luxury Brand’s top hidden travel gems for Native Explorers to uncover in Asia Pacific. High-resolution images are available here.
Note on the Survey
Findings are from a commissioned survey by Marriott International conducted in June 2023 on 601 affluent Gen Z (18 – 24 years old) and Millennials (25 – 41 years old) based in Australia, China, Japan, India, Singapore and South Korea, who would spend over USD3,000 on a holiday.
The term ‘Native Explorers’ refers to luxury Gen Z and millennial travelers with an intrinsic desire to explore, who have already traveled the globe in their youth and are now seeking destinations in their native region.
APPENDIX - Top hidden travel gems for Native Explorer to uncover in Asia Pacific
Immerse in the rich culture and natural heritage of Japan
Enjoy a different pace of life and embark on a vivid journey of traditional Japanese architecture, history and abundant nature. Nestled within the grounds of a historic temple garden on the western edge of the famously scenic Nara Park, and opening in Aug 2023, Shisui, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Nara blends modern luxury comforts with the intricate culture of Japan. Guests can explore nearby world heritage sites like Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Kofukuji Temple, and Todaiji Temple, or hop on a quick train to the ancient capital of Kyoto and the bustling city of Osaka under an hour away.
Delve deeper into the rich history and unique flavors of Japanese cuisine in Fukuoka, a city blessed with a mix of mountains and sea and a climate that’s ideal for flora and fauna to flourish. Complementing the city’s renown as a lively food capital, newly-opened The Ritz-Carlton, Fukuoka presents a sophisticated gourmet retreat with four restaurants and two bars that celebrate Japan’s high-quality produce and finest culinary traditions - kaiseki, sushi, and teppanyaki.
Uncover hidden stories of Asia’s ancient cities
Transport yourself to a different time and region’s oldest civilizations. Located in one of the Chinese Four Great Ancient Capitals, the new JW Marriott Hotel Xi’an integrates the beauty of the ancient city of Xi’an with the sophistication and luxury of the JW Marriott brand. Explore a remarkable destination home to six UNESCO World Heritage cultural and historic sites, including the Daming Palace National Heritage Park, Ancient City Wall and Terracotta Warriors. Designed to reflect the city’s 3,000-year-old rich history, the hotel features curated artworks and thoughtful interiors that guide guests on a journey through the Silk Road.
Opening in 2024, The Ritz-Carlton, Bangkok invites guests to stay in the center of Asia's "Great City of Angels". Located on the prestigious Wireless Road with unprecedented views of the adjacent Lumpini Park, and a short drive to cultural landmarks like The Grand Palace, the first Ritz-Carlton hotel in Thailand’s capital seamlessly blends the brand’s legendary service with the best of Thai hospitality, design, culture and cuisine. Guests can retreat to a truly urban resort in the middle of the city’s bustle, complemented by four distinct restaurants and bars as well as the signature Ritz-Carlton Spa.
Rediscover iconic cities through community
Experience the region’s most popular and iconic destinations through a unique lens. The socially forward W Hotel brings its contemporary, bold culture to vibrant locations of Sydney, Macau and Nanjing. The brand’s elevated design is distinct and imagined through the lens of both the brand and its location, setting a new social scene with high-energy programming designed to spark conversations, connections and fostering a sense of community among travelers. W Sydney and W Macau - Studio City open in late 2023.
Rejuvenate in the solitude of Asia’s most breathtaking naturescapes
Escape from the city and seek respite in the quiet mountains and iridescent lakes of Jiuzhaigou Valley. Located in the southeast of China and tucked in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and World Biosphere Reserve, Rissai Valley, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve offers a luxurious sanctuary of seclusion through its 87 private villas with panoramic views of the snow-capped Minshan mountain range. In between excursions of the surrounding 72,000-hectare nature reserve, guests can rejuvenate in immersive experiences deeply rooted in the history, culture and natural beauty of the destination.
Wash tired senses with the breathtaking vistas and fresh oceanic air of Jeju Island. Perched on a cliffside overlooking the stunning volcanic coastlines of the island, and designed by award-winning interior designer Bill Bensley, JW Marriott Jeju Resort & Spa is a haven for guests seeking to revitalize in body, mind and spirit. Guests can expect to rejuvenate through nature-fused wellness offerings such as meditation yoga and sound healing, and glimpse into the culture of Jeju through tea ceremonies, traditional wine tastings and more.
Whisk away on a spiritual wellness journey in the coastal paradise of Goa. Located along India’s golden Goan coastline and close to landmark attractions, historic forts, churches, and pristine beaches, JW Marriott Goa is the perfect getaway and an embodiment of the JW Marriott principle of mindfulness. Holistic treatments at Spa by JW feature Goa's first and only Turkish and Moroccan hammams, or steam rooms, alongside chakra healing sessions and Gua Sha workshops designed for the whole family. Complementing the resort's commitment to healthy dining, guests can harvest their own seasonal vegetables and fresh herbs grown in the hotel's signature JW Garden.
Note on Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of United States federal securities laws, including statements related to our development pipeline; expected hotel openings and additions; brand debuts in certain markets; our growth prospects in the Asia Pacific region; the power of Marriott Bonvoy; travel trends and expectations; and similar statements concerning possible future events or expectations that are not historical facts. We caution you that these statements are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to numerous evolving risks and uncertainties that we may not be able to accurately predict or assess, including the risk factors that we identify in our Securities and Exchange Commission filings, including our most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K or Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q. Any of these factors could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations we express or imply in this press release. We make these statements as of the date of this press release, and we undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise these statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
About Marriott International
Marriott International, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAR) is based in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, and encompasses a portfolio of more than 8,500 properties under 31 leading brands spanning 138 countries and territories. Marriott operates and franchises hotels and licenses vacation ownership resorts all around the world. The company offers Marriott Bonvoy®, its highly awarded travel program. For more information, please visit our website at www.marriott.com, and for the latest company news, visit www.marriottnewscenter.com. In addition, connect with us on Facebook and @MarriottIntl on Twitter and Instagram.
Senior Director, Brand PR & Comms, APAC
Senior Director, Communications, APEC