The rise of the new luxury economy


Travel has always played host to dramatic and often disruptive changes. At CMS’s annual technology conference, Innovate to Survive, onefinestay’s CEO, Javier Cedillo-Espin delivered a keynote, summarised in this article. You can also watch the recording below.

onefinestay – a service that allows owners of distinctive and upmarket homes to rent them out while they are away – was born in the era of the shared economy. It was founded in 2009, at a time when the travel industry was once again being transformed by innovative thinking outside the box.

Travel has always played host to dramatic and often disruptive changes. After all, only 100 years ago travel was a luxury that only a very few could afford – this was the heyday of luxury: the upper classes were the travellers, and brought their entire lives with them when they visited the Americas or Australia or Asia. This was the luxury of service that would speak when spoken to. Then, in the post war period was a dramatic change. For both demographic and technological reasons, travel started to become more accessible to a wider, albeit still wealthy, pool of people. The likes of Conrad Hilton and PanAm lead the charge in providing luxury experiences to guests on a larger scale.

It was the rise of jet and transatlantic travel that was truly transformative for the travel industry as it made travel accessible to the middle class and accelerated the proliferation of standardisation within hotel chains, such as the Sheraton and Hilton. These hotels became more comfortable and more accessible for a new class of travellers. In doing this, standardised service became the new luxury – guests staying in a hotel chain in Paris wanted the same standard of service and experience if staying in the same chain in Rome. This was the era of iced water, air conditioning and English breakfast everywhere from New York to New Delhi; Paris to Prague.

Then the dotcom boom hit. Everyone remembers the dotcom boom and the excitement of initiatives such as Yahoo Travel which put places all over the world in reach of most people with simply the click of a button. The internet was massively disruptive for the travel industry as it all became about convenience and ability for the consumer to control the booking process. For example, the emergence of Last – a website which offered late “last minute” holiday deals online – was again considered to be the newest form of luxury because waiting until the last minute to book, and not necessarily being penalised on price, was the next generation of luxury. The internet helped propel an explosion of activity on the and opened up major new distribution channels in the travel industry.

What has happened since then, however, is that the glamour and romance of travel has transformed into a transactional process of simply “click here and book”. Operators in an increasingly competitive environment have had to start innovating and offering alternative experiences to differentiate their services.

One of the biggest developments in this space was the sharing economy that really found traction in the last global recession. It monetised other people’s assets and, in the case of travel - also offered the ultimate unique experience.

Travellers since the post war era had rightly believed that that bar for luxury was shiny, standardised hotels. But now, the enigma of the sharing economy fed peoples hunger for something different, real and local. This offering along with space and flexibility opened the world to a new luxury.

onefinestay believes that by offering this ‘new luxury’ along with the finest homes and the finest service - puts them at the forefront of where the luxury economy has arrived thanks to tech, innovation and cultural change. onefinestay also understand that to remain at the forefront of luxury travel, the core offer of hyper-personal experience must be constantly reimagined.

As a result, onefinestay is only going to grow further as customers, the greatest gravitational force for any business, increasingly demand such services. The number of people travelling is rising particularly from emerging markets while millennials are constantly seeking out new experiences and helping to define the new luxury in travel.

In order to thrive, onefinestay will continue to innovate as it has always done. Eight years ago onefinestay began with only four luxurious homes and now it offers more than 10,000 homes in over 180 destinations in 33 countries. Consumers want choice and unique experiences in as many places as possible that they can access digitally and instantly. This tailor-made approach has transformed onefinestay from a private rental company in the shared economy into a lifestyle company in the space of high travel. This is a truly bespoke service that customers are willing to pay a premium for and explains why onefinestay has a viable, defendable business.

Watch the video of "Rise of the new luxury economy" below: