Female 1% drives luxury travel to new places

Rising numbers of female millionaires and billionaires around the world may help drive a rise in luxury health and wellness holidays and women-only hotel services.

The number of female ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWI) — those with net assets of $30 million or more, excluding their primary residences — is increasing faster than male UHNWI, encouraging travel agencies, hotels and tour operators to focus on their interests. These include holidays that focus on "wellness" and can be combined with business or voluntary work, according to data provider, WealthInsight.

"Interview and secondary research show that spas, yoga, meditation, health and wellness are appealing to female UHNWI," Roselyn Lekdee, economist at WealthInsight, told CNBC on Wednesday.

A woman does yoga at the Shangri-La's Villingili Resort and Spa Hotel in Male, Maldives.
EyesWideOpen | Getty Images

Locations with large UHNWI populations:

  • Europe — Germany, U.K., Switzerland, France and Sweden
  • Asia-Pacific — Japan, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and India
  • North America — U.S. and Canada

In a report on Tuesday, Lekdee said the number of wealthy females rose by 5.3 percent between 2010 and 2014 in locations with large UHNWI populations (see above). The number of male UHNWIs rose by 4.4 percent, although there were still far more male than female multimillionaires.

"As wealthy females have greater control over their careers and finances, they are becoming more selective about holidays, demanding personal and more sophisticated services," Lekdee said.

$494B industry

"Wellness" tourism can incorporate a wide range of activities including spa, yoga, detox, fitness and stress relief. The industry is worth $494 billion globally, according to the Global Wellness Institute, an industry body.

This type of tourism is growing and proving popular with solo travelers — and women. Several Asian countries are benefiting from the trend, with Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and India known for high-end health and wellness holidays.

"UHNWIs globally often travel to these countries for luxury spa and detox retreats," Lekdee told CNBC.

Spas are offered by many of the region's luxury hotel chains, including the Four Seasons, Shangri-La, Mandarin Oriental and Hyatt.

There are also chains of high-end spa resorts like Banyan Tree, which has hotels in Thailand, Indonesia, the Maldives and the Seychelles.

The Ananda Spa offers white-water rafting, safaris and treks in the snow-capped Indian Himalayas, as well as yoga, meditation, fitness training and spa treatments.

Women only

Luxury hotels in the Middle East are meeting a different demand from women. In regions with large Muslim populaces, hotels sometimes allocate floors solely for women travelers.

Dubai's Jumeirah Emirates Towers hotel, which is aimed at business travelers, offers a ladies-only floor for "executive women seeking sophistication, luxury and exclusivity." Rooms come with cosmetic refrigerators and are serviced only by female staff.

As elsewhere in the world, wellness is important. The female-only floor at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh features its own gym, as Saudi Arabia's laws mean women cannot use the main health club. Bedrooms come with yoga mats and the female-only floor has its own check-in desk and lounge.

London is popular with visitors from the Gulf States and at least one of the capital's hotels has trialed a female-only floor. The Hilton on Park Lane, Mayfair — a district popular with Arab visitors — launched one in 2003, only to quietly drop it a few years later, according to media reports. This suggested the floor may have lacked appeal because its bedrooms were more expensive than others in the hotel.

Other hotels in the city have retained "female-friendly" bedrooms. The "Duchess" rooms at Dukes in Mayfair tout makeup mirrors, lifestyle magazines and flowers, as well as female-only room service and smaller slippers. Meanwhile, the female-friendly bedrooms at the five-star Grange City hotel near the Tower of London come with extra security features — doorbells, spy-holes and chain locks.

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