For the past eight years, ILTM’s portfolio director, Alison Gilmore, has organized the seven events ILTM puts on each year. Before joining ILTM, she attended the events as a buyer for American Express, where she had regional director and business development roles. I talked to her about wellness, business, and the changes she has seen in the luxury travel industry.
What have been the biggest changes in the luxury travel industry over the last 10 years?
There have been many changes in the industry over the past decade. ILTM had just two events 10 years ago, and now there are seven.
There has been a huge increase in digital and media influence and growth for luxury trips. As middle-class markets develop and mature across the globe, the industry expands to meet their needs.
The definition of luxury travel has also evolved. [Travelers have] a desire to connect with themselves, to join with local communities. They crave the real thing and want to create itineraries that are deeply personal.
The influence of health and wellness is now almost a given; it has driven this industry down a path where every luxury brand is offering something to its clients, such as designer spas, personalized yoga sessions, mindfulness lectures, or itineraries where clients forage for their own plants and design menus that they want to eat.
Luxury brands want access to a new generation of luxury traveler, but they have to be highly sensitive to the demographic. The traveler wants value but also ethical luxury with sustainability at the heart.
There has also been a big rise in travel agents over the last 10 years. And the true meaning of luxury travel is that if everyone can do it, it’s not luxury!
What do you look forward to every year at ILTM Cannes?
Someone recently summed up ILTM Cannes as “the film festival for the luxury travel industry.” There is that feeling of red carpet glitz and glamour which I love. It is almost surreal.
ILTM Cannes is by far the biggest of our portfolio. It is a military operation behind the scenes and takes many people to make it work, but it is worth every long day to see it become such a success year after year.
We take over the town with more than 7,000 luxury travel industry professionals. You can’t walk around without meeting friends and acquaintances, and I look forward to seeing people from all across the world come into the glamorous community we have created in Cannes.
What do you think matters most for luxury travel consumers now?
So much research defines segments of luxury, but at the end of the day, every individual has their own definition. The new buzz phrase is “conscious travel,” and ILTM has commissioned research to be presented this year in Cannes to help explain it. Travelers are looking for wellness, culture, intellectual pursuits, sports, and conservation through luxury travel.
I’ve written about how there is “wellness overload” in the industry and how there are so many definitions of the word. What does wellness mean to you?
With my personal wellness, I combine whatever I can do in the time I have and make every second matter. I try to listen to my body, eat as healthily as possible—though I have my vices—walk a lot, and choose yoga and weights with the occasional personal trainer to keep me on track. I also can fall asleep anywhere, which is wonderful as sleep helps repair the body. A good facial and a great head-massage are also two of my favorite treats.
Our health and wellness define our lives, so I am committed to it not only for myself, but as a component of the luxury travel industry. I introduce elements of it at each of the ILTM events, and I attend global wellness conferences to keep ahead of the trends.
Since you do travel so much, what do you love to eat when you get back home to London?
When I finally get home from traveling, I actually love to cook as I find it relaxing. My go-to dish is a roast chicken and a fresh tabbouleh salad. Very simple but makes me happy!
There are many entrepreneurs in the travel industry, including advisors running their own businesses. What are a few business tips you live by?
I have always believed that you are only as good as the people around you. Build a great team. It does not need to be a big team, just the right team. It takes time, but is absolutely worth it in the long run.
Be a leader, not a manager—there is a difference!
Finally, networking is hard but is the key to success. You need to get out into your industry and make yourself known. I have been doing it forever and can still find it nerve-racking, but a deep breath and a confident smile go a long way.