Hedonism gives way to "recession chic" in travel

Mon Feb 9, 2009 2:11pm EST
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By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Hedonism is out in the travel business and "recession chic" is in, according to experts at a travel show in New York where customers were looking for bargains to brighten the gloom.

"People are being more value conscious, but just as important, they're being more conscious of their values, and what that means is that they're looking for experiences that speak to their heart," said Daniel Levine, a trend spotter at the Avant-Guide Institute who analyzes social trends.

Levine says as Americans see their savings dwindle and the economy crumbling around them, they are focusing on what is most important -- friends, family, health or the environment -- and taking that into account in planning vacations.

"It's not about hedonism any more," Levine said at the New York Times Travel Show in Manhattan.

"Destinations that are just offering expensive pampering are going to be hurting," he told Reuters. "The ones that are offering experiences that speak to 'recession chic' values are going to do well."

He pointed to a program set up by Ritz-Carlton hotels called "Give Back Getaways," which gives guests at its luxury hotels an opportunity to spend half a day volunteering in the community where they are visiting.

Lydia Dean founded a company called GoPhilanthropic two years ago to design custom-tailored, high-end vacations that incorporate support for social and conservation projects in places such as Vietnam, India and Central America.

"In Vietnam, they're given an opportunity to purchase and donate a portable mobile library to a village that has no books," Dean said. "They get to deliver their book box, spend the afternoon with the children and really get to meet them."   Continued...

<p>Tourists pack a slow boat travelling down the Mekong River on their way to Luang Prabang, Laos, October 25, 2007. REUTERS/Tim Chong</p>