You might have read our previous article on the risks around last-minute holidays, where fraudsters can easily exploit a buyer’s sense of urgency and willingness to leap into a booking without overthinking it.
But it’s not just the low-cost, last-minute holiday market that suffers from fraud. High-value luxury holiday rentals and exclusive destinations – like ski chalets, high-class villas and boutique resorts – are also being targeted by fraudulent companies to trick unwitting holidaymakers out of larger sums of money.
The number of people seeking more from their holiday than a simple stay has risen, and luxury holiday fraud has risen with it. What are the risks, and what can you do to avoid them?
Luxury Travel: What is it?
The ‘luxury’ travel market has changed subtly in recent decades. No longer solely about ‘traditional’ luxury – opulent hotels, refined service and cuisine, incredible fittings and the finest accessories – a luxury holiday can now also encompass private island resorts, remote regional tours and even off-planet experiences.
A report by Amadeus, ‘Shaping The Future Of Luxury Travel’, highlights how in recent years, luxury travellers have become more affluent, originate from all parts of the globe and are willing to spend more to find truly exclusive experiences.
The idea of ‘luxury’ is very subjective and does not mean one thing to everyone – travellers are now more sophisticated, and travel companies and destination marketers have noticed a definite shift in values from the material to the experiential or experimental, as holidaymakers seek more than just a change of scenery. With the rise in the number of people opting for ‘luxury’ choices, the new challenge is now to maintain the image of luxury and exclusivity in a mass market.
The more recent breed of luxury travellers can now be defined by both their intentions and their behaviours, not just their level of affluence, as they seek enrichment on a personal level, not just in a material sense. They shy away from options that appear packaged and place a higher value on experiences, looking for exclusive encounters and individually-tailored adventures. The secret lies in providers emphasising what they can deliver beyond their usual offerings, and presenting opportunities that are authentic, transient, and available to only a chosen few.
Many of these findings are echoed in the Global Luxury Travel Market report by Analytical Research Cognizance, which surmised: “Luxury travel today is defined less by thread count and Michelin stars and more by access to the people, places and experiences that represent all that is authentic about a destination.”
During a holidaymaker’s exploration, research and purchase process, they need to see a sophisticated level of knowledge and understanding of the local culture, surroundings and environment in order to gain the confidence to confirm this is the kind of holiday they want to invest in.
Fraudsters, therefore, have themselves also become more sophisticated in their efforts to deceive travellers, creating websites and online profiles that match the level of in-depth details – about the accommodation, destination and activities on offer – that their victims will be looking for.
Luxury Holiday Scams
In order to fool unsuspecting travellers, fraudsters need to present their false listings in as convincing a way as possible. People booking luxury holidays make decisions based on quality rather than price, and so criminals must pay a lot of attention to tangible details:
- Great Photos: The accommodation and surroundings will be presented using professional photographs. The only trouble is, they are copied from genuine listings or other online brochures.
- Charming Descriptions: They make the destination and the holiday rental property sound amazing, but they are possibly lifted from another website.
- Faked Reviews: Again, painting the accommodation in very good light, but not actually written by real people, or for a real place.
- Convincing Payment Page: Some fake holiday accommodation websites will make themselves appear legitimate by creating an official-looking payment page. But all it does is collect your details, which can be used not only to make a ‘failed transfer’ document look genuine, but can be stolen to buy other items in your name.
What can we learn?
Not everything is as it seems online. It’s very easy for criminals to create fake listings that look enticing and very convincing to the untrained eye. However, if something doesn’t seem quite right about a listing – when you know what to look out for – it’s possible to beat the fraudsters at their own game.
Read more from I-PRAC Media:
- The Increasing Sophistication of Fraudsters
- Can You Really Trust Holiday Property Reviews?
- How to Spot Fake Photos on a Holiday Property Listing
The Future of Luxury Travel
The global luxury travel market has shown much resilience, and even expanded, despite economic challenges sweeping the world over the last decade. The Amadeus report forecasts growth for this sector of 6.2% over the next ten years – around 30% more than that for overall travel in the same period. And with travellers seeking more interesting and untried options, providers will need to continue to come up with new ideas for unique experiences and adventures.
As the luxury travel sector grows, so will the opportunities for fraud within it. It’s important for holidaymakers to become increasingly aware of the potential traps and risks posed by online booking, and to remain vigilant in order to avoid falling victim to the varieties of holiday scams around the world. Fraudsters do not discriminate by location, wealth, age or choices in travel, and continue to adapt to target markets that were previously underestimated and untapped.
I-PRAC is working hard to protect all travellers from fraud, and to make people more aware of measures they should take to avoid falling victim to criminal and underhand activity. Want to know more? Feel free to get in touch, or browse the range of advice and industry-led articles from I-PRAC Media.