American Express Travel President Talks About the Post-Pandemic Vacation Boom
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American Express Travel President Talks About the Post-Pandemic Vacation Boom

By Shivani Vora
Tue, Sep 26, 2023 8:35amGrey Clock 3 min

Audrey Hendley, as the president of American Express Travel, is attuned to how trips have evolved in recent years and what vacationers are seeking on those getaways.

The organisation is one of the largest travel and lifestyle networks in the world and spans 7,000 travel consultants in 23 countries. Its global footprint includes 1,400 lounges in 140 countries and more than 1,500 properties in its collection of Fine Hotels + Resorts.

Business at American Express Travel is bouncing back from the pandemic slump: In the second quarter of this year, bookings through the network across 138 million American Express cards that are currently in use reached pre-Covid levels.

Hendley, who lives in Westchester, New York, speaks to Penta about the most in-demand travel destinations, the new movement of traveling with a purpose, and her top advice for maximising any trip.

Penta: What are some travel trends you’re seeing this year?

Audrey Hendley: We have seen a notable shift in people’s interests driving travel decisions. Travellers are booking “set-jetting” trips that are inspired by shows like The White Lotus and Emily in Paris because they are increasingly inspired by pop culture.

Food also continues to impact booking decisions, with people building entire trips around reservations at incredible restaurants like Noma in Copenhagen or blocking off afternoons to do a taco tour in Mexico City. Travel has become less about the “where” and more about the “why.”

Which destinations are the most popular and what’s up and coming?

We put out a Trending Destinations list every year that highlights the places our card members are traveling to; 2023 is a mix of perennial favourites like Paris and the Florida Key, and some lesser-known destinations like Woodstock, Vermont, and Montenegro. While people are still revisiting the cities they love, we are also seeing an increase in trips to places that are off the beaten path. And as borders have opened post-pandemic, we’re seeing more trips being booked to places like Asia and Australia.

How do you think the rising cost of travel will impact decisions in 2023?

Our 2023 Global Travel Trends Report found that 80% of travellers would rather take a dream vacation than purchase a new luxury item. Our values have fundamentally shifted since the pandemic, and now, people want meaning in everything they do—travel included. They’re more purposeful.

Pre-pandemic, travel was about checking off a list of destinations you wanted to see. Now, it’s about really exploring and seeing a place in depth. Travelers will go to fewer places but see more where they do go. And they’re willing to spend on experiences and memories—what better way to create those things than travel?

How are younger generations shepherding the travel trends that we are seeing today?

As they continue to gain independence and financial freedom, millennial and Gen Z travellers are putting their stamp on modern travel trends. They want experiences, especially ones that look good in photos on social media. We are also seeing that they are extremely conscious of the impact their trips have on the environment and the communities they visit. They are pushing the industry to be more purposeful—they want hotels that prioritise sustainability, support local economies by employing locals, and value inclusion and diversity.

Can you speak to the hallmark of a great hotel and a great hotel stay?

It’s a property that knows you when you’re there. The staff addresses you by name and makes you feel at home. They offer exceptional service, a luxury that’s relaxed and infuses your stay with personal touches. I was in Paris on a recent work trip, for example, and stayed at the Maison Delano, one of the newest properties in the city. I walked into my room and found a charger that worked in France waiting for me as a welcome gift. It was such a simple gesture but meant so much on a work trip.

The Centurion Lounge Network has been regarded as one of the most luxurious airport lounge experiences. What sets it apart from other airport lounges?

I think it’s the quality of the product. We try to offer elevated food and local flavours. The lounge at San Francisco Airport, for example, features wines from nearby Napa Valley, and in Seattle, home to a big coffee culture, we have a coffee and espresso bar. With cuisine, we try to use chefs from that location to create menus, and they’re all different by location. We also try to use as many local producers as possible.

In addition, we offer high-touch services like chair massages and manicures in some lounges.

As a globetrotter yourself, what are some of your best travel tips?

I like to travel like a local, especially to touristy destinations. I always look for the small shops and restaurants that give me the true flavour of a destination rather than the big names where all the tourists go.

I also enjoy visiting popular destinations during the so-called off-peak season. I was in Venice [Italy] in February where the weather was glorious, and there weren’t nearly as many crowds as there are during the summer.

On business trips, I love carving out some personal time to balance the intensity of long workdays. I also start the day with some form of exercise whether it’s a run or jog—this also gives me an opportunity to see the destination.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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Going warm and fuzzy for the 2024 Pantone Colour of the Year

Prepare yourself for the year of the peach

Fri, Dec 8, 2023 2 min

Pantone has released its 2024 Colour of the Year — and it’s warm and fuzzy.

Peach Fuzz has been named as the colour to sum up the year ahead, chosen to imbue a sense of “kindness and tenderness, communicating a message of caring and sharing, community and collaboration” said vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, Laurie Pressman.

“A warm and cosy shade highlighting our desire for togetherness with others or for enjoying a moment of stillness and the feeling of sanctuary this creates, PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz presents a fresh approach to a new softness,” she said.

Pantone Colour of the Year is often a reflection of world mood and events

The choice of a soft pastel will come as little surprise to those who follow the Pantone releases, which are often a reflection of world affairs and community mood. Typically, when economies are buoyant and international security is assured, colours tend to the bolder spectrum. Given the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Israeli-Gaza conflict and talk of recession in many countries, the choice of a softer, more reassuring colour is predictable. 

“At a time of turmoil in many aspects of our lives, our need for nurturing, empathy and compassion grows ever stronger as does our imaginings of a more peaceful future,” she said. “We are reminded that a vital part of living a full life is having the good health, stamina, and strength to enjoy it.”

The colour also reflects a desire to turn inward and exercise self care in an increasingly frenetic world.

“As we navigate the present and build toward a new world, we are reevaluating what is important,” she said. “Reframing how we want to live, we are expressing ourselves with greater intentionality and consideration. 

“Recalibrating our priorities to align with our internal values, we are focusing on health and wellbeing, both mental and physical, and cherishing what’s special — the warmth and comfort of spending time with friends and family, or simply taking a moment of time to ourselves.”

Each year since 2000, Pantone has released a colour of the year as a trendsetting tool for marketers and branding agents. It is widely taken up in the fashion and interior design industries, influencing collections across the spectrum. 


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