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ILHA Member Q&A: Rafael Peña, Travel Expert, Travel Noire

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
16 February 2023
3 min read
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Rafael Peña

Welcome to the ILHA as a new member. Can you tell us about your background in the travel space?

Well, in 2019, my fiance and I left our careers in New York City to live in Thailand. We spent a year living in Southeast Asia and then traveled through Europe. We lived in Greece, Italy, and Portugal for weeks at a time. Once we arrived in South America, COVID stopped our travels in their tracks, and we spent most of the lockdown living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After four months of living in Buenos Aires, I returned to New York City and reached out to my network for a job. Eventually, this landed me a writer and content creator position for TravelNoire.com. I write articles about my experiences traveling the world and all things having to do with travel.

Why do you believe leisure travel continues to lead the recovery?

When I was ready to take that leap of living in another country, many people thought I was out of my mind to walk away from everything I knew. Then once the pandemic came around, those people praised me for taking my life into my hands and truly living it. The pandemic made people realize they were living their lives with the wrong purpose in mind. Once companies started to let people work from home it changed the whole landscape of the job market. The whole world watched as their loved ones, old and young, were dying from Covid. Once the lockdowns were lifted people came out of the pandemic with a new perspective on what ‘quality of life’ should be. Hence, we’re seeing the travel industry hit new levels of revenue across the world. People have been taught a lesson on how precious life really is and living it to the fullest has moved to the forefront of their priorities.

What key trends do you see in luxury travel?

I see more Americans are in search of more culture-filled experiences. It’s not just about fancy stays or first-class commercial flights to major cities you’ve seen in Hollywood movies. Luxury travel is also no longer limited to one socioeconomic group of people. Social media has opened the floodgates and exposed luxury experiences to a larger audience. With millions of people now being able to take a peek at these experiences, the business of luxury travel has to push the limits even further. Private islands, charter planes, Michelin-star chefs at your service, and hotels extending their brands into private residences. We even see the luxury travel business expanding into new cities in continents such as South America, Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia.

What are you hoping to gain from joining the ILHA?

The opportunity to share ideas with people who are just as passionate about the business of travel. Learning about new experiences entities are working on, new resorts, new forms of transportation, or how we evolve using the latest forms of technology within travel.

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