Travelers' current mindset is clear: High-end, high-spend

Rebecca Tobin

Luxury travelers don’t always travel during a pandemic. But when they do, they want to go big.

That’s one takeaway from travel advisors who completed a survey from Travel Weekly and ILTM in late July on luxury travel trends. Nearly half of the 173 respondents said that luxury travel was more than 50% of their total 2019 travel sales.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said that they were on track to sell about the same or more luxury trips this year than in 2019.

Three-quarters said they had seen an increase in queries and bookings from new customers in the last six months.

And 62% said that luxury clients were spending slightly or significantly more now than they were before the pandemic.

“Travelers are interested in living large,” one advisor wrote in response to an open-ended question about pandemic-era travel patterns. “Big suites, in-room pools, private chef, private jet, etc.”

“That ‘revenge travel’ thing is true (although I do not like the term),” wrote Alana Wallace of Holiday Cruises and Tours of Scottsdale, Ariz. “People are upgrading everything, from flights (first class) to resorts/hotels (suites, butler service) to activities (private, bucket list).”

The enthusiasm of some advisors seems to jibe with other findings. For example, the ILTM North America conference on the Riviera Maya sold out two months ahead of its September date; conference organizers said that two-thirds of the agents in attendance will be new to the show. Simon Mayle, the event’s director, said that “we have no doubt Q4 will be the busiest booking period to date, with many luxury agents already seeing booking equal to or greater than 2019.”

Of course, many survey respondents said that their clients were still continuing to put off travel, and travel intentions may change as the delta variant continues its march through the U.S.

But among those with clients on the road, advisors say their clients want customized vacations. Luxury all-inclusive. Multiple bookings. Longer trips. Private tours.

Here’s something else they want: Dining.

In response to a question asking respondents to rank the importance of several types of travel activities, outdoor activities, natural attractions, bucket-list destinations and specific ships or hotels were important. But nearly 68% said that dining was “very important” to clients, far and away the option with the most responses.

They also want the service of a travel agent.

More than 80% of those polled said that clients were turning to advisors for “knowledge — always in the loop, e.g. travel regulations, government advice, safety information, etc.” Sixty-one percent said that clients valued advisors for their ability to manage the changeable nature of travel right now. And 64% said that the “human touch” — reassurance of having a person on hand in times of uncertainty — was important.

As one advisor wrote, a trend they’re seeing right now is “the willingness of working with a travel advisor for managing the new safety, health and financial protocols.”

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