Skift Take

Experience continues to trump price for high-net-worth travelers, whose appetite for luxury travel isn't slowing down.

Virtuoso‘s platform has a network of 20,000 luxury travel advisors, and here’s what they’re seeing: Sales of exclusive experiences are up. Yacht bookings are up. Prices – way up.

High-net-worth travelers are “going from one private experience to another,” said Misty Belles, Virtuoso vice president for public relations during a media briefing Monday in Las Vegas. “Rates are still driving really high throughout the fall,” said Belles.

Luxury travelers are spending between $10,000 to $50,000 per trip, most notably for culinary travel, according to 70% of Virtuoso’s advisors.

Sales across all its travel sectors were 69% higher than in 2019 and 36% higher than in 2022. Cruises have also shown marked recovery, with sales up 106% compared to 2019.

Yacht bookings for 2023 are also up 79% over 2019, with high demand in the Caribbean, Croatia, Greece and San Tropez.

The Currency of ‘How Did You Make Me Feel

Despite the increased cost of travel and recession red flags, luxury travelers have grown accustomed to the exclusive use experience adopted during the pandemic, suggested Belles, with 57% of luxury travelers across markets surveyed by Virtuoso stating, “Creating a travel experience that best fits my expectations is more important than price.”

Expectations from travelers have risen with prices, leading to more complaints around service, according to Belles.

Experiences made special with personal recommendations and special in destination discoveries, coupled with service matters, added Belles, with the survey results showing expectations from travelers in this regard were significantly high in destinations like Mexico (74%), Hong Kong (70%), Brazil (68%), China (67%) and Australia (63%).

Wellness Travel also continues to be high on the agenda, with 94% of travelers incorporating wellness into their travel, with Gen Xers most seeking out self-care.

While rates continue to rise, there may be a correction in pricing for properties that cannot match the level of luxury competitors offer.

Impact of Climate Change on Travel Choice 

Virtuoso’s Impact report further showed establishments with demonstrated sustainable initiatives were viewed as more valuable and more likely to be booked by these travelers.

The report detailed over 3,000 initiatives within 215 partners of Virtuoso, who were focusing on three main areas: protecting the planet (50%), celebrating cultures (30%), and supporting local economies (20%).

The initiatives included conserving almost 18 million acres of land, a carbon offset of over 200,000 metric tons of carbon. At the same time, 81% of Virtuoso’s partners said they focused on gender equality and empowering women and girls. 

Luxury travel advisors further believe climate change will continue influencing travel decisions, “with travelers opting for cooler destinations, with increased demand for destinations like Norway and Copenhagen,” destinations not typically booked for summer.

Virtuoso travel advisors are encouraging clients to book well in advance due to tight availability, especially for trending destinations, noting the return to advanced booking patterns, less hotel flexibility, and the potential implementation of visas in various countries, even for the U.S.

A travel advisor panel discussion held during the Virtuoso Travel Week briefing further outlined the following trends to watch:

Expedition Cruising: Antarctic and general expeditions have the allure of remote destinations. Travelers are also looking for experiences that are mentally and physically exertion. 

Last-Mile Experience: As hotel companies build in remote locations such as Costa Rica, the last-mile experience is becoming crucial. Innovations like seaplanes and tailored transfers add value.

Emerging Destinations: The development of new products and the growth of lesser-known destinations create new opportunities for luxury travel. Places like Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the Red Sea Project are coming onto the radar.

Exclusive Event-Based Travel: There is a growing interest in unique experiences around sporting events like F1, tennis, golf, and other exclusive events. Clients are willing to spend more on curated all-access or behind-the-scenes experiences instead of just watching from the sidelines, reflecting a further shift towards experiential luxury.

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Tags: artificial intelligence, experiences, luxury, sustainability, tours and activities, travel advisors, travel tech, Travel Trends, Virtuoso

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