Top destinations and preference for upscale travellers

Latest trends and where's hot, revealed at Virtuoso Travel Week

Virtuoso has revealed when, where and how the affluent are traveling next. Respected as an industry-leading trend forecaster, Virtuoso gathered data and insights from its network of travel advisors, preferred partners and high net worth/ultra-high net worth clientele based on its data warehouse of more than US$49.5 billion in transactions and an ongoing series of surveys. The results were shared at Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas, where the latest news and trends affecting the luxury travel industry are unveiled.

While travel has felt, at times, uncertain during 2022, luxury travellers have led the way forward, even in the face of covid variants, travel restrictions, and overwhelmed airports.

The pent-up demand that many felt during the last few years has resulted in a surge in flights and bookings, resulting in trends like revenge travel and hectic “Airmageddon” scenes at major airports around the world.

Travellers are ready to get back out there and spend, and not just to Europe but the broader world. Both inbound and outbound leisure travel sales are booming, in some cases surpassing 2019 levels, and booking windows have normalized back to pre-pandemic numbers. Despite the challenges, it’s undeniable that the future is bright, with travel sales in 2023 pacing 47% higher than 2019.

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An overview of the information is below, with complete findings here.

Travel Roars Back

  • Upscale travellers are ready to resume their pre-pandemic travel lives and have consistently led the way, even during shaky times. In January 2022, 85% said they were in a ready-to-travel mindset and 86% planned to take an international trip. Fast forward to summer 2022, even airports overwhelmed with air traffic and lost baggage is no strong deterrent for getting back out there.
  • When it comes to recovery, the spend for outbound leisure travel is expected to outpace actual travel (ie, the volume of people on the ground). According to Tourism Economics, in some markets, like Australia, UK, and France, the differential between the two is quite slim. For others, like Mexico, China, and Brazil, the spend is expected to return years ahead of the number of outbound travellers.
  • Outbound leisure travel sales have shown a strong rebound, even in markets where borders only recently opened up. The US has already outperformed 2019 numbers for 2022 by 122%, Australia by 113% and Canada – at 80% – is rapidly catching up. Globally, we have surpassed 2019 – travel’s high water mark – for outbound travel booked January-July at 102%.
  • Hotel booking windows are much wider than they were in 2019. Now, the median window for domestic hotels is 58 days (compared to 2019’s 44) and 80 days for international hotels (compared to 60). This is viewed as good news for hotels but for travellers it means more difficulty finding deals and discounts.
  • 76% of travellers have accepted a “new normal” (up from 35% in January 2022), with many travellers making peace with all the uncertainty and volatility. Now, the number of travellers who were put off by travelling in January 2022 has dropped by 26 points (from 38% to 12%).
  • Future sales of travel in 2023 are pacing 47% higher than 2019 – great news for cruising, which is leading the way with heavy bookings in 2023.
  • According to Tourism Economics, global outbound leisure spending won’t fully bounce back until Q2 2024 exceeding 2019 levels by 21% by 2024. And from there, the numbers keep climbing, surging to 55% of 2019 levels by 2026.
  • Nearly three-quarters of Virtuoso travellers say “creating a travel experience that best fits my expectations is more important than price,” with plans to increase their previous year’s spend of US$20,700 per person by 34% to US$27,800 in the next year.

Who is Traveling, Where are They Headed, and Why Are They Going Now?

  • How are people traveling? The most popular way is travelling with a spouse or significant other, followed by travelling with friends and family trips with kids under 18. While travelling with friends showed a slight
    decrease (from 46% in 2019 to 36% in 2022), it’s still the second-most popular form of travel.
  • Solo travel is on the rise. Interestingly, among Virtuoso clients, the highest level of interest is coming from the 65+ age group, increasing from 4% in 2019 to 18% in 2022. Meanwhile, the interest among travellers ages 18-34 has dropped from 12% in 2019 to 6% in 2022.
  • Younger, richer travellers are getting out there in a big way. The 18-34 age group averaged 2.2 more international trips in the past year than the 65+ age group and 1.3 more domestic trips.
  • DIY traveLlers took about the same number of trips in the past year as Virtuoso-advised travellers, but the latter took longer trips, spending more nights in hotels, rentals, and cruises and skewed more toward international trips.
  • 78% of travellers say they’re ready to travel now. For 87% of those polled, the dollar’s parity with the Euro plays a factor. And only 35% say that this summer’s air travel complications have caused them to cancel or postpone plans.
  • The hottest global summer destinations are: The United States, Italy, France, Canada, and Greece come out on top, followed by the U.K., Spain, Mexico, Ireland, and Switzerland.
  • The US, Italy, France, Mexico, and Canada are among the top international destinations for September-December 2022.
  • While 45% of people say they’re ready to travel now or within the next 3 months, 38% say it will be 6-12 months before they do so.
  • Disconnecting from the routine and stresses of home and connecting with new people, cultures, and ideas are primary reasons for travel in 2022.
  • Purpose-driven travel remains paramount. Environmentally-friendly philosophies and practices and the preservation of natural and cultural heritage are top-of-mind concerns, especially among Gen Z and Millennials. And many are willing to pay more – 56% of Gen Z and 46% of Millennials for eco-friendly tourism practices and 58% of Gen Z and 52% of Millennials for travel that preserves natural and cultural heritage.
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