Dalton flags headwinds and opportunities in luxury travel

"Revenge Travel continues to drive demand," says Virtuoso AU/NZ GM

Australia’s increasing number of ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) individuals provides an “incredible opportunity” for the region’s luxury travel advisors, says Virtuoso’s Fiona Dalton, General Manager, Australia & New Zealand.

Addressing 90 Virtuoso agency owner-managers on Sunday at the opening session of Virtuoso’s first off-shore AU/NZ Forum since 2019, Dalton said Australia’s number of millions escalated last year by 22% – the highest percentage increase in actual millionaires for any country, for any year, in the past century.

“While the United States has the largest number of UHNW individuals in the world, Australia hasn’t lagged behind,” Dalton said, citing a Credit Suisse wealth report of 2022 that placed Australia as the 8th largest market of UHNWIs – those with net assets of over US$50 million – “yet we rank as the 55th most populated country in the world.”

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According to data from the World Travel & Tourism Commission, tourism now contributes over $7 billion in global GDP, accounting for one in every 10 jobs on the planet. Only agriculture employs more.

To get a better gauge of the future, Virtuoso asked members in the US what factors will impact travel in 2023 – knowing often their experiences are reflective in our region (aside from certain trends). They suggested geopolitical conflicts and stock market volatility, paired with labour shortages were the “most critical factors” to consider.

“This coupled with recessionary fears, supply chain challenges and political uncertainty, means it’s not all a bed of roses,” Dalton warned.

“And I think we can agree some of those alarm bells are ringing here. It means with the post-pandemic growth slowing, inflation is increasing and interest rates are rising. The economic headwinds are blowing stronger.”

Dalton also cited a recent Knight Frank Wealth report for 2023 that flagged a 10% dip in the aggregate net wealth of Australian UHNW individuals. She further mentioned comments made by Tourism Australia’s Managing Director, Phillipa Harisson, last week at the Destination Australia summit, in which the tourism boss highlighted a shift following the pandemic from “health concerns shifting to wealth concerns,” as highlighted by LATTE last week.

“Despite these wealth concerns, some 69% of global UHNW individuals plan to increase their overseas travel in 2023,” Dalton added.

She said that following the pandemic, “when all is said and done, there’s no denying that luxury travel in all shapes and forms, has cemented its role as a key consideration for the allocation of wealth in 2023”.

“All the indicators show that revenge travel continues to drive demand in our market today,” Dalton said.

Virtuoso network as it stands

Globally, Virtuoso now has 1,200 agency locations around the world with 2,300 preferred global and regional partners, generating over $30 million. In Australia and New Zealand, the luxury network has 59 members, across 166 locations with around 1,900 advisors, which accounts for 9% of our global Virtuoso advisors.

Eight new members have joined the region in the past year. They include Travel Inspirations, Well Connected Traveller (Perth), Ballarat Lifestyle Travel, Bay Travel Group, Benalla Travel, Destination HQ, Celestielle and the newest member, LUXE by travel [Read more about LUXE by itravel here.]

Dalton also highlighted those existing Virtuoso members who have leveraged their membership over the last 12 months to expand their locations, including Hunter Travel Group to nine, ATPI which acquired The Travel Authority and rebranding those and adding a further two branches, 1000 Travel Mile Luxe, a branded branch of Allure by CTM with approx 12 qualifying independent contractors, as well as Totem Connections, a branch of CT Connections.

The sold-out Virtuoso AU/NZ Forum was sponsored by Explora Journeys, Accor Hotels and Resorts, Switzerland Tourism, Tourism Fiji, Oceania Cruises and Fiji Airways.

More from the two-day event in today’s LATTE and over the coming weeks.

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