Virtuoso shares insight on 2023 trends, growth, member feelings

David Kolner, EVP reveals AU/NZ members are the group's most optimistic

David Kolner, Executive Vice President, Virtuoso

Luxury travel advisors and partners from Australia and New Zealand are Virtuoso’s most optimistic about their businesses, it has been revealed at Virtuoso Travel Week 2023 in Las Vegas.

David Kolner, Executive Vice President, Virtuoso shared details on the feelings of the luxury network’s members during the opening session at VTW, also providing key insight on some of the latest data, trends and forecasts for the group, including an updated number of the forecasted growth in high-net-worth individuals – Virtuoso’s niche audience.

Global growth of the Virtuoso targeted traveller – the quantity of high-net-worth individuals (those with >US$1 million in assets) has shown steady growth in all markets globally.

“We are so excited because of the market opportunity of the target traveller of Virtuoso because it is globally distributed growth,” Kolner said.

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Citing a Credit Suisse World Wealth Report in 2022, Kolner said Virtuoso is forecasting the number of new high-net-worth individuals to surge by 16 million (or 34%) over a five-year period from 2021 to 2026 – steadily growing from 46.7 million in 2021 to 67.8 million.

China is the most dominant market with HNW individuals, which number a staggering 6 million, followed by the United States at 3.2 million, then the UK (1.8 million), France (1.1 million), and Canada (1.06 million) in the top 5. Australia is tipped to be the sixth largest market for affluent travellers over that time period, with 764,000, ahead of the likes of Germany, Switzerland, Brazil and Spain.

Kolner said that based on an even faster-than-expected recovery in growth this year, projections have accelerated by 18%, and Virtuoso is now anticipating an increase in leisure travel spending, to be up 173%.

Furthermore, citing World Travel & Tourism Council data, Kolner said the total number of travel and tourism jobs (forecast to be 320,000,000 in 2023) will increase by 110 million over the next 10 years (to 430,000,000), representing a rise in total global GDP contribution from the sector, from 9.2% to 11.6% – almost twice as fast as the forecast global economy.

On the booking front, for the first half of 2023, sales across the Virtuoso network are up 37% compared to the same time last year, setting a new record in total sales. That growth is up 56% up on 2019.

Broken down, sales for destinations and experiences (of on-site tour operators) are up 26% against the 2019 level, and cruise booking demand has jumped 23%.

Hotel sales have boomed since 2019, as to be expected, and are now 100% higher than they were five years ago, while hotel reservations in the past year alone are up 19%.  That’s also the same percentage increase Virtuosos have sold preferred hotel partners since 2019. Kolner noted that the increase in hotel sales isn’t a direct result of higher average daily room rates, but also the sheer volume at which is being reserved.

Kolner provided an update on how Virtuoso’s advisors and partners are feeling about their business, with the luxury network’s latest 2023 Pulse Survey indicating a two-year high global average member optimism level (at 87%), while the number of those neutral has dropped in the past 18 months or so, to 12%.

Australia and New Zealand are the most optimistic markets (at 93%), followed by Latin America/Caribbean (90%) and the USA (88%). Interestingly, the UK/Ireland market had the most ‘neutral/unsure’ feeling about their business right now, at 42%, double that of Asia (21%) and the Middle East/Africa region (20%).

“Preferred partners also remained incredibly optimistic,” Kolner said, with their average optimism level in July 2023 at 74%. Tourism Boards, on sites, cruise operators and tour operators were on average 88% optimistic, while hoteliers were 65%, pulled down by a near 30 percent level of uncertainty.

Kolner also provided insight on how Virtuoso is tracking for future travel, citing US outbound figures where it has the highest amount of volume and data sharing. Based on bookings of all leisure travel types made in the first half of 2019, 2022 and 2023, for travel 1-2 years in the future, there has been a 39% jump in sales in 2023 vs 2022, and a whopping 107% against 2019. More specifically for cruising only, sales are up 44% in the past year, with a sales record for the highest future cruises for Virtuoso.

The executive also announced that Virtuoso had now sent out over 1 million surveys to clients in the last 10 years to Virtuoso clients. The feedback from those polls found that 94.4% said they would recommend using a Virtuoso preferred partner, while a behemoth 99.1% said they would recommend using a Virtuoso advisor.

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