The new concept of luxury and the evolution of the demand, the perspectives in the near future and the role of the travel agents. Virtuoso‘s vision in the words of David Kolner, executive vice president of the company, in an exclusive interview with Guida Viaggi. The statistics mentioned come from Virtuoso’s network of travel advisors, preferred partners and clientele based on a data warehouse of more than $63.6 billion in transactions and an ongoing series of surveys.
Gv: What do you think is the new concept of luxury and how important is experientiality?
“57 percent of travelers across the globe said that ‘creating a travel experience that best fits my expectations is more important than price’. Thirty-seven percent of high-net-worth individuals are traveling for cultural reasons, 34 percent are looking for adventure and 16 percent are seeking expedition travel. Sustainability has taken on a significant importance for high-net worth travelers in recent years. According to ‘The Virtuoso Impact Report, Sustainable Travel, 2023’, 88 percent of travelers want to see their tourism dollars go toward protecting the planet”.
Gv: How is the demand of luxury travellers evolving?
“Travel shows no signs of slowing down. In the first half of 2023, Virtuoso reported a 69 percent uptick in sales versus 2019 numbers, with hotel and cruise segments leading the way, up 173 percent and 122 percent respectively. Hotels across the world have seen a 58 percent increase compared to 2019. Paris, London and Florence ranking among the most-booked cities this fall, proving interest in travelers to enjoy off-season travel that is more sustainable for local economies and gives travelers cooler weather, lower prices and less crowds”.
Gv: What scenario do you identify for the luxury segment in the next 5 years?
“Travel continues to thrive and future leisure travel sales leading into 2024-2025 are strong. When comparing sales leading into 2020 from 2019, considered to be luxury travel’s highwater mark, 2023’s future sales are pacing 107 percent higher. Future sales for 2023 into 2024 are also pacing 44 percent higher than they were in 2022 leading into 2023. Likewise, 2023 future cruise sales are 44 percent higher than they were in 2022 and 106 percent higher versus 2019. According to Credit Suisse World Wealth Report 2022, the segment of high net-worth travelers will expand globally by 16 million new consumers between 2021-2026, a growth of 34 percent and a significant increase in the size and opportunity of travelers in the luxury segment”.
Gv: In what sense do you think travel agents can play a decisive role in satisfying the needs of these travellers?
“Travelers place importance on genuine, personalized service and their willingness to invest in collaborating with a travel advisor to arrange Vip treatment and access, to have reassurance, accountability and save time, and to ultimately have the experience they want”. Gv: Which markets are emerging for luxury? For many, private travel is something they tried in the pandemic and a luxury they’re not willing to give up now, even as the scarcity of exclusive-use products drives up rates. Yachting is increasing in demand in the Caribbean, Croatia, Greece and St Tropez, and Virtuoso’s 2023 yacht bookings are up 79 percent over 2019. Private aviation is climbing in popularity for domestic and shorter international flights, while commercial first-class is still the go-to for longer-haul flights. More travelers are seeking out activities that require greater mental and physical exertion. There’s a rising interest in scientific expeditions like shadowing researchers in Antarctica and the Galapagos, and C-suite clients are indulging in activities that push beyond the typical comforts. Food and wine are top priorities, especially among Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers: 70 percent of Virtuoso advisors have seen an increase in culinary travel and 20 percent of clients book trips with food and wine as the main focus. They’re willing to pay for it, too – a whopping 47 percent spend between $10,000 and $25,000 per trip, with another 15 percent spending $25,000-$50,000 per trip. On the rise are culinary destinations such as Portugal, Copenhagen, Croatia and Colombia, with each poised to become culinary capitals. The wellness sector continues to thrive, with 94 percent of travelers incorporating self-care into their travels and a rising interest in programs that incorporate creative and performance art”.