Notes from Virtuoso Travel Week: Engaging the Affluent Client

affluent client
Virtuoso Week.

Do you know what luxury travel means to today’s affluent clients? Do you know where they want to travel? Specifically, where are affluent families traveling and what type of vacation are they seeking? We got answers to these questions at last month’s 30th annual Virtuoso Travel Week, which took place at Las Vegas’ Bellagio Resort & Casino, ARIA Resort & Casino and Vdara Hotel & Spa. 

So what makes affluent clients tick when they choose their vacations? According to a study conducted by Virtuoso in partnership with YouGov, a global public opinion and data company, affluent travelers want to have a personal relationship with a brand, and they are willing to spend more for a brand that customizes the product for them. And customization, says London-based travel advisor Jenny Graham, with Quintessentially Travel—one of four panelists who discussed “What is New Luxury” at Virtuoso Travel Week—can go as far as creating 52 weekend experiences for a retired client and his family (think staying with an African tribe). Or, as New York City-based travel advisor Josh Alexander, with Protravel International, mentioned during the panel discussion, it can mean a honeymoon to Kenya and the Seychelles, with a pre-dinner on the helipad at The St. Regis Abu Dhabi.  

affluent client
Attendees received tasty treats created by the Bellagio pastry team.

Affluent travelers are also willing to pay full price if it means getting the best in service, and say that luxury brands are worth the cost, with many noting that they expect to spend more on luxury travel this year. They also want to immerse themselves in the local culture, want to meet with other travelers, are seeking meaningful experiences, and point out that travel plays a vital role in the way they raise their children. In fact, according to intel from the Digital Tourism Think Tank that was announced during Virtuoso Travel Week, the new generation, Gen Z, are craving active experiences, are seeking unusual destinations, are involving themselves in planning trips, and are looking for visual destinations and experiences for social media. Graham mentioned during the travel advisor panel discussion that with one of her family clients, the children, ages 6 to 15, are choosing where they want to go; the decision rotates from one kid to another. Toronto-based travel advisor Wendy Davis, with Zebrano Travel and also on the panel discussion, mentions that for family travel planning “collaboration with the kids is key. We actually involve the children, and it becomes a fun process to hear their ideas. These families care about their time with their kids—it’s a special time.” Added travel advisor Anthony Goldman, of Bondi Junction, Australia-based Goldman Travel, “as social media falls into younger and younger kids’ hands, the kids are making the decision by finding a photo, for example, and saying, ‘this is where I want to go.’”

So which destinations are affluent families heading to? According to the 4-1-1 from Virtuoso, they are headed to Iceland, the Galapagos Islands, Cuba, Antarctica, Botswana and Mongolia, seeking more active- and adventure-type vacations. The advisors on the panel discussion agreed that affluent clients are looking for destinations that are unchartered and undiscovered. “We are getting requests for unexplored destinations, where theirfriends have never been so they can be the first one to see it,” noted Alexander. Goldman adds that “they want to go local—peeling back the layers. Our clients want to go to a local neighborhood; they want to dine with locals,” noting that, especially with families, “it’s about the experience. They want to disconnect to connect; they are looking for
no WiFi vacations.” 

Overall, the travel advisors on the panel agree that the way they help their affluent clients is by offering “creative, unique ideas that they’ve never done before,” as Davis mentioned, with Goldman adding that, “as an advisor it’s about enhancing the experience, during the planning stage; during the trip; and after the trip.” Or, as Alexander mentioned when asked if the perception of luxury is changing, even from just a couple of years ago: “Having their travel advisor in their life is a newfound luxury.”