Virtuoso Travel Week, which took place last month in Las Vegas, proved to be a whirlwind of information, and one of the most fruitful sessions I sat in on was “Where, Why & How the Affluent Travel.”
When it comes to your potential affluent client, it spans every generation. Baby Boomers make up the largest portion of Virtuoso travelers using travel advisors, totaling 45 percent; they are followed by Gen Xers (24 percent), Matures (18 percent) and Millennials (13 percent). And Millennials are more affluent than you might think, according to Virtuoso data, with 32 percent of those booking with Virtuoso earning $250,000+ annually; and Gen Z (yep, it’s time we start talking about them) is the generation to watch as they’ll account for 40 percent of consumers with disposable income by 2020, according to the Digital Tourism Think Tank. And here’s something else to think about: Millennials & Gen X are the fastest growing portion of new Virtuoso clients—both groups grew by four points from 2012 to 2016.
To put that in a nutshell, from 0 to 100, your potential luxury client spans all age groups and can be anyone you meet. And whether they are Millennials or Matures, at the core, affluent travelers are looking for the same thing out of their vacation, according to Virtuoso data: they want to explore new destinations; they are seeking authentic experiences; they want some R&R; they want personal enrichment; and they’re seeking adventure.
Multi-gen travel and river cruising continue to thrive, but another trend that seems to be gaining much more traction is celebration travel, and that can be a great booster to your bottom line as there’s always a birthday, anniversary, graduation, etc. One of the other key trends that is notable is immediate family travel bookings, because with all the talk about multi-gen travel, it’s easy for a core family vacation to get lost in the mix, although they are, as you know, still hugely popular.
You do have to think outside the box, though, when it’s an affluent family that calls you up as they are seeking out non-traditional destinations, including Iceland, Antarctica, Cuba and the Galapagos.
Those destinations tie perfectly into what Bobby Zur, founder of Travel Artistry, said during the session’s “Trends in Travel” panel discussion: “Affluent families want to see what’s meaningful and authentic.”
In this same vein, Haisley Smith, v.p. of marketing and development for Brownell Travel, pointed, during the panel discussion, to Sojourns by Brownell, which allows for a family to spend three months abroad while working remotely. It’s ideal for Boomers, who can have their kids and grandkids visit while they’re abroad. “They want to replicate their study abroad time,” Smith noted. She also pointed to lots of interest in “Skip-gen” vacations, when grandparents travel with their grandkids without the parents tagging along.
It goes without saying that cruising is a top trend, but Smith noted that for cruise bookings, “the average age is dropping. We are seeing Gen Xers and Millennials interested in Silversea, Regent, and Seabourn. We are also very excited about The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. It’s going to be radically different.” In fact, Virtuoso data shows that cruise bookings rose 14.6 percent in 2017 as compared to 2016, and 2018 advanced bookings are at a 21.6 percent increase.
Another word that danced around quite a bit during the panel discussion was wellness. “When clients come back from this type of vacation,” said Gabriel Donida, co-founder/sales & marketing director for Atelier Voyage, “we get emotional feedback. They thank us; they send champagne, bouquets.” “It’s ideal for major life events,” added Smith.
Beyond the type of vacations or destinations affluent travelers are taking, the panel discussion participants, which also included Ana Villaca of Formula Viagens e Turismo Ltda, pointed out that travel advisors are successful when they involve their clients in the planning process. It should be a “magical union,” said Donida. “We’re their friends.” Smith noted that advisors “need to engage and understand clients. We need to understand why this particular trip. We can control how we develop the relationship, and we can learn after the experience.” Zur noted that, in fact, “feedback is very important.”