Virtuoso continues to keep a pulse on how and where the affluent are traveling. Recent findings show that with months and months of social distancing, sheltering in place and sticking close to home taking its toll—combined with the revelation that remote working and distanced learning can occur anywhere with reliable WiFi—upscale U.S. travelers are hitting the road and taking weeks- and even months-long getaways as well as multi-family vacations, while dreaming of faraway destinations such as South Africa and Australia.

A survey of Virtuoso’s travel agency members forecasts leisure travel bookings to return and stabilize in six months to a year. Additional insights shared by Virtuoso travel advisors shows that:

  • Across all regions, domestic beach/island destinations and ocean cruises make up the majority of new bookings
  • Flexible cancellation or rebooking policies are by far the most import factor for clients when booking international trips, ahead of both cleaning and safety protocols and the COVID-19 infection rate in the destination

Virtuoso also surveyed consumers and found that travelers plan on staying close to home through 2020, but international travel will open up for the festive holiday season, and 2021 looks promising.

Below are additional travel insights per Virtuoso travelers:

Fall Travel

  • 79 percent of travelers would take part in a travel pod (defined as two or more households whose members have been following similar quarantine and social-distancing practices that make plans to vacation together)
  • 76 percent of travelers want to take a beach vacation
  • 100 percent of 18-25-year-olds are ready to travel, while less than 50 percent of those 41 years and older are not
  • 70 percent are traveling less than 1,500 miles from home
  • 43 percent are booking hotels two weeks or less before their stay
  • Popular hotel attributes include seclusion, private swimming pools and golf
  • 66 percent are willing to fly, but they want the middle seat open. An empty middle seat now determines airline loyalty. 73 percent would even pay extra for an airline ticket if it meant the middle seat next to them would remain empty.

Holiday Travel

  • Approximately 40 percent are considering traveling during the 2020 holiday season. They have either booked their plans or are waiting to see how conditions evolve and will book closer to the date.
  • 59 percent are willing to take an international flight (pending travel restrictions)
  • Perennial favorites such as the Caribbean and Mexico remain at the top of the list

Looking Ahead: 2021 Cruising Travel

  • 37 percent of Virtuoso travelers polled said they would cruise right now
  • 2021 cruise bookings are outpacing 2018
  • River cruising is up 14 percent in 2021
  • Ocean cruising is down, but only single digits
  • Traditional cruise clients will continue sailing

Virtuoso also reviewed insights garnered by users of Wanderlist, the network’s free interactive social site for travel dreaming and planning. A predictor of where high net worth clients are heading next, Wanderlist compiles the destinations and experiences travelers are most anticipating in the future.

Global:

  1. Italy
  2. South Africa
  3. Australia
  4. France
  5. Japan

Domestic:

  1. Washington
  2. Hawaii
  3. California
  4. Alaska
  5. Montana

Regardless of where they head next, vacationers will be turning to advisors to plan, book and, most importantly, ensure they have back-up in the event of more travel disruptions.

Data and insights were gathered from Virtuoso’s travel agency members, preferred partners and consumers based on transactional data and an ongoing series of surveys.

For more information, visit virtuoso.com.

Don’t miss, “That was Then, This is Now: The Post-COVID-19 Traveler.”And, for more agent tools and insight, don’t miss the Agent Tools page on Recommend.