Virtuoso's vice-president of global PR Misty Belles outlines the factors fuelling the luxury travel market
Global sales for luxury travel agency network Virtuoso, which comprises over 20,000 advisors in 50 countries, were up 102% between January and July 2022, compared to the same period in 2019.
Future travel sales for 2023 are also pacing 47% higher versus 2019 – a year described as a “high water mark” for the company.
Speaking at the 34th annual Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas in August, Virtuoso's vice-president of global PR, Misty Belles said: “Ultimately, if we continue on this trajectory, 2023 could be an even bigger year than 2019."
Belles also cited data from Tourism Economics, which predicted that by Q2 2024, global outbound leisure spending will exceed 2019 levels by 21%, surging to 55% by 2026.
“If you look beyond  you can see how the growth continues and accelerates and so while we’re saying 2023 could be an exceptional year, just look at 2024 and 2025 to see where we’re going,” added Belles.
Belles said the figures were being driven by “excess savings” and the “wealth effect” among affluent travellers, who had accumulated wealth during the pandemic and consequently wished to spend it on travel.
According to data, Virtuoso travellers plan to increase their previous year’s spend of US$20,700 per person by 34% to US$27,800 in the next year.
Nearly 75% said “creating a travel experience that best fits my expectations is more important than price”.
Belles also said younger, affluent travellers were “leading the way” to recovery, with the 18 to 34 age group averaging 2.2 more international trips in the past year than the 65+ age group.
The demographic is looking for “exclusive, incredible trips of a lifetime”, according to Belles, with luxury adventure brands such as Virgin Galactic and White Desert proving popular.
Environmentally-friendly philosophies and practices and the preservation of natural and cultural heritage are also top-of-mind concerns, especially among Gen Z and Millennials.
Data found that 56% of Gen Z and 46% of Millennials are willing to pay more for eco-friendly tourism practices and 58% of Gen Z and 52% of Millennials for travel that preserves natural and cultural heritage.
Virtuoso also reported an uptick in solo travel post-pandemic. The network saw a 10% shift from consumers travelling with friends to solo travel, with the highest level of interest coming from the 65+ age group.
High Hotel Rates
In the hotel segment, Belles said booking windows were “getting back to normal” and becoming wider, with the median window for international hotels currently 80 days compared to 60 days in 2019.
US hotel prices are currently more than 50% higher across all types compared to 2019, but Belles said client sentiment was “equally high”, with the network’s recent Pulse Survey showing that 76% of travellers have accepted the current travel climate as the new normal.
Belles agreed that the data suggests we are in a “new travel landscape” rather than a “travel bubble”.