Luxury travellers ‘not blinking an eye’ at rising holiday prices

High-net-worth travellers across the globe remain unfazed by rising holiday prices, according to a panel of Virtuoso travel advisors from the UK, the US, Canada and Australia.

Speaking at Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas, panellists agreed that an overwhelming desire to travel post-pandemic meant affluent clients were willing to do so at any cost.

“Luxury travellers are not really blinking an eye at the inflated prices,” said Beth Washington, founder of US agency Getaway Guild.

James Turner, chief executive of the UK’s 360 Private Travel, said luxury clients were “price insensitive”, citing an uptick in demand for African safaris and the Maldives as consumers sought to tick off big-ticket items.

“Underlying it all is that that deep desire to spend time with family and do the things that we've not been able to do,” he said.

“Clients are taking longer trips. They want to really absorb a local culture and they're prepared to do more things and spend more money in those resorts.”

Anthony Goldman, joint managing director of Goldman Group in Australia, said some customers “aren't even asking about costs”.

He said: “We are used to dealing with high-net-worth clients but all of a sudden, clients are coming out of the woodwork and we never thought they'd spend that much.”

Susan Bowman, vice-president of marketing and industry relations at Transat Distribution, which recently launched a luxury arm, LuxeXperts, said the landscape was much the same in Canada: “In the luxury category, they think this [inflated prices] is normal. We cannot get over what they're spending and they are not complaining.”

Washington said “sticker shock” was more common among aspirational travellers who had only recently entered the luxury travel market, however she maintained: “Once they’ve had the taste of an amazing experiential trip or a luxury hotel, they also aren't willing to go back.”

Bowman said the price hikes were also difficult to justify to some repeat clients who have booked the same product for years.

“If you've always rented your favourite villa for a certain price, and you come back and it's 40% more, that's when people don't understand - they feel like it's price gouging,” she said.

Goldman said the “risk appetite” among luxury travellers had increased, with Australian clients keen to book trips to Japan despite it not yet being fully open. Turner agreed, highlighting Sri Lanka as a popular destination among Brits despite FCDO advice currently advising against all but essential travel to the island.

All four agencies reported a rise in new customers, with Bowman and Goldman both citing an uptick in millennials and generation Z seeking the expertise of an advisor.

Goldman said: “It'd be nuts not to use a travel advisor in these times. One in four of our bookings is from new customers and most of them are DIYers - they haven't come from another agency.”

Turner said the sector’s current operational challenges had created an “opportunity” for travel agents, but he said the sector must work to encourage clients to book further out to increase booking lead times in the industry.

He said: “Making that [booking] window bigger, that’s our challenge. If you want those trips to go as smoothly as [possible], let’s get back to planning these trips well in advance.

“Because everybody's working incredibly hard. We're all working probably two to three times more for the same thing. We're waiting for people to come back to us. The message to the clients is that we want to be able to do this experience for you, we can do it but it's a lot harder. Let's try and get back to planning, let's plan earlier, let's do things ahead of time.”

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