Travellers must ‘get out of Covid mindset’ of last-minute bookings

Booking windows are returning to pre-pandemic “normalcy” according to a panel of luxury agents at Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas. 

The founder of private members’ club and hotel booking app Little Emperors, Rebecca Masri, said she had clients already booked for Christmas 2024, adding it was “the first time in a long time” she had witnessed such a long lead time.

“The old normal was booking in advance then the new normal became booking at the very last minute,” she said.

“Now we're going back again to what they probably would have been doing prior.”

She added: “The advice we're giving our clients, especially with the millennial generation who really want to travel on trend, is to book as far in advance as they can. Clients who are looking at the typical summer [destinations of] the South of France and the Greek islands or Christmas in St. Barts - we're really telling them to go as far as a year in advance if they can because the availability is so tight. We’re encouraging them as much as we can to get out of that Covid mindset of last-minute bookings.”

Jamsheed Pocha, co-founder of The Pelican, a Canadian members’ club specialising in luxury travel, reported a similar story, saying several clients had returned from a busy summer in Europe realising they need to book “ahead of time”.

“They're already booking multiple trips for next year because they want to get into the places that are the highest demand in the most popular destinations,” he said.

“These are members of ours who would have [previously] waited until the last minute.”

The panel agreed both hotel rates and airfares remained high, but Masri said this had had little effect on price resistance among Little Emperor’s young, affluent clients. 

“We're not seeing as much price resistance as we thought we would in the younger generation given that the hotel prices have all doubled,” she said.

“But we've definitely seen an increase in demand for shorter trips and shorter lengths of stay.”

However, Paul Tumpowsky, founder and chief executive of US agency Skylark, said his company was witnessing “a bit of bifurcation” across its client base with ultra-high-net-worth clients continuing to spend and younger clients increasingly searching for value. 

Sharyn Kitchener, managing director of Australian agency Mosman Travel, said she was encouraging her clients to book sooner rather than later regardless of their price point.

“We have a lot already booked or ready to book and airfare wise, I don't believe it's going to come down so book it now, pay for it now and it's done - because it's not changing,” she said.

Pocha agreed, adding: “We've just seen a very busy summer, especially in Europe, and I think clients understand that they have to commit and it's no longer an option to hold on to things and think about them as they get closer.”

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