As destinations around the world begin to ease Covid-19 travel restrictions, luxury travellers are showing a keen interest to explore, with a preferred choice for domestic travel and luxury automobile travel, according to a survey.
In the first global temperature check of the travel advisor community, ILTM - the world’s largest portfolio of luxury travel events - has revealed the results of international research among their global luxury travel agents.
Timed to coincide with the ease of lockdown in many parts of the world, the objective was to understand the key drivers and the early trends of how, where and when wealthy consumers plan to start travelling again.
“The ILTM portfolio hosts the world’s most influential private travel designers, and retail travel agencies every year. We wanted to gauge their views to establish how the world of luxury travel will work for the rest of 2020 – after all, their clients are the ones who hold the answers,” said Alison Gilmore, ILTM Portfolio Director.
From a sample of over 1,000 private planners, individuals and agencies across Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, Latin America, Middle East, Russia and Africa, the following trends were some that emerged:
• Since the outbreak of Covid-19, two-thirds (64 per cent) of those surveyed said they had taken travel bookings from their clients
• Over 50 per cent of these bookings are due to take place before December 2020
• 72 per cent of Concierge Companies received substantial bookings
• Of the air travel already booked, 39 per cent is domestic and 27 per cent is long haul trips
• Over 50 per cent of all the planners and agents surveyed said they were confident the industry will rebound within a year
• Of those yet to take a booking, 72 per cent anticipate a climb in bookings within three months
Luxury travellers are already setting new trends with 59 per cent personal travel advisors saying that their clients are wanting information on luxury automobile travel as their preferred choice for their first holidays shows a trend for domestic luxury travel as a priority in the early stages of the return to leisure trips.
Brittney Magner of Royal Travel & Tours in the US commented: “My clients are in contact constantly to ask what is open and what is safe - they are keen to go where and when they can as soon as possible. As the luxury travel market rebuilds outside the US, many of my clients are flying domestically, but also driving to explore our own country in the most affluent way.”
Gilmore added: “These first trips will be closer to home as families start to come together again, and the research also showed a preference for private villas too. Shorter trips were also preferred meaning there could be more of them as the opportunity to “catch up” occurs. The use of private jets is also high up on preferences so that their trips can be taken at short notice and allows for group travel to be within their own family and friends.”
More key travel trends post Covid-19 revealed from ILTM’s survey include:
• Of those considering other kinds of travel, 25 per cent are considering cruises for their clients. These include river, sea and international trips.
• The need to not take unnecessary health risks is key for high-end travellers wanting to spend their first leisure time with family. More than half have already booked family travels, as some occasions for travelling include visiting relatives and family celebrations. Key shifts in behaviour include almost 73 per cent planning to stick closer to home.
• Over half – 57 per cent - are also wanting their personal travel agents to look for luxury private villas – another indication of family and small close groups connecting again
• As destinations start opening up this early research showed a cross-section of choices for international travel with Greece, Italy, Maldives, Caribbean, and Europe as the most popular destinations.
Melissa Rotson of Colletts Travel, UK commented: “In the last 10 days, business has really started to grow again - HNW clients are wanting to make fast decisions and are choosing familiar resorts and destinations although flexibility is of course key.”
When asked what their top choices would be for their next leisure trips, respondents chose Beach Escapes, Family Travel, Private Villas, Natural Wonders, Road Trips, Cruises, Cultural & Unique Excursions/experiences. At the same time over 20 per cent showed preferences to focus on sustainability, and conscious travel with health and wellness related travel itineraries also featuring as a first choice.
Debra Levinson, CEO, Handpicked Italy, US said: “We have seen positive changes over the last few months and we believe our clients will now travel more mindfully with appreciation and consideration to others and their culture.”
And Andrew Steinberg of Ovation Travel also in the US added: “Most high-end clients are looking for villa product as it provides a clean, private controlled environment.”
The value of the luxury travel agent has also been defined during the pandemic. Debbie Collins of Australia’s Spencer Travel echoing many of her colleagues from across the world: “A positive from this whole situation is a growing realisation that booking through a reputable agent is much more reassuring than an online booking engine - the personal connection really does matter. There is a lot of positive social media out there re supporting travel agents and planners too.”
The survey also outlined how agents believe the keys to encourage client bookings are: the availability of a vaccine, the lifting of travel bans and borders opening, health, security and safety standards (both in flight and at hotels) the relaxation of quarantine/self-isolating, and the flexibility of booking and cancellation terms.
Some positive changes have come from the lockdown with agents saying the time allowed them to “re-structure businesses and adapt to the changes in the travel industry and their customers”. Others said they benefited from the opportunities to learn from the many webinars and online conferences, whilst the time was also spent “strengthening client relationships, with time to touch base and just chat”.
“The ILTM portfolio holds its events annually to put agents and suppliers of luxury travel together to connect, network, learn and of course do business with each other. Now more than ever the purpose of every ILTM event is to create that connection and I can now confidently say that, with the right set of circumstances ahead of us, we Cannes(!) and will deliver the event that the industry needs this December at ILTM,” concluded Gilmore.
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