Over the past two years, the luxury travel industry has made strides in restoring its former strength. Individuals are more eager than ever to make up for lost time by returning to a colourful life of holidays and retreats in the wake of lockdown. But with this post-pandemic world comes a new set of trends and preferences that promise to re-shape the landscape of luxury travel in 2023.
Sequel recently attended the International Luxury Travel Conference in Cannes – a global event attracting the world's top travel experts and industry leaders. In a report commissioned by American Express, the mindset of the luxury travel consumer was analysed in a unique and comprehensive review. From the fifty-page report, we've compiled five key findings which resonate strongly with our clients.
1. Wellness is now a key driver in travel
Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic the market for wellness breaks was already experiencing strong growth, particularly among American travellers. The events of the past three years have only intensified this trend, with around a quarter of Americans taking a physical or mental wellness break last year. 61% of luxury travellers now say that health and wellness is a major factor in planning a trip, with the under-45s considering it a particularly pronounced factor.
“Covid has made me realise that time is precious and travel is important to my general wellbeing.”
- British 45-54-year-old male
A related preference for quieter, slower holidays – in contrast to action-filled breaks – has also been reported, with 50% of people looking to relax and recuperate after the previous three years. But this does not necessarily imply a preference for private, isolated retreats. Desires for sociability and mixing are now returning to pre-Covid levels, with only a third of luxury global travellers now preferring socially-distanced holidays.
2. Sustainability concerns are becoming more important
Demands to ‘build back better’ are also growing within the luxury tourism sector, with 22% of wealthy individuals stating that sustainability and environmental protection factors are ‘very influential’ in their decision-making. These concerns are particularly resonant with the under-45s, while a stark 81% of Chinese travellers state that they will seek more environmentally-friendly holidays in the future.
For some, this means that domestic and regional travel options are continually appealing, following in the footsteps of Covid-era trends. In the words of one French traveller in the 55-64 age bracket: “I looked at the distance and thought that given the CO2 cost of long-distance leisure travel was not a necessity, it was better to go less far and discover and rediscover nearer locations.”
However, an appetite for more far-flung travel remains strong among many groups. Three in five, for instance, agree that they have an adventurous bucket list of places they now intend to experience around the globe. As such, rather than tempering the distance they travel, 50% of people state that they instead intend to fly less often but stay longer on holidays in future.
“I am now reducing the number of holidays I take, but extending their length.”
- Hong Kong 25-34-year old female
3. A ‘making up for lost time’ attitude is driving upward spending
While the pandemic years signalled a crisis for the luxury travel industry, the pleasure-seeking habits of the post-pandemic years may make up for lost time. ‘Revenge spending’ is a global trend that the luxury travel industry is perfectly positioned to benefit from.
“I was not allowed to do anything for two years and therefore have the great need to catch up on all this now.”
– German, 35-44-year-old female
One Covid-influenced shift has been a growing preference for luxury experiences over luxury goods, which is driving up interest in luxury travel. In total, 52% of wealthy individuals now state that they would rather spend their money on experiences – with Brits the most likely nationality to agree.
In conjunction, spending rates while travelling are expected to rise, with 57% of luxury travellers planning to spend more in 2023. Travellers from the Americas are the most likely group to be extravagant spenders, with almost three quarters planning to spend more (of which 29% intend to spend ‘much more’).
4. Family and intergenerational holidays are more important to travellers post-pandemic
Around half of luxury travellers now look forward to holidaying with family members to make up for lost time. In total, two in five wealthy travellers across the globe intend to take an extended family holiday over the coming year, with 42% agreeing that they prefer taking these types of holidays since the pandemic.
“I want to take more advantage of the opportunities to know new places, to relax with my family.”
- Brazilian 35-44-year-old male
However, the urge to mingle with people beyond immediate family groups remains strong. It is notable that, alongside extended family holidays, boat cruises are also witnessing a sharp (17%) rise, signalling a desire for outward-facing social experiences – particularly among the under-45s.
5. Travel advisors remain a vital resource
In an era of travel bloggers and influencers, it may be easy to assume that the role of travel advisors has diminished. Yet, for luxury travel, the data clearly underlines a strong desire to consult with industry experts.
With little favour for spontaneity, three in five travellers say they much prefer to plan trips thoroughly and in advance. This presents the opportunity for travel marketers and advisors to begin exploring options with clients well ahead of time, providing what’s seen to many as an indispensable service. Indeed, 27% of the global wealthy state that travel advisors remain ‘very influential’, with a wider 59% planning to use them for half or more of their bookings.
“I am searching for more information about tourist destinations and spending more time planning trips.”
- Italian 45-54-year-old male
But despite the enduring importance of travel advisors, the recommendations of close family and friends remain the most vital factor in shaping the preferences of luxury travellers. In a world where peer to peer recommendations are crucial, it’s more important than ever that influencer marketing strategies focus on tapping into these small, engaged communities.