Affluents Seek Agents Who Specialize

by Barbara Peterson

Affluent clients are less wedded to their loyalty programs, leaving them more open to the wider range of travel options and prices offered by travel agents, according to a new study from Unity Marketing detailing upscale clients’ plans for 2015.  

The study polled 1,300 consumers. Building on previous research, it found that many “affluents” – generally those with six-figure incomes – are more prone to tackle the research and planning themselves.

The importance of specializing
But travel agents shouldn’t be discouraged by that, said Pam Danziger, president of the luxury research firm.
Affluents often find travel professionals via their specialties, she said.

Travel agents should “ think about what their brand is and differentiate themselves,” she said, adding that high-income travelers  “want to go to specialists.”

“These days, when you can get everything anywhere, generalists are not going to solve anything,” Danziger added.
Wealthy . . . and ultra wealthy

Affluent travelers fall into two groups – those earning between $100,000 and $250,000 a year and the “ultra-affluents” making a quarter of a million or more.

In this most recent survey, the average income for respondents was $259,000 and the average age 47.9 years.   
Nationwide,  there are 23.5 million affluent households out of a total of 117.5 million, according to Unity Marketing.

Belt-tightening
The study found that an estimated 50% of affluent individuals will be taking a vacation trip within the next months, spending around $8,000 per couple.

But affluents will also be more frugal this year and more apt to seek discounts than they were in the past, said Danziger.

In line that with finding, the most popular destinations this year will be closer to home—heavily concentrated in the U.S. and in the Caribbean—the study found.

The respondents are also booking closer to departure,  perhaps reflecting uncertainty over their travel budgets.

“This will be an especially good year for those marketing domestic destinations, as well as safe, close-in Caribbean locales,”  Danziger said.

Some overseas destinations may have been hurt by concerns over civil unrest or other problems, she added.  Greece, for example, was no doubt affected by scenes of protests that were widely publicized last year.  

Still looking for experiences
But affluents are still seeking unusual experiences or out of the way places – the challenge will be to deliver it to them, Danziger said.

And while baby boomers are aging out of their peak earning and spending years, those who saved well for retirement are another type of affluent traveler, possessing that scarce commodity:  free time.

“They can take longer trips and they’re going for the unusual experience;  working with locals, taking the non-traditional  route,” Danziger said.

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