More than 650 U.S. and Canadian travel agents who sell luxury travel have seen their sales jump dramatically, and are optimistic the good times will continue, according to Travel Market Report’s first-ever TMR Outlook on Luxury, the most comprehensive survey of travel professionals in the market.
The survey, which was sponsored by the Mexico Tourist Board, found that agents selling luxury had a banner year, with 16% growth. Almost half (44%) reported double-digit sales increases, while 25% saw their luxury sales increase by more than 25%, and 12% by more than 50%, in the past year.
Boston Consulting Group says luxury hotel stays and experiential vacations account for more than $439 billion in annual sales worldwide and are growing at a nearly 5% clip, meaning luxury travel agents outperformed the overall market by more than 300%.
Looking ahead, 45% of agents surveyed predict double-digit growth for the coming 12 months, with 21% of luxury-selling agents expecting luxury sales to increase by more than 25% and 7% expecting a 50% increase.
“This research shows the power of the travel agency distribution system,” said Anne Marie Powell-Moebes, EVP and publisher of Travel Market Report. “It also shows that suppliers who are supporting travel agents are seeing significantly higher growth than the overall luxury market.”
Among travel agents, the spoils were not equally divided. Some 72% of “heavy sellers” of luxury, those agents with more than 75% of their total sales coming from luxury, said their luxury sales during the past year increased by double digits. Two-thirds (66%) of “medium sellers,” agents with more than 50% of total sales coming from luxury, said they had double digit increases, and 73% of agents with “big spenders,” clients who typically spend at least $25,000 excluding air for a seven-day trip, enjoyed the highest growth – with 73% reporting double-digit increases. Only 13% percent of “low sellers,” agents with less than 25% luxury sales, saw double- digit increases.
For some 29% of heavy sellers, the past year was really good. They reported luxury sales increased by more than 50%. Only 2% of low sellers reported that type of growth. Nearly one in five heavy sellers (18%) expect to see luxury sales grow by 50% in the coming year.
The survey also covers what agents do to ensure their luxury customers are satisfied, during the booking process and immediately before, during and after the trip. Agents also reveal what amenities and activities can give one hotel or resort the edge when they have multiple properties that fit a client’s needs. The survey covers more than 30 activities, from fine dining to chauffeured sightseeing, trends like “meet the locals,” VIP access, attending events, and unique experiences to determine which ones actually drive destination choice versus being add-ons when it comes to decision-making. Insights into the interest of luxury travelers in Airbnb and shared economy accommodations, the impact of consumer media and travel bloggers, as well as how agents are using social media are all covered in the research.
The full report, including segment analysis, is due out later this summer. An exclusive preview of overall results will be presented at the general session of TMR’s Travel MarketPlace conference in Toronto on June 14 at 9:00 a.m. To register, go to TravelMarketplace.com.