Luxury travel stays are increasingly longer in duration as travelers require more time to get to exotic locations. And that, in turn, is helping drive a continuing boom for indulgent vacations that go beyond the norm.
According to a survey of luxury agents by Travel Experts, Inc. of Raleigh, NC, 69% of luxury travelers take two-week vacations, while 25.5% take one-week vacations.
Said Jacky Keith, president of Esplanade Travel in Boston, MA, “Two weeks is the norm for us. We do a lot in Africa and Southeast Asia, and just to get there takes at least 24 hours; that’s two days. To justify that trip, you need to spend two weeks. Some customers even try to book over three weekends.”
Keith spent two weeks in Myanamar herself last year, and couldn’t have done the trip with any less time without sacrificing experiences she wanted for professional and personal purposes. “Sometimes people are trying to do too much,” she acknowleded, like visiting three different destinations on a continent in a single trip.
“People with a higher level of discretionary income will take a little longer,” said Sharon Belmont, CTC, president of DSBelmont Travel Consultants, Inc., in Winthrop Harbor, IL. “I am seeing more trips of 10-11 days. I have one client who always goes for two weeks; he doesn’t feel he can decompress with less. And I think the pursuit of experiential travel really requires you take more time.”
According to the Travel Experts survey, river cruising is the largest growth segment in luxury travel, followed by family and adventure travel. Keith at Esplanade agreed. “There is so much of it now, and the luxury cruise lines have so many destinations. They have taken cruising out of the Caribbean mass market, and really taken it up a level.”
Luxury cruising is so popular for some itineraries and ships, “we have to book those cruises a year out to get prime time sailings. But with luxury travel, people are willing to do that,” Belmont said. She will be cruising in France with a group of agents with Uniworld in August “to fill a hole in my experience,” and be able to sell that product better.
With all of the new product, and a growing affluent market, 58% of agents expect luxury sales to be up again this year, on the heels of a record-breaking 32% growth in revenue in 2016.
Susan Ferrell, Travel Experts president, attributes the luxury travel boom to the fact that more agents are becoming entrepreneurial in developing their knowledge and selling high-end trips. Her agents spend on average 35-40 days each year completing on-site inspections and travel research, as well as making reliable contacts in regions they recommend to clients, she said.
Keith feels several airlines have contributed to the tick up in luxury travel, because of lower business class fares. “Emirates coming out with great business class fares, for half of what the others charge, really helps make for an entire luxury experience. They have very nice lounges, pick you up from your home, and you can fly east to Asia and other destinations through their hub.”
Other notable findings from the survey included that adventure travel has become the number- one vacation choice of Millennials, and when not river cruising, multigenerational and bucket- list travel are high priorities for Baby Boomers.
Europe remains the top destination at 72%, with North America cited as the second most popular destination among luxury travelers. Iceland was earmarked as a "hot" destination trend for 2017 and beyond.
A new study released next week by Virtuoso found the following attributes make for great luxury travel agents:
They engage in the luxury travel industry – Their advisors seek out opportunities to get involved in the industry, thereby raising their profile with partners, increasing their product knowledge and sales results, and furthering their career path.
They hire the right people and prioritize training – They take advantage of professional development offerings from host agencies, networks and other organizations that help raise their knowledge level.
They are savvy marketers – These agencies get clients to opt in to push marketing, like email travel offers.
They have a strong digital presence.
Travel Market Report is releasing its first-ever TMR Outlook on Luxury, the most comprehensive survey of travel professionals in the market.