Active and adventure travel emerged as the most powerful trend across all types of luxury travelers, including families, couples, honeymooners and retirees, in Virtuoso’s annual survey of its travel advisors.
The 2014 Virtuoso Luxe Report, a survey of more than 500 Virtuoso member agents, also found that clients’ regard their travel advisors as the primary influencer for their travel decisions.
Top 5 trends
The top five luxury travel trends for 2014 were, in descending order, multigenerational family travel, river cruising, active and adventure travel, celebration travel and luxury cruises, according to the report.
In terms of developing trends, active and adventure travel is the top trend on the rise.
For instance, while multigenerational travel tops the list of overall trends, this segment has come to encompass families who are seeking adventure travel experiences, said Becky Powell, Virtuoso’s senior vice president of global member sales and services.
“Families are looking to be active together,” she said. “It’s part of seeking authentic experiences.”
And there’s a growing amount of product for adventurous families, such as Micato Safaris’ luxury safaris and Abercrombie & Kent’s wide variety of programs.
Contributing to the strong showing for active and adventure travel is the fact that the definition of “adventure” has become both broad and personal, said Terrie Hansen, Virtuoso’s senior vice president of marketing.
“People are just not looking to loll around on a beach, no matter the age group,” she said.
The five most popular international destinations this year are Italy, South Africa, France, Australia and – new to the top five this year – New Zealand.
For families, the most popular destinations are Italy, England, Hawaii, Costa Rica and Mexico.
Destinations, including emerging ones, have taken on new significance in travel planning, along with a new trend in which, “people are planning travel experiences with their children to make them global citizens,” said Hansen.
Virtuoso is adapting accordingly. “Part of our 2014 strategy is helping our advisors map out these kinds of plans. If you have a 10-year-old child, you have eight more spring breaks with them,” Hansen said.
“It’s a new generation of the bucket list. We want our kids to see things and learn things [through travel]. It’s a path to global citizenship.”
Agents as influencers
Travel advisors continue to be the lead influencer in determining clients’ travel decisions, according to this year’s survey results.
After travel agents, the other top influencers for clients were: recommendations from friends and families, travel publications, travel website reviews and recommendations, and travel and lifestyle websites.
“We’re seeing the switch back from clients’ booking online to booking with agents, and the referral part of the business is unbelievable,” said Powell.
“We’ve done interviews with consumers and asked why they use an advisor,” she said.
“Consumers today are looking for safety and a feeling of security,” Powell added. “With so many things going on in the world, they want to talk with someone who will lead them in the right direction.”