The dam that restrained many affluent travelers these past couple of years is finally giving way. Fully 40% of luxury travelers plan to spend more money on travel this year than last, according to a new report.
That’s the positive news. But the report also found that a majority of affluent travelers, except for those at the top end of the sector, are not working with travel agents. (See sidebar.)
Experiences bring satisfaction
That 40% figure is “really significant” – about twice the usual 20% – according to Pam Danziger, author of the report, Luxury Consumers and Their Luxury Travel Plans. “That’s a lot of people.”
The increase is not only because of pent-up desire. Much of the growth is a result of the realization by affluent travelers that experiences are where satisfaction truly lies, said Danziger, owner of the luxury marketing consulting group Unity Marketing and author of Putting the Luxe Back in Luxury: How New Consumer Values Are Redefining the Way We Market Luxury.
“The whole consumer market is going more experiential,” she told Travel Market Report. “These people who can afford all this stuff have recognized that stuff doesn’t give you pleasure.
“The majority of luxury consumers say their greatest pleasure and satisfaction from their wealth comes from their experiences.”
Ultra-affluent, young spending more
Within the affluent market, it is the “ultra-affluents” (those earning $200,000 or more) and “young affluents” (those under 45) who are planning the most travel, according to the new study.
“People who have more money are going to be more open to spending money on travel, while the younger affluents in all of our income sectors have a greater propensity to indulge in luxury travel,” Danziger said.
Relaxation tops travel goals
The majority of affluent travelers are seeking a break from the stress of their everyday lives when they travel. “That’s the number one thing they’re searching for – relaxation and stress relief,” Danziger told Travel Market Report.
Other reasons for travel include spending time with family and traveling as a transformative experience.
“Those are memories that can never be taken away.”
Last-minute decision makers
Luxury travelers will plan in advance for more complicated vacations, but they also are quite open to making last-minute decisions. That’s important for travel agents to know, Danziger said.
“If a good offer comes across, they are very willing to make those spur-of-the-moment decisions. Planning a year in advance is old school, and people are taking opportunities as they come.”
Staying close or going very far
While affluent travelers are still interested in going to new places, closer-in destinations are most popular.
U.S. domestic cities, Alaska, Hawaii and the Caribbean top the travel plans of most affluent travelers.
For those planning to go outside this comfort zone, the further away the destination, the more popular it is.
“Those are probably places they haven’t been. They have already crossed the pond, so now they’re looking at the Pacific Rim,” Danziger said.
Australia and New Zealand are most in demand, but close behind are Japan and China.