Luxury travel advisors see their business returning in 2021, and their clients feel optimistic about their leisure travel plans for this year, according to a new study.
The survey, conducted by Strategic Vision, a consultancy specializing in the luxury travel and lifestyle industries, found that affluent consumers retained their interest in travel, with 70% of them reported having taken a trip since lockdowns began in March of last year.
Those who traveled tended to stick to the nearby and familiar, with 31% taking a domestic trip that didn’t require a flight (vs. 30% who took a domestic trip with a flight), 21% visiting friends and family, and 18% staying in a vacation home that they own.
When asked how their overall attitudes about leisure travel had changed, the bulk said they were “more cautious,” more conscientious about mask-wearing and cleanliness, and more selective about where they visit and stay.
“Affluent travelers have been constrained by the pandemic, and they’re intent on fulfilling their travel dreams as soon as they’re able,” said Peter J. Bates, president and founder of Strategic Vision. “Our research shows this pent-up demand is generating keen interest in safaris, European vacations, and far-flung destinations — if not in the immediate term, then in the near future. At the same time, luxury travelers are being careful and following the science on vaccines, testing, and therapeutics.”
Slightly less than half of consumers surveyed (48%) said they feel somewhat or very positive about their leisure travel outlook in 2021, while 44% said they feel somewhat or very negative. Those with an optimistic outlook feel that sentiment more intensely than the pessimists: 14% identified as “very positive” and indicated they would definitely be traveling in 2021, whereas only 4% said they felt “very negative” and don't plan to travel at all, according to Strategic Vision.
More than half of travelers (53%) said that they had already booked a trip for 2021, with another 41% saying they’re likely to do so. Strategic Vision reported that more of these 2021 travelers are planning trips for the second half of the year than the first. Two-thirds of respondents signaled their intention to book a trip for 2022 or beyond.
“While the results were closely divided, we were pleasantly surprised to see that more consumers felt positive momentum going into 2021. And this was before any vaccines were approved or administered,” said Bates. “It bodes well for a year of recovery that will start slowly but pick up steam in the second half.”
A majority of travel advisors surveyed said their clients expect to be traveling in 2021 (96% anticipating domestic trips, 63% international). Many of these forward bookings are likely to be placeholder reservations, made in the hope that travel will resume, not a guarantee the trip will happen, the survey found, but of those travelers who have booked a trip in 2021, 65% are cautiously optimistic that the trip will actually take place, versus 25% who are not as confident.
“Travel is a way of life for the affluent, and they found a way to keep doing it during the pandemic,” said Bates. “They took driving trips, visited their families, and spent time in second homes. Some even took domestic flights. For people with the means and the desire, life during the pandemic was less than a complete lockdown.”
The Pulse of the Industry Survey is conducted annually by Strategic Vision and includes executives from the top travel management firms in the United States, which plan and book leisure, business, meetings, and incentive travel for some of the world’s largest companies and wealthiest individuals.
The surveys were conducted in mid-November and early December 2020. Strategic Vision said that both Pfizer and Moderna announced the initial success of their vaccine trials while the survey was in the field, “so the findings do not fully reflect the impact of the vaccines’ approval and distribution.”