Affluent travel is on the rise, with the luxury market expecting to boom in the next two years.
This is according to Luxury Travel Advisor's ULTRA Summit 2014, which found 80 per cent of US travellers are expecting to take an international trip in the next 24 months. This is a huge increase on the 40 per cent consumer inclination revealed 12 yeas ago.
The summit took place in Chicago in March and brought together elite travel advisors and suppliers from around the world to discuss the latest trends and research in ultra-luxury travel. The invitation-only event took place over three days and featured appointments, networking functions, expert presentations about travellers with a high net worth and business opportunities.
One of the key findings discussed during the summit was that personal contact still matters in travel sales, with a third of respondents to a survey of ultra-travel advisors revealing 75 per cent of business in conducted in person and by telephone. Social media marketing was also discussed, with Kate Lorenz, content strategy director for Leo Burnett Group in Chicago, recommending devoting half an hour to social media twice a day. She believes advisors are best off focusing on two key channels, such as Facebook and Instagram, before moving on to other sites.
Another point discussed amongst luxury travel companies was how less money is being spent on advertising, with more expended on delivering a superior experience. Customer satisfaction is paramount, which is unsurprising when you consider the large amount of money spent by luxury travellers.
Some luxury hotels are being redesigned to cater to a new generation of affluent traveller. This group tends to expect a more personal, less formal experience. Accommodation providers can incorporate this by retaining any historical significance or unique features of their buildings, as well as adding discreet modern touches to enhance the travel experience.
Tailoring experiences to individual travellers is also important, according to Kristian Anderson, North America senior vice president of sales and general manager for Silversea Cruises. He says ultra-affluent travellers aren't easily impressed, and thinks suppliers should focus on meeting the needs of individual travellers on a case by case basis.
According to research presented at the summit, almost 30 per cent of affluent travellers would like to use an advisor to plan their next trip. This supports the idea that this group of people value time over money and seek a unique, well-planned experience. Over half of this travel group expects to be treated like a VIP, and many of them have a perception of value that is based less on saving money than it is partaking in an enjoyable experience that exceeds expectations.
The 2013 Portrait of American Travelers study, published by MMGY Global and the Harrison Group, paints more of a picture on who affluent travellers are. Women make up the majority of affluent travellers, and these types of holiday makers are planning more trips in the next year than those travellers with more modest household incomes. Affluent travellers also plan on taking more trips and spend more on holidays over the next year.
In 2013, the most popular places for US travellers to holiday were Western Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada. The majority of those taking luxury trips were childless and married, and 90 percent of these travellers used the internet to source information about travel services and suppliers.