Virtuoso conference shows luxury travel making strong rebound

Virtuoso conference shows luxury travel making strong rebound

It feels like it is at long last happening: travel is coming back. Clients are contacting their advisors, and advisors are communicating to clients that now is the time to dream, research and commit.

And it’s clear that luxury travel is going to be a winner, both for clients and for advisors. As an attendee of Virtuoso’s 33rd annual Travel Week event held last week in Las Vegas, I can report that many of us are at last seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s a 5-star light.

Virtuoso, which is a global network of travel agencies with some 20,000 travel advisors, is all about connecting advisors with luxury travel suppliers, and as such is a trustworthy bellwether of the status of our industry.

In January this year, Virtuoso agency bookings were down a terrifying 82% over the same time in 2019. But by June that gap had narrowed to 46% – and the gap is narrowing all the time. Hotel bookings were virtually the same year over year, thanks to more domestic travel. And for 2022, cruise is at 79%. Advisors are reporting that bookings are increasing significantly each quarter.

Why is the luxury sector doing so well? I truly believe it’s a combination of:

  • Pent-up demand. Luxury clients consider travel a vital part of their lives and really, really miss it.
  • Piled up dollars. While they have been binging on Netflix and working out in their home gyms, the thousands of dollars normally spent on travel have been accumulating.
  • Luxury brands have a built-in level of trust and confidence: Think Four Seasons, Silversea, and business / first class on airlines.
  • Many luxury clients are boomers and now two years older. They are so looking forward to celebrating their return to travel with a special, perhaps long-haul ‘do we ever deserve this’ luxury trip. 

This may also be a great time for you to ‘upgrade’ your mainstream clients to luxury options.  I’m sure you – and they – won’t regret it!

Joelle Goldman is the Vice President, Host Services for Direct Travel in North America, which includes its Canadian leisure division Vision Travel. She can be reached at jgoldman@dt.com.