TORONTO — More than 18 months of pent-up demand – and pandemic savings – are fuelling a rise in luxury travel bookings.
At yesterday’s Luxury Travel Xpo, by XpoPRO Mobile, a division of TravPRO Mobile, luxury travel specialist Scott Waldron said he’s seeing the uptick first-hand.
Waldron, who is Founder and Personal Travel Manager of Gravitate Travel in Ottawa, was a featured speaker at the online event, and he offered his own take on luxury booking trends.
Asked what’s booking well for his agency, Waldron listed private jet charters (“not everybody’s doing it, but the ones that have the ability to do so are leveraging that opportunity”), private villas and multigenerational groups. Plus, of course, Waldron says he’s getting a lot of requests for all-inclusive trips to favourite winter sun destinations including Mexico, the D.R., Jamaica, Saint Lucia and more.
“I’m also finding that a lot of luxury travelers are now searching out those trusted advisors who really focus on luxury travel,” Waldron told moderator JJ Villani, Vice President, TravPro Mobile.
Also interesting, and bolstering what other agents are finding when it comes to implementing service fees, is that travellers are increasingly comfortable with paying their travel agent a service fee for their time and effort. “Planning fees are not an issue,” says Waldron. “I just implemented planning fees this year, [and they’re] not an issue [for my clients].”
High-end travellers are prioritizing service and convenience in other ways too. Many resorts now offer convenient on-site pre-departure PCR testing for guests, and that’s a win-win for clients looking to minimize confusion and hassle, says Waldron.
Waldron says his business model, at least in terms of working with clients, is a bit different from the standard bricks-and-mortar model that’s open to walk-in business. If someone is a Gravitate Travel client, they book an appointment, “and then we dedicate that time to work with [them].”
Waldron also says he’s seeing new business come in “from clients that have never used a travel professional before, and have never understood what we can do.” As always, referrals are also key.
Asked about social media, Waldron says Gravitate Travel now does one blog per month – down from two per month – along with other social media posts. “In the past we were using social media to tell everybody about the great partners that we work with around the world, upcoming destinations and so forth, which was great during COVID because we needed to keep everybody inspired for the future. Now it’s really about showing our value, showing what we can do.”
What destinations are trending, maybe in a way that’s surprising to a seasoned luxury travel professional like Waldron? Morocco, the Greek Islands and Nepal and Bhutan, to name a few. Waldron also predicts African safaris will come back “in a big way.”
Yesterday’s Luxury Travel Xpo event featured a Luxury Marketplace with industry partner showcases, Breakout Sessions where advisors got to hear from industry experts and peers, Destination & Product Spotlights, a Network Lounge and a Learning Portal for industry partner training programs. Advisors were also invited to get inspired with Extravagant Escapes – offering getaway ideas for clients. There were prizes too; agents could track their Xperience Points for chances to win.
“The Luxury Travel Xpo was our most successful virtual event to date with over 2,900 registered travel advisors in North America. The platform allowed advisors to engage with 33 luxury travel suppliers in addition to consuming destination and product presentations, learning modules, networking and amazing breakout content led by Robin Tauck with her captivating Leadership Series conversation on Sustainable Luxury with Jessica Upchurch from Virtuoso,” said Dean Jacobberger, Vice President, XpoPRO Mobile.
“We look forward to welcoming travel advisors to our next virtual event on Dec. 2 for the Europe Travel Xpo,” he added.
The show is live and available on demand for the next 30 days at luxurytravelxpo.com.