TORONTO — The demand for luxury travel is hitting new heights in these waning days of the pandemic, and as one of the biggest names in upscale getaways, Virtuoso is at the top of its game.
And it’s not only the traditionally high-end clients who are travelling in droves. So many vacationers in the upper tiers of the middle market are also splurging, thanks to those pandemic savings. Clients who travel advisors wouldn’t normally consider for big-budget itineraries are suddenly splashing out, and fuelled by all that pent-up demand, the bookings just keep rolling in.
Out of the Canadian market, that means luxury travel will continue its steady climb to a full recovery to 2019 levels by Q2 2024, says Úna O’Leary, General Manager, Canada.
Travelweek checked in with O’Leary to get Virtuoso’s take on what’s ahead for one of the strongest and most bankable segments in the travel industry today: luxury travel.
All numbers are in U.S. dollars (except where indicated), but all refer specifically to the Canadian market.
BIG DATA, BIG RESULTS
Virtuoso is all about big data, and that comes in handy for breaking down travel intentions in such an unpredictable time.
Virtuoso scrupulously surveys its travel agencies, and travellers, to get a full picture of booking trends – and crucially, booking spend.
Leading up to the pandemic, Virtuoso’s consumer survey showed that Canadians were spending some US$9,176 annually on travel. Looking ahead to 2023, respondents said they’re planning on spending an average of US$10,336 on travel for the year – so an additional $1,000+ more.
And booking levels for international trips – typically the most profitable for travel advisors – have recovered healthily this year, eclipsing 2019 levels in July, added O’Leary.
We asked O’Leary if Virtuoso Canada did better in this first recovery year than forecast.
“From a recovery perspective, the spend for outbound leisure travel is expected to outpace the actual numbers of travellers (i.e. the volume of people on the ground) according to Tourism Economics,” she said. “Outbound leisure travel sales have shown a strong rebound, even in markets where borders only recently opened up. According to Virtuoso’s booking data, the U.S. has already outperformed 2019 numbers for 2022 by 122%, and Canada is catching up at 80%.”
What destinations are Canadian vacationers booking with Virtuoso? O’Leary has data on that front too, based on the company’s back-office hotel booking data for September – December 2022.
Leading the pack is domestic travel within Canada, followed by transborder trips to the U.S. Italy, always strong from this market, comes in at #3, followed by Germany and France.
Sun favourites Mexico and Spain take the #6 and #7 spots, followed by the lone long-haul destination on the list: Australia, at #8. Rounding out the top 10 are the Netherlands and the UK.
Says O’Leary: “It’s interesting that of the destinations seeing the largest percentage difference in total bookings compared to 2019, nearly all are in the Caribbean. Trips to the Dominican Republic have almost doubled, while Cuba and Jamaica saw 1.5 times more bookings than they did in 2019. This indicates a clear trend towards beach destinations.”
And she says that from Canada, while the U.S. and Europe remain the most booked destinations, bookings to the Caribbean now represent nearly one-fifth of all international bookings, an 8% percent difference from 2019.
To read the full article, check out the Dec. 15 issue of Travelweek here.