“Well-advised travellers are happy travellers”: Virtuoso does a deep dive on luxury travel trends

“Well-advised travellers are happy travellers”: Virtuoso does a deep dive on luxury travel trends

TORONTO — Luxury travel has long been a bellwether for the travel industry, and no more so than coming out of the pandemic, when luxury was the first to recover.

A year later, the luxury travel sector shows no sign of slowing down. Quite the contrary: demand for high-end travel experiences is so fierce, bookings are already filling up for 2024 and 2025.

Here are some of the key takeaways from yesterday’s Virtuoso presentation, broadcast live via Zoom from Las Vegas, where the 2023 Virtuoso Travel Week conference is taking place through Friday.



Luxury travel is booming thanks to a convergence of two strong factors: demand for travel, and affluent travellers who can afford high-end getaways. Both are in generous supply.

Looking at its own stats, Virtuoso has seen a 50% increase in the number of people looking for travel advisors via its site, Virtuoso.com.

The travelling public “has gone from binging TV [during the pandemic], to binging travel,” said Virtuoso’s Misty Belles. She added: “People also went from “the ‘New Normal’, back to the ‘Old Normal’. Although someone said to me, is it the Old Normal, or more like ‘No Normal’?”

The return to travel has certainly been chaotic, and the only mainstay has been constant and unwavering demand for product.

For Virtuoso, “2023 has blown 2019 away,” says Belles. Bookings for the first half of 2023 generated record total sales for Virtuoso, at levels that were 69% higher than in the first six months of 2019.



Hotel rates are soaring, she added. Virtuoso has seen the average daily rates (ADR) at international hotels surge 100% higher in 2023 versus 2019. At luxury U.S. hotels, rates in 2023 are 57% higher than in 2019, and at luxury international hotels, the increase in 2023 vs. 2019 is 58%.

Virtuoso also forecast steady or higher rates for the festive travel season forecast, for those key weeks from mid-December through early January.

As strong as 2023 has been, 2024 and 2025 are already shaping up to be record-makers too. Looking at bookings made with Virtuoso in the first half of 2019, 2022 and 2023 for travel 1 – 2 years in the future, the luxury group is seeing forward sales surge 39% higher than in 2022, and 107% higher than in 2019. For cruise, those numbers are 44% and 106%, respectively.

In the near future, top destinations for fall travel from the Canadian market include the U.S., Italy and France, as well as destinations right here in Canada.

Overall, Virtuoso’s clientele are favouring several European cities for fall travel. The top 4 picks for getaways in the coming months are in Europe, with hotel rate increases across the board: Paris (rates up 11% vs. 2022); London (rates up 16% vs. 2022); Florence (rates up 37% vs. 2022); and Rome (rates up 19% vs. 2022). Rounding out the top 5 is New York City (rates up 16% vs. 2022).

Is there anywhere clients can find decent hotel rates, relatively speaking? Even high-end travellers appreciate value for their dollars. Virtuoso offers up three possibilities: Athens (where rates are -0.6%); Palm Beach (-14%) and Cabo San Lucas (-15%).



No matter where high-end travellers are heading, a Virtuoso survey shows that 57% agree that “creating a travel experience that best fits my expectations is more important than price.” That bodes well for travel advisors, who are skilled in tailoring a client’s trip to meet their needs.

Virtuoso’s data also shows that the strong uptick in exclusive use travel suppliers, like private jets, has made some affluent travellers so acclimatized to these experiences, they’re not going back. Virtuoso’s yacht bookings are up 79% in 2023 vs. 2019. Private aviation continues to climb for domestic and short-haul international flights (with commercial first class popular for longer haul international flights). And scarcity of exclusive-use travel services is driving up rates.

Meanwhile many motivators that were driving high-end travel before the pandemic are still performing well today. Some 37% of high net worth travellers are vacationing for cultural reasons, 34% are seeking adventure and 16% want expedition travel. Wellness is big too, with 94% incorporating wellness and self-care into their travels.

Food and wine continue to be big draws too. Seven out of 10 (70%) of Virtuoso advisors report an increase in culinary travel, and 20% of travellers say they book trips with food and wine as the focus. And as Virtuoso notes, “they’re willing to pay for it. 47% spend US$10,000 – $25,000 per trip, 35% spend $5,000 – $10,000 per trip, and 15% spend $25,000 – $50,000 per trip.”

Underlining all of Virtuoso’s data, as Belles notes: “Demand for personalized experiences will only continue to grow. And well-advised travellers are happy travellers.”

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