Luxury travelers are actively and eagerly planning their next trips in a sector that will play a huge role in leading the industry’s continuing recovery. In even more encouraging news, they’re more than ready to travel to international locations. Some 37% of US travelers told Expedia that they planned to travel both domestically and internationally this year. Bookings for intra-European travel in 2022 are up 250% for the Easter period and already up 80% for the summer. And Airbnb’s CEO is bullish on cross-border travel, telling the Wall Street Journal recently that the company is “really optimistic” about the rebound.
It’s clear that as confidence in COVID-safety grows, luxury travelers are more open to getting out there. But there are still big concerns on where COVID-related roadblocks may trip up plans. Because they’re venturing past domestic luxury locations, it makes sense that travelers’ COVID concerns have shifted from how to avoid the virus entirely, to how to ensure the best possible experience in spite of it.
In such an environment, travel agents and advisors have moved into the essential category. A full 88% of the 648 US luxury travelers we surveyed believe agents are more important now than ever before because of ever-changing travel regulations due to COVID. As one traveler we surveyed put the benefits of using an advisor: “I want to make sure I meet all the COVID-19 requirements for travel overseas, rather than be caught at the last minute.”
How can luxury travel pros best meet the needs of luxury travelers in light of changing attitudes toward the COVID-19 pandemic? Here are a few things to consider.
Vax status matters to luxury travelers. “Vax” was the 2021 Oxford Languages Word of the Year because, as lexicographers wrote, “it is rare to observe a single topic impact language so dramatically, and in such a short period of time become a critical part of our everyday communication.” It makes sense, then, that vaccines would influence big choices like luxury travel. Some 92% of the travelers indicated that they prefer to use airlines that require travelers to be vaccinated. When it comes to where they stay, 91% prefer to stay at accommodations that require guests and employees to be vaccinated.
Keeping track of travel restrictions was the no. 1 benefit luxury travelers named in using a travel advisor. For luxury travelers, complying with COVID-19 travel restrictions, determining what type of tests they will need and when, and ensuring everything gets to the right place adds complexity and stress that is absolutely not synonymous with luxury. On top of that, requirements are changing quickly. As a few examples: On Feb. 22, the EU recommended member states lift restrictions on non-essential travel to the EU for vaccinated travelers (including requirements for booster shots). Canada is easing testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers. And across the Caribbean, countries in general require some level of vaccination as a minimum for entry – with Bermuda soon requiring vaccinations for those 12 and over as a prerequisite for travel at all to the country.
Careful planning is more important now than it was before COVID-19. Luxury travelers want you to be ready to solve problems when they happen, not if. Travelers are far more likely to check cancellation policies now than they were before COVID-19, and some 41% said that for them, luxury travel now includes helping with COVID-19 related travel changes.
Ease of payment is a part of the experience. Luxury travelers are prepared to spend more than ever (nearly $5,000 per person) and as a result, their expectations of the ease and security of payment are high. Some 87% said in our survey that how easy it is to pay for all parts of their trip at once (travel, excursions, accommodations) is important, and 69% expressed concern over the security of their payments.
Before the pandemic, travel and tourism accounted for 1 in 4 new jobs created globally, 10.6% of all jobs and 10.4% of global GDP. During 2020, 62 million jobs were lost and the $9.2 trillion the sector contributed to the global economy was cut nearly in half, according to data from the World Travel & Tourism Council.
The entire luxury travel industry will be crucial to jolting the international travel economy – which is poised for a massive recovery this year that will put it close to pre-pandemic levels, and in certain countries, exceed them.
Are you ready?
Get there by reading our full report, “The Luxe Life: Luxury Travel’s Role in the Industry’s Recovery,” here.