Luxury Travelers’ Preferences and Top Destinations for Autumn / Winter 2022

Luxury Travelers’ Preferences and Top Destinations for Autumn / Winter 2022

Global luxury travel network Virtuoso® reveals when, where and how the affluent are traveling next. Respected as an industry-leading trend forecaster, Virtuoso gathered data and insights from its network of travel advisors, preferred partners and HNW/UHNW clientele based on its data warehouse of more than £41.2 billion in transactions and an ongoing series of surveys.

While travel has felt uncertain at times during 2022, luxury travellers have led the way forward, even in the face of covid variants, travel restrictions, and overwhelmed airports. The pent-up demand that many of us felt during the last few years has resulted in a surge in bookings, culminating in trends like revenge travel and hectic “Armageddon” scenes at major airports around the world. It’s no wonder this year’s summer holiday cost more than it did last year and even the years before that – travellers are ready to get back out there and spend, and not just to Europe but the broader world. Both inbound and outbound leisure travel sales are booming, in some cases surpassing 2019 levels, and booking windows have normalised back to pre-pandemic numbers (which explains why it’s so hard to find deals and discounts). Despite the challenges, it’s undeniable that the future is bright, with travel sales in 2023 pacing 47% higher than 2019.

Travel Roars Back

  • Luxury travellers are ready to resume their pre-pandemic travel lives and have consistently led the way, even during shaky times. In January 2022, 85% said they were in a ready-to-travel mindset and 86% planned to take an international trip. Fast forward to summer 2022, even airports overwhelmed with air traffic and lost baggage is no strong deterrent for getting back out there.
  • When it comes to recovery, the spend for outbound leisure travel is expected to outpace actual travel (i.e., the volume of people on the ground). According to Tourism Economics, in some markets, like U.K., Australia and France, the difference between the two is quite slim. For others, like Mexico, China, and Brazil, the spend is expected to return years ahead of the number of outbound travelers.
  • Hotel booking windows are much wider than they were in 2019. Now, the median window for domestic hotels is 58 days (compared to 2019’s 44) and 80 days for international hotels (compared to 60). This is good news for hotels, of course, but for travelers it means more difficulty finding deals and discounts.
  • 76% of travelers have accepted a “new normal” (up from 35% in January 2022), with many travelers making peace with all the uncertainty and volatility. Now, the number of travelers who were put off by traveling in January 2022 has dropped by 26 points (from 38% to 12%).
  • Future sales of travel in 2023 are pacing 47% higher than 2019—great news for cruising, which is leading the way with heavy bookings in 2023.
  • According to Tourism Economics, global outbound leisure spending won’t fully bounce back until Q2 2024 exceeding 2019 levels by 21% by 2024. And from there, the numbers keep climbing, surging to 55% of 2019 levels by 2026.
  • 74% of Virtuoso travelers say “creating a travel experience that best fits my expectations is more important than price,” with plans to increase their previous year’s spend of $20,700 per person by 34% to $27,800 in the next year.

Who is Traveling, Where are They Going, and Why Are They Going Now?

  • How are people traveling? The most popular way is traveling with a spouse or significant other, followed by traveling with friends and family trips with kids under 18. While traveling with friends showed a slight decrease (from 46% in 2019 to 36% in 2022), it’s still the second-most popular form of travel.
  • Solo travel is on the rise—but not in the way you might expect. Interestingly, among Virtuoso clients, the highest level of interest is coming from the 65+ age group, increasing from 4% in 2019 to 18% in 2022. Meanwhile, the interest among travelers ages 18-34 has dropped from 12% in 2019 to 6% in 2022.
  • Younger, richer travelers are getting out there in a big way. The 18-34 age group averaged 2.2 more international trips in the past year than the 65+ age group and 1.3 more domestic trips. DIY travelers took about the same number of trips in the past year as Virtuoso-advised travelers, but the latter took longer trips, spending more nights in hotels, rentals, and cruises and skewed more toward international trips.
  • 78% of travelers say they’re ready to travel now. For 87% of those polled, the dollar’s parity with the Euro plays a factor. And only 35% say that this summer’s air travel complications have caused them to cancel or postpone plans.
  • Hotel bookings for autumn and festive travel (1st September – 15th January) made through July of this year are at 173% of where they were at the same point in 2019.
  • While 45% of people say they’re ready to travel now or within the next 3 months, 38% say it will be 6-12 months before they do so.
  • Disconnecting from the routine and stresses of home and connecting with new people, cultures, and ideas are primary reasons for travel in 2022.
  • Purpose-driven travel remains paramount. Environmentally-friendly philosophies and practices and the preservation of natural and cultural heritage are top-of-mind concerns, especially among Gen Z and Millennials. And many are willing to pay more —56% of Gen Z and 46% of Millennials for eco-friendly tourism practices and 58% of Gen Z and 52% of Millennials for travel that preserves natural and cultural heritage.

Autumn & Winter Travel

  • When it comes to festive travel, many people are ready to make plans, even amid the uncertainty of traveling during a pandemic. In 2020, only 16% were comfortable planning and making adjustments later, if need be, and now that’s up to 28%. And in 2020, people waiting to book until closer to their travel date was 22%; that’s now consistently down to 15%.
  • In terms of the motive behind festive travel, 71% will take a holiday, while 21% will travel to see family and friends.
  • Islands and beaches are topping travelers’ lists for holiday travel, followed by trips with a wellness component, and ocean cruises, 62% will travel to multiple destinations, while 38% will travel to a single destination. Notably, wellness-focused trips were the only category to see a year-on-year increase: 2021 (13%) vs. 2022 (24%).
  • Among the 18-34 age group, high-end travelers seek out (and are willing to pay more for) travel brands/experiences that focus on environmentally-friendly philosophies, those that contribute to local people and that also preserve natural and cultural heritage.
  • Booking trends are indicative of a strong autumn/winter season during which volume will remain above 2019 levels.
  • Across all countries: through July, hotel and in-destination leisure booking volume is at 157% of 2019 levels.
  • Trips to the Caribbean islands seem to be gaining popularity through the rest of 2022 and into 2023.