Ultra Highlights

Luxury Travel Advisor’s ULTRA Summit 2014, held March 23-25, 2014 at the Park Hyatt Chicago, brought together the world’s most elite travel advisors and suppliers for an exclusive discussion about the latest research and trends in ultra-luxury or “affluent travel.” Here are some of the highlights of the discussions that ensued over the two-and-a-half days.

Domestic Travel on the Rise

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For most advisors in attendance, individual domestic travel represents 10 to 25 percent of their business, and half said that the segment is growing. One audience participant said her agency is booking ski and extended vacations for families, including getaways at the new crop of ultra-luxury dude ranches. “They’ve all gone online and found that the villa is not what they expected it to be,” she said. “They’re coming back and asking us to help.”

Interactive Audience: At Ultra, we shared exclusive trend data from an attendee survey.Pictured: Interactive Audience: At Ultra, we shared exclusive trend data from an attendee survey.

Another advisor said her agency considers domestic travel to be a growing market. “As people are aging, they don’t want to leave the country as often,” she said. “So it affords them a way to travel still in the luxury vein but without going international, and it affords us the opportunity for the commission percentage.”

The “active and adventure market” is also a growing niche. “There’s more people hiking, biking,” said one advisor. “They want to do kayaking adventures, and they’re taking the family along because that’s the kind of memory they’re going to have for life. It’s the mom and dad taking the families, or it’s couples going, or they’re getting in shape again. People are trying to be healthy, and they’re trying to do things that are a bit more than just sit on a bus and go from point A to point B.”

Bringing Clients Together

The audience enthusiastically cited the fact that “live events” for clients are on the upswing and that they’re getting more and more creative with venues. One advisor was bringing 300 clients to a picnic at a local zoo. Another volunteered that she plans events at cooking schools, and asks them to bring friends. A supplier does the cooking. Another said she has a designer clothing retailer produce fashion shows for her clients, pairing clothing with destinations. All agreed that clients not only enjoy the events, they like the opportunity to speak to each other to compare past vacation experiences. In many ways, they’ll do the selling for you as they rave about the trips you’ve provided them with.

Reality Check

Clayton Reid, president and CEO of MMGY Global, addressed travel trends, commonly held misperceptions, and how to take advantage of them. His four takeaways included:

1. Travelers are growing in confidence. There is a lot of pent-up demand to be realized during the next several years.

2. It is important to understand specific behaviors and profiles, avoid sweeping generalizations, and be skeptical of the competitive set, understanding there are disrupters and that travelers are consuming content in new ways.

3. Beware of misperceptions when trying to understand travel behavior. Instead, look at true traveler intent, at the life cycle that travelers go through for the entire process and ways in which they can be influenced.

4. Pricing strategy has to connect to brand differentiation. It cannot just be about price. It has to be about the whole narrative.

Top Tips, Best Practices: Speakers shared the latest in consumer behavior, and advisors shared strategies from the front.Pictured: Top Tips, Best Practices: Speakers shared the latest in consumer behavior, and advisors shared strategies from the front.

The following day, Peter Yesawich, vice chairman of MMGY Global, shared his firm’s insights about the affluent traveler, which he told the audience “may recalibrate some of your understanding as to what these individuals are seeking and, importantly, what motivates them to think about the kinds of travel that they want to experience.”

An in-depth examination of 1,200 affluent travelers in the United States revealed they plan to take six leisure trips during the next 12 months, which is two trips more than the typical leisure traveler in America. Affluent travelers are more interested in urban vacations than beach and ski vacations—destinations including San Francisco, New York and Washington. Many of them have taken theme park vacations with their grandchildren.

For more on MMGY’s Affluent Traveler survey, see the July issue of Luxury Travel Advisor. To order the complete white paper on Luxury Travel Advisor’s ULTRA Luxury Summit, contact EVP and Group Publisher, John McMahon at [email protected]

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