If there was every any doubt about the thriving travel industry, take a look at this year’s Virtuoso Travel Week. When the organization started hosting this event 26 years ago, attendance was 98 people. Today? It’s at more than 4,000.
Luxury Travel Advisor attended a press conference hosted by Virtuoso Chairman and CEO Matthew Upchurch, who shared insights on the buying habits and motivations of upscale travelers. It is important to note that the average Virtuoso traveler is 56 years old. Seventy percent are married or partnered and the median household income is $200,000.
“We’ve seen developing is a polarization in the way people buy travel,” says Upchurch to a group of 40 members of the consumer and trade press. “Travelers are either planning way in advance for their dream trips, or they are booking last minute.” Several factors are driving the high demand, most notably the massive rise in tourism with more than one billion people now crossing international borders as tourists.
Upchurch also drew upon Virtuoso’s data warehouse of more than $32 billion in client transactions to determine what the hot destinations are that people are looking to travel to these days. According to the data, Virtuoso’s Top 10 travel destinations are:
2. United Kingdom
8. South Africa
Virtuoso was also able to pool its data to look at the countries that are seeing the largest year-over-year growth, termed the Virtuoso “Hot List.” These destinations include:
1. New Zealand, which has grown by 196%
5. Hong Kong
“We are building a program called 'Return on Life',” Upchurch announced. “There are clients out there who already have a mental model of wealth advising, but why wouldn’t they have one in managing their free leisure time? We want to go to a consumer and tell them that we want to be their Return on Life Advisor. It would involve sitting down and having a conscious plan over the next five to 10 years. I believe it’s going to be a great product.”
Upchurch also shared that his team has found that people are focusing on two different ways of travel. The first group is going back to places they know well and wanting to learn more about them in depth and to be participants, ie "live like a local". “People today don’t want to just be observers,” he says. “They want to be participants and connect with people and culture.”
Then there is the group that is into destination collecting and visiting exotic places. That's being driven by the number of baby boomers now traveling and the fact that new destinations are opening up. “[The evolution] of tourism is going to continue,” he says.