Bespoke, Mindful and Enriching Experiences Top Affluent Travelers’ Wish Lists

While business travel in the U.S. is still well below 2019 levels, the luxury market—and leisure travel in general—has experienced a rapid recovery post-pandemic, even with the travel industry hitting some serious bumps along the way, i.e., flight delays and cancelations, global conflict and the threat of recession. In a new report by Resonance Consultancy, titled “Where To? The Future of U.S. Luxury Travel,” the New York-based global tourism advisor looked at where and how people are traveling, accommodation preferences, key trends and more. To gather its intel, Resonance Consultancy surveyed the Top 1 percent of U.S. households in 2022 (household income of $500,000-plus and/or net worth of at least $11 million).

The study found that almost all affluent U.S. travelers are planning an overnight trip of at least 75 miles away within the next 12 months and 41 percent are planning to travel internationally, with Canada being the most popular country they are planning to travel to. In addition, the needs of leisure travelers have evolved during the pandemic. Bespoke, personalized travel experiences—including those that provide a sense of well-being and personal growth or enrichment and high “badge-value”—have become increasingly important to this market.

While city trips are still popular, they dropped from 53 percent in 2019 to just 35 percent for the Top 1 percent planning to take a city trip in the next 12 months. Combining business and leisure is also as important as ever, rising from 34 percent in 2019 to 38 percent in 2022. But the biggest shift has been the surge in affluent households planning to take a vacation for health and wellness, rising from 23 percent in 2019 to 31 percent in 2022.

Good to know: When it comes to how wealthy travelers book these trips, one of the most significant changes since 2019 has been the rise in use of travel advisors, which has nearly doubled from 34 percent in 2019 to 63 percent in 2022. This still trails (only) the use of OTAs, which is used by 73 percent of wealthy Americans.

Key vacation destination factors include safety (64 percent), availability of luxury accommodations (53 percent), scenery and nature (53 percent) and warm climate/weather (52 percent). Other factors included whether destinations are easily accessible by commercial flights, have outdoor activities, are close to the beach or water, and offer good cultural attractions and “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences.

Interestingly, the intention to visit destinations such as Europe and the Caribbean has declined since 2019—although these regions trail only Canada in terms of intention to visit. Within Europe, the most popular destinations this year are England (22 percent), France (20 percent) and Italy (19 percent). Traveling domestically is still popular, with 29 percent planning a trip within the U.S., with Florida (12 percent), California (12 percent), New York (12 percent) and Hawaii (7 percent), being the most popular destinations.

In terms of holiday accommodation, hotels continue to be the most popular choice; however, hotels of all types have declined in popularity since 2019, while the use of Airbnb has increased significantly (23 percent in 2019 to 38 percent in 2022). When it comes to the amenities and services they seek in their accommodation, not much has changed here since 2019, other than a growing interest in unique activities/experience, which rose from 45 percent to 53 percent, and eco-friendliness, which rose from 37 percent in 2019 to 48 percent in 2022.

Resonance Consultancy has additionally identified the following key trends as top of mind among wealthy travelers:

  • Cultural Adventures: Travelers are looking for the most authentic, most down-to-earth experiences and to learn about new ways of life
  • Conscious Consumption: This is any form of tourism that minimizes travel’s negative impacts, empowering local communities, feeding the local economy, assisting conservation efforts and boosting connections between tourists and locals
  • All-in-cations:” While some turn their nose up at all-inclusives, the idea is now expanding beyond resorts to comprise the overall destination experience, making it a more appealing concept
  • Reconnection: With the pandemic seemingly in the rearview mirror, people who may have put a reunion on hold are increasingly looking to reconnect with their loved ones through travel
  • Workations:” No longer just “bleisure,” the idea of blended traveling is front and center for every major travel company now
  • Rewilding: Travelers have been feeling the urge to connect with nature during the past few months and recent data shows that outdoor experiences are among the top travel goals for 2023
  • Mindful Healing: Mindful travel can help people become aware of how their thoughts, feelings and sensations affect their reality, while also allowing individuals to slow down and pay attention to everything the place offers
  • Indigenous Intrigue: Indigenous tourism provides an opportunity to educate oneself about places and people in a way that contributes positively to their communities
  • Questing: Travelers want to ensure their experiences are deeper and more meaningful than ever before, learning something new in the process, achieving new milestones,and doing something that they can take pride in
  • Living Out Loud: Now more than ever, travelers are using “bucket-list” events (a BTS concert in Vegas, the Daytona 500, Festival de Cannes, Burning Man) as a nucleus around which they plan vacations
  • Gigayacthing:” Quality of trips is prioritized over frequency, while privacy is valued more than ever before, plus many luxury hotel brands and debuting yacht experiences
  • Stadium Style: Wealthy Americans not only want to attend the Kentucky Derby, Super Bowl or The Masters, but they want the full VIP experience, too

Source: Resonance Consultancy

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