MMGY Exclusive: Travel Sentiment Continues to Rise

The perception of safety while traveling, along with traveler sentiment continue to rise, according to the latest research from MMGY Global. At Luxury Travel Advisor’s ULTRA Summit—held last week at La Cantera Resort & Spa in San Antonio, TX—Julie Cuesta, EVP, managing director for MMGY Myriad (MMGY’s international destination representation in North America) shared insights regarding the general traveler, as well as the affluent traveler, in 2021. Good news: Nearly all signs are pointing up.

Beyond traveler sentiment, the personal finances available for travel is way up, as is the quality-of-service perceptions as the industry rushes to bolster staffing—both up significantly since spring 2020. In general, personal finances have trending up since 2008 (following a crash concurrent with the financial crisis of the time), and quality-of-service perceptions has often had very positive reviews starting in 2013. Both, however, saw a dip last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perceived safety is also rebounding: According to MMGY’s “Travel Safety Barometer,” domestic travel has a rating of 67 (in April 2020, it had a score of 30; in Q1 2021, it was 56). International travel is still lagging, with a score of 43 (following a “20” rating in April 2020 and “36” earlier this year). Cruising is also way up from last year (17 to 43), although there’s clearly a long way to go; travelers generally feel more comfortable with both hotels/resorts (65) and vacation rentals (63).

As for affluent travelers (which MMGY defines as those with an annual household income of $250,000 or more; of those surveyed, however, Cuesta noted that nearly one-third had incomes over $500,000), 81 percent are more interested in taking a vacation this year—up from 69 percent in Q1. In addition, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) say they have more available time for travel.

When it comes to upselling, affluent travelers are most willing to pay more for hotel suites/accommodations (51 percent), upscale restaurants (47 percent), an upgraded cabin on a cruise ship (35 percent), first class/business class airline seat (30 percent), spa services (30 percent) and personal guides in vacation destinations (29 percent).

When it came to travel party composition, most (76 percent) said they are traveling in pairs. Just over half (52 percent) are traveling alone, while one-third are traveling with their family. Just 6 percent said they are traveling with large groups. (Participants were allowed to select more than one option.)

International travel interest is relatively high among affluent travelers: 92 percent are interested in visiting an international destination in the next two years, although just 20 percent indicate interest in doing so in the next six months. Places where affluent travelers are showing more interest in visiting compared to the general population include Europe, Canada, Mexico and Africa.

MMGY also reports that vacations are highly valued and viewed as a priority for many affluent travelers. Seventy percent said the memories from vacations are more valuable than any material item they purchased last year. Seventy-two percent said taking a vacation is the event they look forward to most each year. Seventy-five percent also said that going on vacations bring their families closer.

What motivates people to travel? Top responses from the survey included: Relaxation (81 percent), exploration (81 percent), experiencing different cultures (78 percent), enhancing existing relationships (72 percent) and experiencing new cuisines (68 percent). People also noted that “working from home” allows them to travel more. Two-thirds (66 percent) of Americans said they feel encouraged to explore new destinations while also working from home. One-third (34 percent) said they have extended a trip because they now have the freedom to work remotely.

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