Virtuoso Travel Week Kicks Off, Shares How COVID Is Changing Consumers Trends

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch

David Kolner, Virtuoso Travel Week host
and SVP, Strategy at Virtuoso

Virtuoso Travel Week kicked off yesterday, but the global event wasn't quite what advisors were used to in previous years. Instead of taking place at Las Vegas's Bellagio, the travel community event took a turn for the digital due to the coronavirus pandemic, earning it the moniker "Virtualoso" by David Kolner, event host and Senior Vice President, Strategy at the network. 


Despite the new platform, Virtuoso Travel Week 2020 received more than 4,000 registered participants from 96 countries and 78,000 appointments booked, according to the luxury network's CEO Matthew Upchurch. 

Consumer trends and insights

The year started off with promise and a positive outlook, with double-digit growth in Virtuoso’s 2020 bookings. Agents, also, were optimistic, with 84% of those polled in JAN 2020 saying they expected this year's sales to be higher than 2019. 

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, bringing all travel and tourism activities to a halt. While a timeline for recovery remains uncertain, over half (57%) of US/Canada Virtuoso members polled expect leisure travel bookings to begin to grow consistently in the next six months or more. About 13% expect it to happen more than a year from now. 
Virtuoso shared survey research and sales analysis from its advisors and clients to see how COVID-19 is changing travel habits. Here are some of those insights:

 

  1. Younger travellers are far more willing to travel right now than older generations. 

    A JUN survey found 31% of those aged 55 and older said they were ready to travel again, compared with 84% of Generation Z, 62.7% of Millennials and 62.3% of Gen X. Virtuoso reran the survey in late JUL and received "nearly identical" results.


 

  1. Those travelling right now are staying closer to home compared to this time last year.

    Approximately 70% of hotel bookings right now are being made for properties less than 1,500 miles away from a traveller's home, compared to 58% in Q2 2019.

 

  1. Booking windows are shorter.

    Virtuoso found 43% of hotel stays booked are currently within two weeks of a stay. For Q2 2019, this number was 37%. 

 

  1. Consumers looking for beach & adventure experiences, not city trips. 

    The network found a dramatic increase in bookings for hotels that brand themselves as being beach, adventure, seclusion and golf properties, when compared to Q2 2019. Consumers were much less inclined to book properties that branded themselves as being city life or landmark properties. 



 

  1. Cruise is showing signs of hope for 2021.

    Cruise bookings for 2021 are pacing just 6% below this same time last year, which was a record year for Virtuoso cruise bookings. Consumers are showing strong interest in river cruising and luxury, premium and deluxe ocean lines.

    Ocean cruises are particularly strong in the Canada/US market, making up 45% of new bookings. 

 

Looking Ahead At Festive Bookings

Holiday travel is usually planned far in advance but with the pandemic, advance bookings are comparatively lighter than usual. This JUL only saw 13% of the bookings made in JUL 2019.

Here is what a 24JUL Virtuoso flash survey of consumer's holiday travel plans found:

  • almost half (47%) of travellers polled said they plan on spending the holidays at home, as they usually do
  • 22% said they are considering booking festive travel but are waiting to see how conditions evolve
  • 15% said they are comfortable planning travel now, even if they need to make adjustments later
  • Only 16% stated while they would typically plan a trip over the holiday season, they will not be travelling this year

Of those that would consider travelling for the festive season, 59% said they would take an international flight, 30% said they would take a domestic flight, and 15% opted to drive.

 

Travel Agent Tips

Based on these findings, Kolner shared three tips for travel advisors:

 

  1. Start conversations with your clients about different experiences

    "Remember your clients expectations may have changed. They're booking closer to home, booking closer in and looking for different types of experiences, and younger clients may be the key to your recovery."

  2. Don't forget the festive season – reach out to clients and about their holiday travel. 

    "Now might just be the right time to reach out, and don't forget about cruise for 2021."

  3. Keep clients dreaming – share Virtuoso's Wanderlist app with your clients. 

    "Wanderlist is an easy, fun way to keep your clients dreaming of travel and remembering you, their trusted Virtuoso travel advisor during these crazy times."
Anna Kroupina

Anna Kroupina Journalist

Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.

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