Virtuoso Symposium Returns to Hong Kong With a Look at Generational Travel

hong kongTwelve years after hosting its first Virtuoso Symposium, Hong Kong has welcomed the luxury travel network back for its annual summit. 

Attracting 493 top travel executives from 42 countries, all partners of the network, the Symposium offers attendees an opportunity to address industry issues build business relationships, all while exploring the destination.

This year's speakers include Larry Pimentel, president and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises; Jason Clampet, co-founder and head of content for the travel technology website Skift; and William Paley, senior associate at tonychi and associates; for a look at the luxury market from a global perspective.  Pimentel shared findings from a recently commissioned report from Boston Consulting Group for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line that shows a strong and universal desire for local, authentic and enriching experiences amongst the affluent. Clampet shared from Skift’s Megatrend report that a lifestyle brand that connects travelers’ ideals of themselves with the world has become the one vehicle left for building a long-term meaningful relationship with customers. And Paley shared the role that design plays in influencing a guest’s hotel stay, as it promotes a stronger connection and lasting impression.

Matthew D. Upchurch, chairman and CEO of Virtuoso, said, “This is the first time this industry has had four generations of travelers spending at major levels of contribution, all at the same time: Matures, Boomers, GenX-ers and Millennials. What we’re finding is a universal desire to collaborate with a trusted advisor, plus the willingness to pay for that opportunity. This isn’t an American mindset; our speakers are telling us this need exists worldwide. With continued global expansion at the forefront of our growth strategy, we feel confident about our next steps as a network. The consumer’s want for human connection bodes well for us and for our agency members, and what we are able to deliver together with our partners for the traveler.”

During the event attendees will also enjoy lunches and evenings out at several of the network’s preferred hotels: Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong; The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong; Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong; The Peninsula, Hong Kong; and Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong. Additional event sponsors include the Hong Kong Tourism Board, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Holland America Line/Seabourn, Abercrombie & Kent, and Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts.

Generational Travel Study

This year's symposium saw the release of Virtuoso's first generational traveler study, revealing insights and preferences for affluent travelers of all ages. 

Tapping into transactional data from its United States and Canadian-based agency members that spans more than six years and totals over $35 billion, Virtuoso analyzed spending habits and layered this information with input from focus groups, interviews with travel advisors, and studies from research partner Wealth Engine

Key observations for each group follow:

Millennials (ages 22-32):

- If chosen carefully, they make great travel clients. Currently 90 percent of them book travel online and at the very least, 87 percent use online travel agencies (OTAs) for research and rate comparisons. Their average daily spend is 62 percent lower than Matures. When cultivated, though, that gap closes to just 24 percent. Another bonus: Millennials are actually more loyal than other generations.

- As the “me” generation, they expect to be serviced differently. They are time suppressed and over-stimulated with a general philosophy that a smartphone can solve any problem. Engaging them, educating them and showing patience is the key to converting them into good clients.

- Nothing cookie-cutter for this group. They strongly favor customized FIT tours and experiences. Given they are still building their careers and likely have less ability to break away from their jobs, they have a higher propensity to book trips within North America.

GenX-ers (ages 33-49):

- This “slacker” generation is the least loyal, perhaps because they came of buying age at precisely the time OTAs came into the picture, shifting loyalty from brands in favor of price shopping. In fact, 82 percent book travel online and 71 percent research their travel through OTAs, according to MMGY Global's 2014 Portrait of Digital Travel.

- However, they do account for the highest average daily spend while traveling, at $627 per day. By comparison, Millennials average $527 per day; Boomers average $522; and Matures average $471.

- Changes in their life stages are strongly reflected in their travel habits. Generation Z (their offspring) factor into travel decisions and schedules, with school calendars largely dictating timing. Their top vacation motivation is having enough time to relax and unwind.

- Strongly favor hotel stays, and if it is in the Playa Del Carmen region of Mexico, even better. They prefer to stick closer to home and Mexico is a favored destination.

Boomers (ages 50-68):

- While 84 percent admit to having purchased travel online and 72 percent have researched travel through OTAs, they are responsible for the greatest travel spend. This is mainly because they make up the highest concentration of “ultra-affluent” consumers, meaning they have investible assets in excess of $25 million.

- This generation is experiencing a big point of transition and as they retire, travel ranks among their top activities. Their average spend on travel remains relatively constant before growing rapidly again after age 65.

- They prefer more diversity in their travels, with 19 percent favoring hotels, 26 percent preferring cruises and 28 percent opting for customized FIT tours.

Matures (ages 69-89):

- Travel factors significantly into the lives of this generation, and they rank as the highest spending travelers in aggregate.
- They favor cruises, especially in January. And unlike their GenX counterparts, whose cruising schedules follow school holidays, Matures steadily cruise throughout the year.
- Their loyalty remains the highest, too, as they are the most likely to repeat purchase.