Virtuoso: 2023 Travel Sales Outpacing 2019

Virtuoso at its annual Travel Week, held August 13-19 in Las Vegas, revealed details about how the affluent are traveling. The global luxury travel network gathered data and insights from its travel advisors, preferred partners and high net worth/ultra-high net worth clientele, pulling data from its warehouse of more than $49.5 billion in transactions and via ongoing surveys.

What should we know? While travel has felt at times uncertain during 2022, Virtuoso reported that luxury travelers have led the way forward, even in the face of COVID variants, travel restrictions and overwhelmed airports. The years of pent-up demand has resulted in a surge in flights and bookings, creating trends like “revenge travel” and hectic “Airmageddon” scenes at airports around the world.

Further, both inbound and outbound leisure travel sales are booming—in some cases surpassing 2019 levels. Booking windows have also “normalized” back to pre-pandemic numbers (which explains why it’s so hard to find deals and discounts). Despite the challenges, Virtuoso said it’s undeniable that the future is bright, with travel sales in 2023 pacing 47 percent higher than 2019.

Upscale travelers, Virtuoso said, are ready to resume their pre-pandemic travel lives. In January, 85 percent of travelers said they were in a “ready-to-travel” mindset and 86 percent planned to take an international trip. Overwhelmed airports and lost baggage are “no strong deterrent for getting back out there,” the luxury travel network said.

When it comes to recovery, the spend for outbound leisure travel is expected to outpace actual travel (i.e., the volume of people on the ground). According to Tourism Economics, in some markets, like Australia, the U.K. and France, the differential between the two is quite slim. For others, like Mexico, China and Brazil, the spend is expected to return years ahead of the number of outbound travelers.

Outbound leisure travel sales have also shown a strong rebound, even in markets where borders only recently reopened. The U.S. has already outperformed 2019 numbers for 2022 by 122 percent, Australia by 113 percent and Canada, at 80 percent, is rapidly catching up.  Globally, the industry has surpassed 2019—travel’s high-water mark—for outbound travel booked January-July at 102 percent. In fact, three-quarters (74 percent) of Virtuoso travelers say “creating a travel experience that best fits my expectations is more important than price,” with plans to increase their previous year’s spend of $20,700 per person by 34 percent to $27,800 in the next year.

Hotel booking windows are much wider than they were in 2019: Now, the median window for domestic hotels is 58 days (compared to 2019’s 44) and 80 days for international hotels (compared to 60).  This is good news for hotels, of course, but for travelers it means more difficulty finding deals and discounts.

Three-quarters (76 percent) of travelers have accepted a “new normal” (up from 35 percent in January 2022), with many travelers making peace with all the uncertainty and volatility. To note, the number of travelers who were put off by traveling in January 2022 has dropped by 26 points (from 38 percent to 12 percent).

As noted above, future sales of travel in 2023 are pacing 47 percent higher than 2019—great news for cruising, which is leading the way with heavy bookings in 2023. According to Tourism Economics, global outbound leisure spending won’t fully bounce back until Q2 2024, exceeding 2019 levels by 21 percent by 2024. And from there, the numbers are expected keep climbing, surging to 55 percent of 2019 levels by 2026. 

Source: Virtuoso

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