Week in Review: Top Holiday Travel Trends, Agency Events

There are lots of positives when looking at the holiday travel season approaching. According to Deloitte’s “2023 Holiday Travel Survey,” nearly half of Americans intend to travel between Thanksgiving and mid-January—with a larger share than last year taking trips beyond only visiting family and friends. In fact, intent to travel this holiday season is up across all ages and income groups with an average holiday budget of $2,725.

Other findings?

  • Fifty-six percent of holiday travelers plan to book a stay at some point this holiday season, up from 35 percent in 2022. Preference for private rentals remains flat at 15 percent.
  • Twenty-six percent of air travelers will fly to international destinations.
  • Participation in travel activities is up across most categories year-over-year, including visiting a major attraction and attending a ticketed event.

Chase Travel tapped into its own database, as well as those of FROSCH and Valerie Wilson Travel, part of the Chase Travel Group, to see where people are traveling this year and what’s inspiring them. What it found: Holiday hotspots this year are propelled by new flight routes or by travelers’ growing interest in destinations that offer nature-based adventures.

Cities in China (Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai) and Japan (Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo) had the strongest year-over-year holiday season growth after being closed to travelers last year. Beachfront getaways to destinations like Aruba; Miami Beach and West Palm Beach, FL; Roatan, Honduras; and Playa Del Carmen, Mexico also ranked very high.

That all said, it’s perhaps not shocking to hear that 92 percent of Americans are hoping for gifted experiences this year over physical gifts. According to GetYourGuide, the top experiences Americans are hoping for are: Travel or a trip, concert or show, an outdoor activity like skiing or hiking and a museum visit. Its report also found that domestic destinations including Florida, California and New York topped the list of where people are visiting this winter, with France, Mexico and Canada forming the top three international destinations.

Digging Into the Data

JW Marriott Essex House New York
Gen Z and Millennials are jumping on the "more is more" maximalist wedding trend, according to Marriott Bonvoy. (JW Marriott Essex House New York )

In separate research, Marriott Bonvoy looked into upcoming wedding trends. While older generations are focusing on tastefully simpler affairs, nearly two in five Gen Z and Millennials are jumping on the maximalist wedding trend of “more is more” and investing heavily in the personal details for their special day. One in five maximalist couples additionally report that they’re going to have gourmet food that reflects their dietary choices, while one-third want it to be a focal point of the day.

In addition, more than nine in 10 engaged couples plan to include a sustainable element into their wedding, including seasonal or locally grown flowers, digital invitations or donating excess food and decorations to nearby pantries.

Travel Agency Events

The Affluent Traveler Collection (ATC) recently hosted its annual Symposium at the Kimpton Epic Miami, where it disclosed that sales are up across much of the luxury section. In all, luxury sales are up 32 percent, driven by a 45 percent increase in luxury room revenue; 24 percent increase in luxury guided revenue and 22 percent increase in luxury cruise revenue.

To provide more authentic, immersive experiences to travelers, the network’s OnLocation program relaunched earlier this year. The program tripled in size to 33 partners in 65 destinations.

Also on the luxury leisure side, Direct Travel, a Virtuoso agency, announced recently that it will host its first-ever leisure travel conference, Direct Access: Gaining Altitude, this month. Attendees will participate in scheduled meetings and will be given an update on the company’s productivity tools along with insights into data and the company’s technology enhancements. Direct Travel will demonstrate to advisors how to earn more money with simple changes to how they conduct their daily business.

In other good news for luxury travel: Virtuoso at its 2023 Chairman’s Event in Sicily shared that the luxury travel agency network's year-to-date sales in 2023 were up 25 percent compared to the same period last year, while Q4 2023 sales show a 32 percent increase over Q4 2022. Forward-looking data for sales into 2024 and 2025 showed that future bookings are up 36 percent compared to last year and 98 percent over 2019’s future sales leading into 2020.

Virtuoso Chairman's Event at San Domenico Palace, Taormina, A Four Seasons Hotel
At its Chairman's Event, Virtuoso says future bookings for 2024-25 are up 36 percent compared to last year. (Photo by Virtuoso)

Elsewhere on the travel agency network side, Nexion Travel Group announced it is bringing back its popular commission plan, Nexion 100. The plan gives travel advisors the chance to keep 100 percent of their commissions booked through all non-ARC (Airlines Reporting Corp.) suppliers.

All members of Nexion Travel Group can choose a plan type that suits the needs of their business. Each plan type offers a balance between keeping a greater commission or paying a higher monthly fee. Experienced Nexion advisors have options between Nexion 100 and plans that offer anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of a commission split. New-to-industry members are offered the NEXstart and NEXstart Lite plans, which give the travel advisor a 60 percent commission split until the Travel Leaders of Tomorrow program is completed, when commissions go to 70 percent.

New Travel Advisor Programs

Brightline, which just launched new modern, high-speed train service between Orlando and South Florida, has announced a new Travel Professional Program offering travel advisors commissionable rail bookings. Qualified U.S and Canadian advisors can now book their clients’ travel on Brightline trains between Orlando and South Florida (Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach) with access to the lowest published fares. Advisors will also receive 10 percent base commission—higher for volume and groups—on both the rail line's Smart (economy) and Premium (upper) classes of rail service.

Venture Ashore has additionally launched a new website for travel advisors, offering ease of use and the ability to book for land-based and cruise customers. Key changes include the ability to log in on the Venture Ashore homepage without having to open a different booking window. There is also increased booking visibility and management of customer-created bookings and a newly designed white-label affiliate website. The enhanced booking system also allows advisors to collect customer tour vouchers from their portal, as soon as the reservation is confirmed with the vendor.

Other Notable Updates

Four Seasons Resort Nevis
Guest accommodations, restaurants and the reception were undamaged following this week's fire at Four Seasons Resort Nevis. (Photo by Four Seasons)

A fire at Four Seasons Resort Nevis this week has destroyed its Pro Shop and Fitness Center. The resort, thankfully, reported that no one was injured and said in a statement that the safety of its employees and guests were their top concern. "As we assess the extent of the damages and develop a plan for the restoration of the facilities, the resort remains open and welcoming guests," a spokesperson for the resort told us. 

Windstar Cruises this week announced it is shifting the Middle East debut of Star Legend from December 2023 to November 2024 due to the war in Israel/Gaza. Instead, the 312-passenger ship from December to April 2024 will sail the Mediterranean to such destinations as Barcelona, Nice, Florence/Livorno, Marseille and Rome. The seven-night itineraries have been designed for guests to take advantage of fewer crowds and easier access to museums, cultural events and historical landmarks, as well as local cuisine and engagement with locals.

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