Tourism

Luxury: What’s price got to do with it?

Daisy Melwani

The Australian travel culture has evolved, entering into a new era of bespoke tailored travel, away from the cookie-cutter programs sold on mass, according to Virtuoso chairman, Matthew Upchurch.

Speaking in Sydney today to unveil the results from an in-depth look into travel trends and preferences for high net worth individuals, the group’s first research into the field held in conjunction with Australian resort, qualia, Upchurch said there has been a “significant shift” in consumers’ idea of luxury, and that 60% believed it is no longer defined by price.

“The elements driving the luxury market are a feeling of connectivity, authenticity and a sense of place. People want genuine, personalised experiences and whilst this is a global trend, it is more prevalent in sophisticated markets like Australia,” Upchurch, said.

“Australians have always been big travellers with holidays being a critical element in their lifestyle. They often invest more time than others to explore the world and there is a clear movement towards cultural authenticity and connectivity.”

The 2015 Australian Luxury Travel Survey of more than 2500 Virtuoso clients and qualia guests found Australians were having to manage their travel plans around busy lives, changing their travel behaviour, destination choices and planning cycles.

“Now, more than ever, travellers are aware their most precious, non-renewable asset is their leisure time, and this is driving a demand for domestic luxury experiences, which is great business for Australia’s amazing products,” Upchurch said.

Domestic short breaks of 2 to 4 days were also on the rise with 66% of respondents, suggesting a new, incremental sales volume for high-end agencies.

“Personalised attention to detail is highly desirable in this ‘new’ luxury market, the individual needs of clients must be recognised – we are entering the era of bespoke tailored travel, away from the cookie-cutter programs sold on mass,” Upchurch said.

Environmental issues were also high on the agenda amongst luxury travellers than compared to five years ago.

The survey also found the most powerful influence on decision-making is word of mouth, but traditional media and travel advisors also made rank.

“People are mostly influenced by recommendations from a friend they know and trust. Luxury travellers are telling us they rank advice based on how well they trust the author. The creation of great travel stories told by our influential clients is key to our business,” Upchurch said.

As for destinations clients are considering, the Virtuoso Luxe Report ranked Australia in fourth place on the popularity scale this year.

“Internationally we have seen remarkable growth into destinations such as Australia and New Zealand, which has grown 95% in the past year after Tourism New Zealand launched a focused campaign to gain a greater market share of the US high net worth traveller,” Upchurch said.

“Cruising is another longstanding trend internationally and for Australian luxury travellers, with river cruising becoming the number one trend out of the US and Canada, followed by multigenerational travel, while the most popular ‘Emerging Destination’ is Croatia.”

Virtuoso boasts a data warehouse of more than US$30 billion in current and past sales transactions.

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