Australia is expected to be one of the last tourism markets to recover from the effects of the global pandemic, lagging behind the global average by more than a year, according to research cited by Virtuoso’s regional GM, Fiona Dalton.
Speaking at a media breakfast at Crown Sydney this morning to celebrate Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch’s first Australian visit since the pandemic began, Dalton relayed key data and trends uncovered by the luxury travel network alongside its senior vice president of global operations, Michael Londregan.
Dalton confirmed that despite the overall economic downturn caused by the pandemic, wealthy clients have been getting more wealthy, providing a significant boost to the luxury travel market as travel picks up.
“We’re seeing some extraordinary investments back in the travel space now for ultra-high net worth individuals in this market,” she said.
Virtuoso surveyed its members’ clientele, gathered insights from its travel advisor and preferred partner network and tapped into its data warehouse of more than US$49.5 billion in transactions to identify emerging trends affecting the Australia and New Zealand travel landscapes in 2022.
A January 2022 poll by the network showed that 85 per cent of travellers are in a “ready to travel” mindset, and intent to travel is strong, with 71 per cent of travellers surveyed already booked for 2022 and 86 per cent saying they plan to travel internationally this year.
Dalton said Virtuoso anticipates bookings will continue to trend upwards well into 2023, and cited a recent Tourism Economics report that showed international leisure travel is expected to reach full recovery against 2019 sometime towards the end of 2023.
However, in Australia, outbound travel is projected to recover to 2019 levels by the second half of 2024. Virtuoso’s own transactional data indicates a similar recovery.
“Australia was very heavily hit by the Omicron waves in October and November last year and as a result, they were predicting that we will be one of the last markets to recover in terms of international outbound spending against 2019,” she said.
“Just three months ago that number was at first half of 2025. So already we’re seeing an extraordinary rebound over the last two or three months.
“The tourism economics data is telling us, in fact, it’s going to come back faster than we thought.”
Londregan expanded on the main trends Virtuoso has projected for the travel rebound, singling out three main points to watch; revenge travel, celebration trips and the conscious comeback.
Londregan said the current mindset around travel is “you took it away from me, and now I’m going big. I’m flying up the front, I’m saying in a sweet, I’m going for longer”.
“What they’re also thinking is ‘I can erase the bad memories of two years watching Netflix and redoing my kitchen by going on a great trip’.”
According to Virtuoso’s data, seventy-eight per cent of Aussie and New Zealand clients know what they want and are willing to spend big to achieve their travel dreams, and 75 per cent said they intend to splurge on business and first-class seats to get them there.
The second trend to watch is celebration travel, with clients making up for the past two years of missed milestones and seeking to reconnect with loved ones.
78 per cent of Virtuoso advisors reported an uptick in celebration travel, with anniversaries and notable birthdays being the primary motivators, and 95 per cent of advisors said celebration travel will continue to be a top trend through 2022.
When Virtuoso travellers were surveyed, celebration travel rated second-highest behind travel for relaxation as top travel motivators.
“The last thing is something that I know is very dear to Matthew’s heart. We spent two years being a little bit more reflective and thinking about our values and the way we think about all products from our shampoo to the fertiliser we use on our lawn,” Londregan said.
“People are asking us about it. They want to buy a travel experience that is aligned to their values.”
Whilst international travel returns, with Australia opening its borders in November and New Zealand soon to follow, there has been a rise in “near not far” destinations, such as New Zealand for Australian travellers and vice versa.
Fiji, Hawaii and Japan are also popular destinations as shown by booking figures and customer sentiment from the Virtuoso clientele survey. When it comes to Europe, Italy, the UK, Germany and France remain on travellers’ wish lists as fond favourites.