The global luxury network said it had seen growth in its travel advisors of 126% over five years, but versus a growth in the number of potential high net worth clients of 156% over the same period.
“The human vending machine agency has demised,” said Virtuoso founder and chief executive Matthew Upchurch, speaking at ILTM. ”Those who survived, thrive today and we continue to see so many career switchers joining the sector too, whether they be bankers, lawyers or fresh graduates.”
“Mobility has changed things dramatically too, with travel advisors at the leading edge of the global nomad trend. And never in the history of the planet have we had four generations travelling at the same time, which is really boosting the opportunities for travel companies, but we need more advisors.”
A jointly commissioned research project by Virtuoso and YouGov has demonstrated the differences between consumers who use a travel advisor and those who don’t.
Identifying them as “the advised and unadvised”, the survey found key shared values among those who did use an advisor were “pursuit of self-development”, “responsibility for those without”, “obligation to protect the planet” and “meaningful brand consumption”.
The report added that this group look for much more meaning from the brands they buy from, with 88% agreeing “they like brands that share my values”.
“We are living in the era of meaning, and one where people think about how they want to feel when they travel, not necessarily where or what it costs," said Upchurch. “It’s too basic to think that having the right pillows and giving them a bottle of champagne is enough.”
Of consumers who use a travel advisor, 80% agreed they would “spend more for a brand that customises the product for me”, while 75% said they agreed that feeling like they had a personal relationship with a brand was a factor in their loyalty.
When it comes to accountability, 82% agreed they were looking to connect with brands that have a lasting impact on the world, while the survey also found that 92% of advised travellers said they seek “meaningful experiences in their free time”.
The survey reveals that 82% of luxury travellers are looking to book with travel brands that have “a lasting positive impact on the world”, while 72% say a travel company’s ethics are a “key determinant” in whether to book or not.
The group also surveyed more than 1,000 of its member advisors around the world to find out what the top travel luxury trends will be for 2019 and found that being able to enjoy “ultra-personalised” experiences is becoming ever more important for luxury clients.
The Luxe Report reveals that clients now have a “desire for a deeper level of personalisation and one-of-a-kind experiences” during their holidays.
This can include securing specific seats on flights and particular hotel rooms, as well as activities such as organising a photography session to create content for social media channels, particularly Instagram.
The vast majority (84%) also say they are “actively trying” to reduce their environmental impact when they travel and 81% like travel brands to follow sustainable practices.
Exploring new destinations is the top reason for travelling ahead of crossing off “bucket list” items and seeking “authentic experiences”, while multi-generational travel will continue to be the key trend in 2019 followed by active or adventure travel.
The top five luxury destinations for UK travellers in 2019 will be Italy, Greece, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Japan, said Virtuoso’s members.
Meanwhile, Virtuoso has signed a partnership deal with villa rental company Luxury Resorts, which was purchased by Airbnb last year, allowing members to offer more than 4,000 private villas around the world to their clients.
Albert Herrera, senior vice president, global product partnerships at Virtuoso, said: “Over the past year, we’ve seen demand for private villas reach new heights with a 40% year-over-year increase in bookings.
“People want to experience destinations as if they’re living like residents, and many times they want seclusion and privacy as well. Luxury Retreats’ portfolio keeps Virtuoso’s industry-leading hotels and resorts programme at the forefront of traveller demand.”
Virtuoso’s Luxe Report also showed that luxury travellers are seeking more unusual types of accommodation such as an igloo, treehouse, tent in the desert, or a “bubble” room in the wilderness.