High-net-worth individuals will seek out even more exclusivity in their travel plans for next year, a report into 2024 travel trends reveals.
HNWs are prepared to invest in the seclusion and customisation afforded to them by private services and personalised experiences like private aviation, yacht charters and exclusive-use villas and stand-alone suites, according to the 2024 Virtuoso Luxe Report, which surveyed advisers across its invitation-only network.
This desire is driven by key factors including lingering service issues at the high-end of hospitality, turbulent commercial air travel, and shortages of truly five-star quality travel experiences.
‘This has led to increased demand for custom trips through private offerings and ultimately, the prioritisation of comfort and ease,’ says Misty Belles, VP global public relations at Virtuoso. ‘People were inconvenienced to such a degree during the pandemic that they’re now looking for ways to minimise stress, annoyances and remove anything that potentially interrupts their plans. Today’s traveller seeks the convenience of having fully staffed villas, stand-alone suites, chartered yachts and private jets to enhance their overall travel experiences.’
A lack of inventory across the upper end of the sector means rates are being driven up, but that’s not deterring the wealthiest travellers. More than 60 percent of advisors surveyed for the 2024 Virtuoso Luxe Report expect travel demand and spend to increase per trip next year.
In a separate 2022 study, 57 percent of travellers stated that ‘creating a travel experience that best fits my expectations is more important than price’, which suggests the demand will only continue to grow.
The lingering impact of the pandemic on 2024 travel trends
Social distancing and travel restrictions introduced during the height of the pandemic meant UHNWs and HNWs invested in private travel. Many have struggled to return to ‘regular’ luxury even as a greater range of options have opened up.
‘For many, private has become the de facto way of travelling,’ Belles continues.
The pandemic also led many travellers – across all wealth brackets – to reprioritise. ‘Travellers focused on turning their “someday trips” into “today trips,” be it a private villa in the Caribbean or chartering a private jet to get there.’
Tom Marchant, owner and co-founder of Black Tomato, adds many travellers emerged from the pandemic with a greater appreciation of spending time with loved ones. This has led to an increased demand for hotels that can be booked for exclusive use, as well as interest in stand-alone villas and private residences.
He says: ‘We are seeing this [desire to spend time with loved ones] as a primary driver for the desire for private group travel by UHNWs – celebrating milestones, but also a renewed appreciation of the privilege of sharing joyful experiences and building lasting memories and connections.’
Greater exclusivity over land and sea
One of the biggest 2024 travel trends is the rise of exclusive yacht charters. Yacht bookings for 2023 are up 79 per cent over 2019, Virtuoso notes, with more demand expected next year. There is particular interest in destinations including the Caribbean, Croatia, Greece and St Tropez.
Both Virtuoso and Black Tomato note a scarcity of exclusive-use villas and stand-alone suites is driving up overall rates. Ultra-luxury hotel brands are responding by increasing their inventory.
‘We are hugely excited about the villa experiences hotels are increasingly offering, as this guarantees a level of service that is hard to achieve in even the most exclusive private villas,’ says Marchant.
‘This might be on-property, as with the villas at Borgo Egnazia and The Reschio Estate in Italy, or independently-owned villas that are managed by an iconic hotel, like the villa collection at Eden Rock St Barths.
‘We also see supply and demand for bespoke camps growing, as reflected in our exclusive, specialist Blink service. Among others, we have created bespoke camps in Argentine Patagonia, Guatemala and Mongolia this year.’
The appeal of a branded residence
Belles notes the connection between this exclusive-use 2024 travel trend and the emergence of branded residences.
‘Brands from Rosewood to Raffles have launched residences, offering a completely curated lifestyle that encompasses the brand guests have grown to know and love, but within a private setting,’ she says.
Belles adds there has also been a rise in luxury all-inclusive holidays. ‘This used to be reserved for more mass market travel and those who were budget conscious,’ she continues. ‘Now it’s for the affluent customer who is looking for the ease of inclusive pricing, even for their exclusive travels.’
Treat a travel adviser like a wealth manager
This desire for a highly bespoke, exclusive experience has led to an increased motivation to work with a professional travel adviser.
Belles says: ‘Working with someone who focuses on a specific destination or travel niche is often the first foray into using a travel adviser. If viewed like a longer-term relationship more akin to a wealth adviser, though, matching with someone who understands your needs and goals, and gets to know you thorough multiple cycles of collaborating together, ultimately leads to more successful and fulfilling travels. Like any professional service, referrals from friends or family, or association with a professional association, is a good starting point when looking for an advisor.’