Affluent Traveler Collection shares keys to luxury sector

MIAMI — Travel themes at the Affluent Traveler Collection Symposium, held at the Kimpton Epic Miami, included how luxury travel is evolving, how to attract and court today’s luxury travelers, and what kind of trips luxury travelers are looking to take.

“The number of affluent consumers is on the rise, and travel is a priority for them,” Affluent Traveler Collection chief marketing officer Nicole Mazza said. “We’re bringing on partners to help our advisors fulfill travelers’ desire for boutique hotels, villas and residences, unique itineraries, and personalized experiences.”

Based on the symposium’s sessions as well as interviews and discussions around the event, here’s what advisors need to know about luxury travelers in 2024 and beyond.

Young travelers are entering the luxury market …ย 

Millennials are a generation defined by prioritizing great experiences over owning material goods, and they are part of the largest drivers behind the recent growth of the luxury industry. A report from management consultant company Bain & Co. found that millennials and Gen Z consumers accounted for all the global luxury industry growth in 2022.

During the symposium’s general session, Mazza explained to advisors that millennials approach luxury traveling a bit differently than older people. She said that millennial travelers want access to tech-enabled planning and booking, and many want to book their own travel experiences but have access to a travel agent for advice along the way.ย 

The Affluent Traveler Collection is also appealing to younger travelers by offering the option for advisors to be able to accept cryptocurrency as payment through TripXpress, its proprietary booking platform.

โ€ฆ but boomers still lead the way

Baby boomers still lead the luxury travel market and have the biggest net worth of any U.S. generation.

“Many of our affluent travelers are baby boomers and are sophisticated, educated and curious about new cultures,” said Joe Leon, Silversea Cruises’ vice president of sales for the Americas. “According to the 2019 U.S. census, there are about 71.6 million baby boomers in the U.S. Roughly 68% of disposable income in the U.S. is controlled by boomers.”ย 

A panel at the Affluent Travel Collection Symposium.

When it comes to working with travel advisors, Mazza said, most boomers like their advisors to have a more hands-on approach to booking their travel and want agents to work with them through every stage of the travel booking and planning process.ย 

Immersion is key …

Luxury travel no longer means just booking top-of-the-line hotels, restaurants or cruises. Christen Perry, founder and owner of Classic Travel Connection and Affluent Traveler Collection advisor, said that luxury travelers today want personalized, cultural experiences that deepen their understanding of a location.ย 

“People want to do things that are customized to them, that cater to who they are and what their goals are,” she said. “People don’t want a cookie-cutter vacation.”

Luxury travelers are also looking for community engagement and rare experiences, which may be an Italian cooking class in a private home or a temporary safari camp built in remote locations.

… but so is social media

For advisors looking to court millennial and younger travelers, highly visual social media platforms like Instagram are a valuable tool.ย 

“Travelers are looking for the next Instagrammable moment,” Perry said. “Which is sometimes a challenge, because photos are not always a reality. One of our major roles as travel advisors is to manage expectations. But that’s often where they will see their next bucket-list destination.”

Though word of mouth is still king, social media provides an entryway for new customers looking for a different kind of trip. For advisors, posting their travels to social media can possibly reel in their next customer.

“When I went to Antarctica in February, people told me that the trip looked fascinating and that they wanted to go because it looked so different than anything they’d ever seen before,” Perry said. “There were these huge floating icebergs and leopard seals lying around. It was intriguing to people, and at the end of the day, luxury travelers are looking for travel experiences that are both unique and authentic.”

Expectations are always rising …

“More people are leveling up their quality of vacation,” Perry said. “Travelers are trying to do things they’ve never done before.ย 

“They want to go somewhere unique that not everyone is going to, which means a more luxurious type of vacation.”

… so advisors must keep up

In addition to partnering with suppliers to provide more options for luxury clients, the Affluent Traveler Collection is positioning itself to help luxury travel advisors succeed in this growing sector in a few other ways.ย 

The company next year said it would double the number of trips through its Experiences program, which provides educational trips to advisors.

It’s also continuing Kore, the in-depth training program it debuted in 2021 for those new to the travel industry; Kore includes mentoring from an agency owner or manager and a placement service upon graduation.

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