Luxury travel is the life raft the entire industry should cling to as an indicator of early recovery. A new report by the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) notes that luxury travel impacts every segment of the worldwide travel industry and is a bellwether for post-pandemic travel normalcy.
Globally, there are 22.8 million individuals worth more than $1 million. This collective group controls over $94 trillion in wealth, almost $10 trillion more than the total annual global GDP, according to ILTM. From a travel perspective, an average of 10.9% of GDP is contributed by travel and tourism across the 50 most visited nations.
Countries around the world look to high-net-worth individuals for their considerable spending on sightseeing, dining, entertainment, shopping and sports events as well as their patronage of museums, cultural institutions and the performing arts. Along with spending more on travel, they also travel more: the mean number of trips taken by the affluent market is three trips per year for an average of six days per trip, and they often travel with multiple people like staff and security.
According to the ILTM report, "they provide a greater standard of living for many millions of business owners around the world."
Luxury travel also stimulates the creation of upscale visitor infrastructure, such as five-star hotels, luxury malls and fine dining establishments. Luxury travelers are significantly more likely to book premium seats on airplanes, occupy luxury suites on cruise ships and take bucket list trips such as safaris and exotic expeditions.
The global luxury travel ecosystem, valued at $1.54 trillion, provides employment for an estimated 62 million people around the world and generates tourism taxes that go back into local communities and fuel business opportunities for travel providers, including tour operators and travel advisors.
We have already seen our affluent travelers seeking our villa rentals and private jets and booking future trips for sizable family groups. Their contribution to the recovery of so many economies, businesses and families cannot be overstated.
The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted how strong and truly global the connection is between the providers of bespoke travel experiences and the wealthy international luxury travelers who seek them. At a time when our global movement is highly restricted, we have never been more aware of the large role they play in our industry.
Yes, luxury travel is about customized white-glove service and exclusive experiences. It also represents a proven way to jump-start the travel economy, quickly reemploy people at all levels of hospitality and show its resiliency.
Let the travel dreaming begin.
Becky Powell is president of Protravel International.
Correction: An earlier summary of this report incorrectly gave Powell's affiliation as Tzell Travel; she is the president of Protravel.