Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

From domestic driving trips to all things private, luxury travel advisors said in a new survey that they expect many of the changes in travel habits driven by the Covid pandemic to continue through 2021.

The big question, however, is which of the changes will emerge as long-term trends and which will slip away as the pandemic eases.

Not surprisingly, advisors participating in Strategic Vision's annual Pulse of the Industry Survey say they expect enthusiasm for staycations and drive-to destinations to eventually wane. But many anticipate the demand for more private experiences to be longer lasting.

Asked which behaviors they expect to continue beyond this year, 45% of advisors surveyed listed private yacht rentals. Thirty-nine percent listed private aviation and residential-style hotel accommodations as longer-term trends, and 35% listed vacation rentals such as villas and Airbnb.

Responses from consumers polled by the firm bolster those assumptions, with 58% of travelers saying they're willing to continue trying private home rentals and 50% saying they remain open to flying private.

"Staycations and road trips may have been popular [in 2020], but they don't have staying power," said Peter Bates, president of Strategic Vision.  "I think the future will see exponential growth in villa rentals, yacht charters and hotels creating villas and other residential units. Many luxury travelers were exposed to those experiences during the pandemic -- and now they're hooked."

The survey also showed that while luxury travelers are being careful -- wearing masks, being more cautious about cleanliness and more selective about where they stay -- they're not staying home.

More than half, or 58%, of affluent travelers said they have taken a leisure trip, albeit mostly domestic, since the pandemic lockdowns began in March. More than half (53%) have already booked a trip for this year, and another 41% say they are likely to do so.

The findings seem to back predictions that the travel recovery will start slowly but pick up momentum in the second half of the year, Bates said.

Bates said the survey was sent in November and December to senior executives of the leading U.S. luxury travel management firms and meetings and incentives buyers, with 51 industry influencers responding.

A separate survey was sent over the same period to the firms' top clients, with 458 travelers responding.

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