Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

A number of host agencies have recently said their agents are selling more luxury in 2018 compared to previous years, and it's helping boost their incomes.

In fact, a recent Host Agency Reviews survey found that hosted agents specializing in luxury travel were the highest earners, with an average income of $58,688 (experienced agents also earned more on average, as did agents who are members of ASTA and those who have certification through the Travel Institute).

Selling luxury pays, but who is the ideal client to target with luxury products?

During the recent Virtuoso Travel Week at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Misty Ewing Belles, Virtuoso's managing director of global public relations, released a "snapshot" of what Virtuoso's top clients look like, the ones responsible for 40% of the network's sales ($23.7 billion annually, up considerably in the past five years from $12.5 billion in 2013).

It's a good look at who is consuming the upper end of luxury products.

Their average age is 62, Belles said, and they're either retired or near retirement. Their children are out of the house, and they have the time to travel. Some are younger, though, she said: Nearly one-third are under age 54, still work and have children at home, but travel is core to their identities.

Virtuoso's best clients spend an average of $128,000 per year on travel, taking an average of 8.2 trips per year. They spend an average of $5,650 on air travel and $1,735 per night on hotels.

Compared with the average Virtuoso client, the top clients spend three times more on hotels, three times more on tours and four times more on cruises.

They are also extremely loyal. With a 90% repeat rate, they value their adviser and form long-term relationships with them.

When it comes to brands, Belles said, Virtuoso's clients are looking for meaning: 75% agree they like having a personal relationship with a brand, and that factors into loyalty. Eighty percent want a brand that customizes the product for them.

They also want accountable brands: 87% agree they like brands committed to doing what is right; 82% want to connect with brands with a lasting, positive impact on the world; and 72% said the ethics behind a luxury product or brand factors into whether they want to do business with them.

So far, luxury sales are up in all segments compared to last year, according to Belles: Cruises are up 13%, tours are up 10%, on-sites are up 11% and hotels are up 29%.

That looks like a trend that's continuing, too. Advanced bookings for 2019 show cruises are up 15%, tours are up 9% and on-sites are up 14%.

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