Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

Luxury travelers are undeterred by the cost of travel today, according to a panel of agency owners who spoke during Virtuoso Travel Week's press conference last week.

The conference, held live in Las Vegas, was also available virtually.

"Clients aren't even asking about costs in some cases," said Anthony Goldman, joint managing director of the Goldman Group in Australia.

They have a desire to travel and a newfound sense of urgency because of the halt in travel the pandemic caused, Goldman said.

From the Window Seat: At Virtuoso, a microcosm of industry activity
 
Beth Washington, founder of Getaway Guild in Washington, agreed that the highest level of luxury travelers "are not really blinking an eye at the inflated prices."

"I see more of the sticker shock in the aspirational traveler," Washington said. "Maybe they just entered the luxury travel market before the pandemic. Those are the clients that I do think are a little bit more sticker-shocked by prices right now."

But, while that group of clients might be experiencing some sticker shock, most of the pushback is verbal, and they end up booking regardless.

"I think that goes to the current demand and the passion for taking a trip and having an experience coming out of the pandemic," Washington said.

Sticker shock is also happening among repeat clients who have already experienced a particular travel product, said Susan Bowman, vice president of marketing and industry relations with Transat in Canada.

A client who has rented a villa for years might be shocked to find it is 40% more to rent the same villa today than it was previously. The cost is likely higher because of labor costs, but Bowman said it's difficult to explain the steep increase to consumers.

That, coupled with car rentals, is really driving up trip costs. Bowman noted that clients recently needed a van, which was $11,000. They did take it because they couldn't find anything else, but "that is not sustainable," she said.

However, Virtuoso surveys have found evidence that agency owners' optimism has been steadily on the rise since January of this year as the omicron variant of Covid-19 began to recede. 

While the verdict is still out as to whether the current environment is the new normal or a travel bubble, having luxury clients who aren't batting an eye at prices isn't a bad problem to have.

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