Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

In addition to launching a new luxury travel advisor training program last week, Protravel International president Becky Powell spoke to media about some trends the agency is seeing in the luxury market this year at an event at the Chatwal hotel in New York.

New York-based Protravel has been Virtuoso's top-producing agency for 14 consecutive years.

Unsurprisingly, affluent travelers are more like to choose a premium class when they're flying internationally. In total, 65% of Protravel's air volume is international, and of that, 71% is for premium classes. Business class accounted for double the international air volume compared to coach sales, according to Powell.

Cruising is most popular in June, July and August, accounting for 37% of overall cruise sales at Protravel. In 2018, the most popular ports were Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Barcelona, Venice and Copenhagen, Denmark.

Powell said 30% of cruises that departed in 2018 were booked in 2017, indicating consumers are planning trips further out.

The average cruise invoice in 2018, which Powell said would likely include two guests, totaled $7,100. With an industry average of about $1,200 per person per cruise, Powell said luxury travelers are spending more than $3,500 per person above average.

Protravel's European sailings saw an average invoice of $9,700, while U.S. sailings had an average invoice of $4,500.

The most popular tour destinations Protravel is seeing are the U.S., Italy, South Africa, Mexico, Japan, France, Israel and the U.K. Powell said around 80% of tour volume was international, and the peak travel months were June, July and December. She noted that Japan, in particular, is booming this year.

On average, Powell said tours were booked two to four months in advance.

The top cities for hotel stays in 2018 were New York, London and San Francisco; internationally, they were London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Toronto. Powell said 62% of Protravel's hotel sales were in U.S. cities last year, which is probably the result of corporate travelers (Protravel has a mix of about 50-50 leisure to corporate).

That means 38% of hotel sales were international last year, placing Protravel above an industry average she estimated in the low-20% range, she said. Last year also saw a shift toward higher-end hotels among Protravel customers, evidenced by higher average daily rates (ADRs).

"We love that the rates are higher, because it keeps the industry healthy," Powell said. "It keeps everybody profitable on the hotel side as well as the agency side, so those higher ADRs are really something that Protravel loves to see."

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