Travel insights from Andrea Sedlacek, editor of The Compass

3 Trends of Affluent Travelers

If you’re not keyed in to the preferences of affluent travelers, this type of traveler can be a tough nut to crack. The most important thing to know? Affluent does not necessarily mean luxury.

Skift, a travel industry intelligence platform, recently released their second annual U.S. Affluent Traveler Survey . They gathered survey data from 1,304 respondents who live in the U.S., meet the benchmark for an “affluent American,” and responded that they had taken at least one leisure trip (at least two nights spent 200 miles or more away from home) in the last 12 months.

Skift categorizes affluent Americans as having a combined household income of at least $100,000. Using that benchmark, they found that affluent American travelers make up only 20% of the U.S. popular, yet they account for 51% of travel spending. How’s that for a lucrative group of travelers to market to?

Luxury isn’t what you think it is anymore

The new definition of luxury travel means having meaningful yet exclusive experiences in a destination – it’s not about flying first class and staying in an expensive, boutique hotel. In fact, Skift’s survey found that 82% of affluent travelers usually spend only $101 to $300 per night on a hotel room. They’d rather spend more on experiences and activities like attractions, tours and dining, according to 67% of survey respondents. This prioritization of experiences is key for agents to remember. Don’t try to entice affluent travelers with a shiny, luxury hotel – they won’t be into it. What they will be into, however, is an authentic experience like visiting a family-run winery in Italy and eating dinner with the family.

A fancy hotel may not be affluent travelers’ first priority anymore, but they still seek out top-notch service and on-property amenities, according to Skift’s survey. Yes, you may be more apt to find those two things with luxury accommodations, but this is also where your own experience can really help you out. Visiting the properties you want to send your clients to is invaluable to being able to truly qualify your affluent clients for those places.

How affluent travelers want to spend their vacation

Say goodbye to the tried-and-true and go out on a limb. Of the travelers surveyed by Skift, 77% want to go to a new destination for their next vacation. This doesn’t rule out vacation hotspots like Cancun and Punta Cana if your clients have never been there before. In fact, almost half of the travelers surveyed said they want a sun and beach trip for their next vacation, and only 23% want an adventure travel trip. You could combine both options and add on an exciting excursion to a Cancun package, like deep sea fishing on a private boat.

To sum this all up, affluent travelers want authentic experiences in new destinations.

Affluent travelers’ view on travel agents

Of the affluent travelers surveyed by Skift, 73% said they enjoy the trip planning process of researching and booking flights, hotels and activities and only 10% consider travel agents an important source of information for trip planning. Don’t let those numbers discourage you. See it as an o opportunity when targeting affluent clients – emphasize their involvement in the planning process and the collaboration you will have together.

Another positive note is that affluent travelers with children said they are about twice as likely to have a travel agent handle the trip planning responsibilities. They might want to have someone else take care of this to get reliable help in finding the best choices for their families and to give themselves a break on decision-making. One more quick fact about affluent family travelers found by Skift is that 48% of them said they are likely to go on a cruise in the next 12 months.

So remember, an affluent traveler does not equal luxury. It can, in terms of amenities and service, but the main focus of a vacation for an affluent traveler is experience, preferably in a new destination.

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