TRENDING IN TRAVEL
Signature talks to Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch to get the inside scoop on what’s popular among Australian travellers.
Luxury travel has come of age as people seek out novel experiences and unique destinations. So says Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch, recently in Australia to release the results of the first ever in-depth survey into the travel trends and preferences of high-net-worth individuals, a collaboration between Virtuoso and Hamilton Island resort, qualia.
A new definition of luxury
The 2015 Australian Luxury Travel Survey reveals that travellers are redefining luxury – modern jet-setters are welleducated entrepreneur types who place a high value on experiencing the world.
“In many cases, some of the luxury players may not be super wealthy – they might be a tenured professor or an executive of a company, but they’re spending a disproportionate amount of their disposable income on travel,” Upchurch explains. “In the last 15 years there’s been a massive shift in the luxury sector away from buying luxury goods towards experiences. People are starting to prioritise their spending on experiences rather than just goods.”
Of the 2500 Australian survey respondents, 60 per cent believe luxury is no longer defined by price. In other words, it’s no longer enough to stay in an expensive hotel and admire the scenery. Hotels that deliver more than amazing surrounds and gourmet food are sought after. People want friendly service, personalised attention and to connect with a destination in innovative ways. Travellers are seeking out natural locations and bespoke experiences, over and above opulence and expense.
“There is a clear movement towards cultural authenticity and connectivity,” Upchurch says. This is why river and expedition cruising is on the upswing, and lodges and boutique hotels are the preferred accommodation of choice.
Luxury travellers are also being drawn to trips they can take with a clear conscience – protecting the Great Barrier Reef, conserving wildlife and reducing climate change and pollution are top priorities.
Exotic or classic? You choose
Virtuoso advisor Fay Cohen from Travel Phase says multi-generational travel is increasingly popular among Australian clients, as is cruising.
“Turkey is on everyone’s radar, and we are booking lots of trips to Hawaii and Japan.” There is also a lot of interest in visiting Cuba, and Claudia Rossi, a Virtuoso advisor at Mary Rossi Travel, says Europe remains a perennial. “People go to corners [of Europe] they haven’t explored. Sicily, Puglia, the Dordogne or Scotland. Italy lovers are targeting Spain now – but they’ll usually go back to Italy the next time.”
Along with Italy, Michael Londregan, Virtuoso’s new Australia-based executive, says expedition cruises are soaring in popularity, particularly European river cruising. Cambodia, Laos and Bhutan are all trending, as is the US East Coast. Croatia is an emerging destination appearing on more and more bucket lists.
Advisors say clients love exotic locations but still want to visit traditional destinations they’ve been to before such as London and Paris. The difference now is that they want help to experience these destinations in new and exciting ways.
Time is of the essence
Australians are known for being excellent long-haul travellers but our hectic lives mean we are also taking a growing number of short trips to recharge.
“Now, more than ever, travellers are aware their most precious, non60
renewable asset is their leisure time, and this is driving a demand for domestic luxury experiences,” Upchurch says. “We live hectic lives in a smartphone world where we’re ‘on’ 24/7; what we’re finding is that people are using short breaks to decompress.”
“We’re not just in the business of travel; we’re in the business of return on life,” he summarises. “If you lose money you can always make money back, but if you lose valuable time, it’s gone.”
Upchurch is no stranger to travel – he’s on the road between 150 and 180 days of the year and, so he doesn’t miss out on time with his children, he and his wife homeschool their two youngest children and often bring their teacher along.
Upchurch lives in Fort Worth, Texas, when he’s not on the road, and his southern drawl makes him all the more engaging to talk to. Given that he spends so much time in hotels, it’s not surprising he has an answer at the ready when asked about his hotel pet peeves.
“No plug for my iPhone next to the bed,” he says, laughing out loud. “That makes me sound like a Millennial!”
He also believes Wi-Fi should be free in every hotel, and don’t even get him started on water. “Not providing water at no cost is ridiculous,” he says. But Upchurch says his favourite new trend in hotels is free international calls via VoIP.
The value of Virtuoso
Virtuoso advisors are known for their relationships on the ground and their ability to pull strings for value, exclusive experiences and hotel upgrades.
Rossi sums it up nicely saying, “The agent acts as a project manager for a trip, giving options in a timely manner that can be pieced together in an optimum way.” And it’s true; advisors are just a phone call away should things go awry on a trip – something that booking online can’t deliver.
The Virtuoso network now has 7200, with Australia’s shores home to 314 of these. Working with one of these specialists ensures a personalised itinerary, a record of all your preferences and requirements for future bookings, and a guarantee that every aspect of your journey meets your standards.