Highly Affluent Travelers – An Update

What do highly affluent travelers really want in terms of vacation travel? Research firm YouGov asked that question in a recent poll of such travelers (defined as those with household incomes over $350,000), and the results are key to understanding the new mindset for luxury travel.

Here are a few key findings on this valuable survey that I thought were highly relevant to the travel market, focusing on what these highest-end travelers value in a hotel or resort experience and how they use travel advisors.

Who are Highly Affluent Travelers?
YouGov’s survey can create a number of consumer breakouts, but for today we are talking about highly affluent travelers split into two groups: The first group called Extraordinary Travelers, who have taken a private jet vacation (hence the term “extraordinary”) have an average household income of $968,000 and average liquid assets of $16.5 million (stocks, bonds and cash).

In comparison, we also look at those highly affluent travelers who are either not aware of or have not taken a private jet vacation before, have an average household income of $750,000 and average liquid assets of $4.7 million.

Extraordinary Travelers are going beyond experiential travel to focus on transformational travel, a significant move that could have implications for how travel suppliers develop products in the future.

How Can the Hotel Help with the Search for Transformational Experiences?
When staying at a hotel, highly affluent travelers have definitive views (scores in excess of 80%) on service, space and more. They say service at hotels should be natural and not forced. They prefer hotels with a feeling of casual elegance, and they expect to be treated like a VIP during their stay.

As for specific room features and desired hotel amenities, the expectations of both Extraordinary and Upper Affluent travelers are no different from other travelers. The top five for both categories of travelers are:

  • Free Wi-Fi
  • USB chargers and outlets near bed tables
  • Complimentary coffee/tea in room
  • Complimentary water
  • Restaurant onsite

However, Extraordinary Travelers add in a demand for technology in the room and activities on property.

  • Programmed activities at the hotel
  • Celebrity chef at the restaurant
  • Beauty salon on premises
  • Ability to push content from my personal tablet/phone to the TV in the room
  • A hotel-provided tablet in the room that connects with service, the front desk, etc.
  • Mini-bar with premium drinks and snacks

Hotel designers and management companies need to ensure each of these factors are taken into consideration when designing new hotels, and establishing the service offering of brands targeting this high net worth traveler.

What Hotel Services Do They Desire?
Hotel services desired by highly affluent travelers are very similar for both categories, but with higher percentile scores recorded for Extraordinary Travelers. The top five desired hotel services are:

  • Concierge who can provide recommendations about the local area
  • Shuttle services
  • A concierge who can provide access to hard to get into restaurants or events
  • 24-hour room service
  • Private transportation from the airport

​Extraordinary Travelers also demand personal services, such as:

  • Personal butler, concierge, or packing/unpacking services
  • Personal fitness trainer and medical services

​This clearly emphasizes the importance of personalized services, and to never under estimate the value provided by staff interacting directly with guests to fulfill their individual needs.

What Attributes Do They Seek in a Hotel or Hotel Brand?
YouGov also asked highly affluent travelers about what attributes they look for in a hotel or hotel chain. The top five responses were:

  • Offers impeccable service
  • Have beautiful hotels
  • Offers an unforgettable experience
  • Exceptionally comfortable rooms
  • Captures the local culture of a destination

Extraordinary Travelers are nearly 5-times as likely to say “staff that recognizes me and my preferences” as being extremely important in selecting a hotel.

It has never been more important for hoteliers to integrate the destination into both the sales process; for example promoting local events and festivals, as well as the guest experience itself including incorporating local artisans and culinary experiences into client itineraries.

How Do Highly Affluent Travelers Work with Travel Advisors?
Where the two categories of highly affluent travelers seem to diverge most is in their inclination to book travel through a travel advisor. For instance, 55% of Extraordinary Travelers say they worked with a traditional travel advisor over the past year, compared with only 17% of other highly affluent travelers.

Those who did work with a travel advisor did so for the following reasons in order of importance, namely booking flights, lodging, cruises and car rentals.

Even more to the point, high-end travelers who booked through a travel advisor were asked how much influence that advisor had on their decisions. The most influenced categories of travel, and their respective scores for segment being:

  • Flights (79% Extraordinary, 53% highly affluent)
  • Lodging (95% Extraordinary, 60% highly affluent)
  • Cruises (94% Extraordinary, 49% highly affluent)
  • Car rentals (62% Extraordinary, 74% highly affluent)

Clearly, there is a great marketing opportunity for travel advisors to reach additional highly affluent travelers who are not using travel advisors. In addition, travel advisors need to ensure that at all times they are communicating their value proposition, especially to the Upper Affluent Regular Travelers segment.

What Does It All Add Up To?
Extraordinary travelers are interested in being rewarded for their loyalty – less about the points they can earn and more about the respect they receive. Travel professionals who can build relationships are also ones who reduce friction in the traveling process, and cultivate loyalty. These travelers place greater emphasis around maximizing the time they have on vacation. They want special experiences programmed into the trip, they want to bring the comforts of home (like their Netflix subscription), and they want a smooth transition. High touch? Yes. High reward? Absolutely.

These are only some of the survey results from this just released survey of highly affluent travelers. I hope to have more from the survey in a future newsletter, but in the meantime, as always, I welcome your reaction to this survey as well as your thoughts on what’s changing in travel today.

Let’s keep the conversation going!