What travel sellers need to know about 'luxury seekers'

Pictured: The Four Seasons New York City.

Many travel marketers invest considerable resources to reach “affluent” households (annual household income above $125,000). Yet, there may be a fundamental flaw in how they design and implement their strategy to reach this segment of the travel market based on insights taken from our “2017 Portrait of American Travelers.” Specifically, the data reveal decidedly different attitudes and behaviors among a specific segment of households that meet this income criterion. We call them “luxury seekers” because they believe they are entitled to “the best” and, importantly, are willing to pay more for premium accommodations and exceptional service. They represent just 36 percent of all affluent travelers.

With an average annual household income of $224,000, luxury seekers earn an average of $7,000 more than all affluent travelers. Their spending habits on travel services are much more disparate, however. During the past 12 months, luxury seeker households spent an average of $10,078 on vacations, 62 percent more than all affluent traveler households. Moreover, during the next 12 months, luxury seekers intend to spend 68 percent more on leisure travel than all affluent travelers.

Luxury seekers are also dedicated family travelers: 85 percent include their spouse/partner and/or children on leisure trips. Moreover, vacations play a very important role in their psyche and value system.

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As one would expect, luxury seekers believe they have earned the privilege of luxury travel through their hard work, and therefore enjoy being treated like a VIP. Feeling like one of many doesn’t align with their expectations.

They also expect to receive personalized treatment when they travel and crave the recognition they feel they have earned and deserve because of their success and privileged lifestyle.

Given their level of personal and emotional investment in leisure travel, it’s also no surprise that luxury seekers enjoy spending money on leisure travel activities. They acknowledge spending more on dining and entertainment while on vacation than at home. Yet, they are also discerning consumers and only willing to pay more for offerings that meet their high quality and service standards.

Many luxury seekers also want the act of purchasing to be as pleasant as the experience of consuming. In other words, exceptional customer service and personalized attention are sought throughout the planning and booking experience, not just upon arrival. This expectation applies to the experience luxury seekers have on travel supplier websites. They should deliver the same tone and quality experience guests will discover when they arrive. Every aspect of the online experience should be better—the content, the imagery, ease of booking and the opportunity to express and confirm personal preferences.

Peter Yesawich  is vice chairman, emeritus, of MMGY Global. Contact him at [email protected].