American Marketer


Family vacations to unchartered territories is top travel trend: study

April 24, 2012


Travel brands that are marketing family-oriented packages and specific destinations such as Cuba, Cambodia and Belize may be catching the eyes of the most affluent travelers, according to the 2012 Virtuoso Luxe Report.

Luxury travel network Virtuoso released its latest study that found family and multi-generational travel topped the list of the biggest travel trends emerging for 2012, while the top reason for traveling was for an authentic experience in a new destination. Cuba came in first as the most popular of the emerging destinations, topping this list for the first time in its history, followed by Vietnam, Cambodia, Belize and Galapagos Islands.

“I think the most important findings that luxury travel brands should take away from this report are the key findings that define the top reasons clients are traveling,” said Heather Dillon, a Los Angeles-based public relations and social media consultant.

“The fact that the No. 1 reason why clients are traveling in 2012 is seeking authentic experiences in new destinations should be an indication that these high-end travelers are willing to pay the price for that once-in-a-lifetime trip that provides them with a lifetime of memories,” she said.

“Luxury travel brands can really use that to their advantage when developing their strategies.”

The 2012 Virtuoso Luxe Report polled more than 420 advisors within the company’s member travel agencies from the United States and Canada.

Ms. Dillon is not affiliated with Virtuoso, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

Virtuoso could not comment before press deadline.

Far off land
Luxury travelers are seeking out travel packages in territory that is not exactly typical of modern travelers.

For example, Cuba came in first as the most popular emerging destination. Cambodia and Belize were also new additions to this category.

Not many luxury brands are marketing with these destinations.

It seems that wealthy travelers are educating themselves on the lesser-known travel destinations, which is creating a demand that luxury marketers should note.

Some travel brands are appealing to luxury consumers’ tastes by marketing adventurous packages. This category came in third on the list of travel trends emerging for 2012.

Although not many marketers are using this knowledge to their advantage, some are ahead of the game.

For example, travel group Virgin Limited Edition is marketing its new luxury safari camp called Mahali Mzuri, an experience that offers exclusive excursions and opportunities to see African wildlife (see story).

Mahali Mzuri microsite

In addition, Auberge Resorts invited guests to take part in new adventure-themed experiences at its properties in the United States and Mexico that are custom-tailored to each property’s natural surroundings, culture and history (see story).

Auberge Esperanza resort

Meanwhile, Europe continued to be a favored destination in this year’s poll.

Italy and France remained to be two of the most popular international destinations outside the U.S. England also appeared this list for the first time.

This shows that luxury travelers continue to regard Europe as a high-end travel destination, the study said.

Miami joined the top five destinations in the U.S. This followed a boom in luxury hotels in Miami in the past year, per Virtuoso.

Other top U.S. destinations include Maui in Hawaii, New York, Napa Valley in California and Las Vegas.

The most popular destinations for romantic travel continue to be Italy, French Polynesia, France, Bali in Indonesia and the Seychelles.

“The key finding of this report was understanding the definition of the luxury traveler in 2012,” Ms. Dillon said.

“Each year the wants and needs of a luxury consumer changes and evolve, and it is important for luxury travel brands to take advantage of this knowledge in order to better position themselves and adapt to the preferences of these consumers,” she said.

“More importantly, this report showed us that luxury travel is on the upswing and that these travelers truly value authentic and customized experiences.”

All in the family
Family and multigenerational travel came out as number one in terms of travel type that luxury consumers are seeking.

Family travel had its own category in the poll. Destinations such as Italy, England, Turks & Caicos, South Africa, Hawaii and Costa Rica made the list.

Following family trips on the list came high-end river cruises as the second of five biggest emerging travel trends. Next came active or adventure trips, luxury cruises and celebration travel.

Top reasons that influenced travel choice remained similar to those in Virtuoso's 2011 Luxe Report such as “seeking authentic experiences in new destinations,” “rest and relaxation” and “personal enrichment.”

Luxury travel brands are achieving this mindset by using storytelling in marketing campaigns, which is a good way to reach the luxury consumer, per Ms. Dillon.

For example, Crystal Cruises is looking to rebrand itself through a new multichannel campaign called Begin a New Story that focuses on consumer storytelling.

The campaign will reach affluent travelers with multichannel efforts such as print advertisements with digital watermark technology that bring consumers mobile-optimized content and a branded storytelling smartphone application that will be released next month.

The all-encompassing marketing efforts will focus on the notion of the travel journal and encourage consumers to share memories from past cruises (see story).

Crystal Cruises Begin a New Story ad

These reasons further support the increase of family travel, which remained the biggest travel trend in the 2012 report, per Virtuoso.

“Marketing to families should centralize around the concept of creating unique and seamless experiences,” Ms. Dillon said. “This can be accomplished through the personalization of family-friendly programs, tourist services and recreation facilities.

“Travel brands can create lasting memories by knowing a guest's preferences,” she said.

“That being said, one of the emerging marketing trends that I believe is quite successful is storytelling as it is highly engaging and likely to spark a feeling of confidence and loyalty in the customer.”

Final Take
Tricia Carr, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York