Five trends upscale travellers are embracing for 2024

Global travel agency network Virtuoso says that its clients are prioritizing travel, despite inflation and global unrest. They remain insatiably curious and willing to pay for new experiences.

These findings come from the company’s 2024 Virtuoso Luxe Report, which included input from 2,000 travel advisors who shared their extensive knowledge, professional experience and client requests to offer insight into 2024’s top trends.

Five luxury travel trends

The Luxe Report identified five key trends upscale globetrotters are embracing in 2024.

New places

While preference for European favorites remains, the desire to visit dream destinations, under-the-radar locations or the drive to be “first” to a destination, has luxury travellers increasingly intrigued by the unexplored. The cultural richness of reemerging travel must-sees such as Japan offer unique itineraries for those seeking a departure from the norm.

Time to celebrate

Post-pandemic festivities continue with celebration travel making the list of top trends for 2024. Travellers are committed to sharing life’s most important moments with loved ones – travel with immediate family and multigenerational travel are also among the top trends.

Respecting the plant

Travellers are hyper-aware of the fragility of the world. Virtuoso advisors say clients are pushing geographical boundaries to witness nature in its pristine form for fear it will diminish or become inaccessible.

Greece, Morocco and Hawaii are also top-of-mind for travelers who want to support destinations recently impacted by disaster while remaining respectful of their recovery.

Small ship cruising

Favouring less-crowded, more intimate settings, small-vessel cruising is on the rise. River cruises remain popular for the casual atmosphere, proximity to major cities and wide-ranging itineraries.

Popular routes include the Danube River, Mekong River and the Nile. Adventure cruising is also trending due to increased accessibility to places like Antarctica, 2024’s leading adventure destination. And yacht charters are on the rise, offering privacy, flexibility and a customized experience.

Custom comfort

Increased demand for custom trips made easy, from exclusive-use experiences to booking half days at hotels to fit their needs, has today’s traveller maximizing comfort. Their desire to leave nothing to chance has increased motivation for using a professional travel advisor to simplify bookings and enhance the overall experience.

A view from the water of a town of colourful buildings are built along the steep incline of a cliff.

A look at the most popular places to travel from Canada

According to new research from First in Service Travel LTD (F1S), Italy, France and Greece are the top international destinations Canadian advisors are booking and recommending.

“With all the pent-up demand for travel, coupled with the Canadian dollar’s stronger performance against the euro over the past year, it’s no surprise that Europe is performing so well,” explained Fernando Gonzalez, chief executive officer for F1S, one of North America’s largest independent travel agencies. “Italy has once again claimed its place among the world’s premier destinations, thanks to its stunning scenery, exquisite culture and history, epicurean delights, and extraordinary people.”

Findings from the recent survey had F1S travel advisors name the top three international destination they were booking for 2022. Among international destinations, 72.7% of the advisors named Italy as one of their top destinations, followed by France (45.5%) and Greece (27.3).

“Italy is always a winner,” added F1S advisor Willa Griffin. Advisor Waldo Wohl concurred, offering a simple explanation that “Italy is always Italy.”

Gonzalez indicated that the biggest surprise internationally for the year is the popularity of Greece. “Whether it’s the culture of ancient cities like Athens or the allure of the islands, Greece has really taken off over the past couple years. It was able to take hold during the pandemic and has maintained its strong forward momentum this year,” he said.

F1S advisor Marisa Wise added that she is booking “lots of Santorini. Its views and food are amazing. Also, Greek island cruising is super popular.”

First in Service advisors in Canada were also asked which “under the radar” destinations they are booking most internationally. Colombia and Portugal were tied for first place, with 27.3% of advisors recommending each. 

“Travel to the United States and cruising have both been on the rebound,” Gonzalez added. “Additionally, we will soon issue the trends we are seeing specifically for domestic travel within Canada.”

F1S advisor George Alexandrou is among those recommending Colombia because “it has a great mix of culture, adventure and direct flights.” Meanwhile, Portugal is recommended by F1S advisor Christina Gula, who said, “Portugal is a beautiful country with lots to offer. Great scenery, food and culture.”

Most popular travel picks

Each surveyed advisor was also asked to name the single most popular international destination they are specifically booking for Canadian clients on each continent and other major regions globally.

The top picks were:

  • Africa: South Africa
  • Asia: Thailand
  • Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific: Australia
  • Caribbean: St. Barths
  • Central America: Costa Rica
  • Europe: Italy
  • Middle East: Israel
  • North America: United States
  • South America: Colombia

Willa Griffin, who helps lead the agency in Canada, pointed out that they’ve seen a major uptick in last minute bookings with borders reopening.

“I think it’s been a combination of pent up demand and the feeling that the world might close down again,” Griffin shared. “Personally, I feel like things will regulate themselves again very soon. This spring and summer were all about having the freedom to travel again. Moving forward, I think people will again start to plan ahead, maybe not like they used but will want to ensure that they get what they want from their travel dollars. I am already seeing very limited availability for festive which to me is a very good sign.”

 

This could be the year where tourism to the UK makes a total comeback

In 2022, the British Tourist Authority’s chair Judith Macgregor says the organization is anticipating over half of 2019’s arrival figures when the destination saw 40 million visitors.

“We reckon 21 million visits this year would be good but we’re always open for going above that,” Macgregor told Offshore during a one-on-one virtual interview at ExploreGB. “Our goal is [to increase] tourism as quickly as possible, particularly from faithful markets and markets like Canada, which were growing very well prior to COVID. We had a 30% increase in our tourists from Canada prior to COVID-19.”

Now that the UK has removed all remaining COVID-19 travel restrictions — including testing requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated — executives are optimistic that inbound figures will continue to ramp up. In fact, results from VisitBritain’s latest wave of travel sentiment research shows the strongest desire for people to travel internationally since the survey launched in 2020.

“83% of respondents say they would take an international leisure trip in the next 12 months,” says Richard Nicholls, Head of Research and Forecasting for VisitBritain.

With only 42% of respondents already booked or decided on where to go, Nicholls says the destination also has a huge opportunity to go after its marketshare for more bookings.

Flight bookings have recovered to the highest point in almost two years — they’re now up to 30% below normal levels so that’s just the inbound flights overseas into the UK,” he adds. “We’ve regained most of the ground that we lost since COVID began.”

While there was a little blip in flight bookings after the start of the Ukraine invasion, the latest data showcases that has levelled out again too.

“North America is a region where we’ve seen some really strong bookings,” Nicholls says. “We’ve been thinking for a long time that this may be a market to lead the recovery. We’re optimistic about a strong recovery from the North American market.”

Prior to the pandemic, 875,000 Canadians visited the destination with a record spend of £730 million pounds.

“We’re encouraged by what have been good and increasingly good forward booking tallies,” says Macgregor. “The best statistics we’ve had so far have just been in the last couple of weeks. That is showing a very strong and healthy resurgence of people wishing to travel now.”

But while 2022 is shaping up to be significantly better than 2021, Nicholls points out that full recovery in terms of arrivals and visitor spend isn’t expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025.

“The travel industry is incredibly important to Great Britain,” adds Gavin Landry, Director of the Americas for VisitBritain. “Tourism and the visitor economy drives the prosperity of Great Britain. In 2019 it represented over 10% of GDP and supported around 3.1 million jobs.”

This study shows that most Canadians are willing to spend money on a rapid antigen test

According to Finder.com, about three in ten (29%), or 9 million Canadians say they either have bought, or are planning to buy a COVID-19 rapid antigen test.

Finder.com asked Canadians what they would spend on a rapid test and just 3 in 10 Canadians would spend any amount at all. The majority (just over 9 million Canadians) would pay $5 to $25 on a single antigen test — generally standard pricing.

Surprisingly, over a million of them would spend $100 or more on a test — That’s approximately 500% more than the standard price for a single at-home test (about $15).

However, the reasons for buying a test varied. Approximately 2.3 million Canadians who have bought rapid antigen tests did so because they like the instant results (3%), or for peace of mind (4%).

Approximately one million Canadians (3%) say they would take a test but not buy one themselves, citing cost as a real barrier, saying ‘the tests are too expensive’.

Interestingly, there was a bit of a gender divide in the findings.

Women were more likely to say they would use a rapid antigen test (31% vs 27% in men) but were also more likely to say tests are too expensive (4% vs 3% in men).

While women are more likely to buy antigen tests overall than men (33% vs 28%) — particularly at the lower price points — each gender is equally as likely to spend $100 or more on a test (3% each).

What’s more, age was also a factor with approximately 3 in 10 younger Canadians aged (18 – 34) saying they don’t need a rapid antigen test versus just 2 in 10 seniors aged 65+.

When it comes to spend, millennials, particularly those aged 25 to 34, are willing to spend the most on a rapid antigen test, with 5% saying they would spend $100 or more (2 percentage point higher than the national average).

For more information, go to https://www.finder.com/ca/covid-19-testing

Five post-pandemic travel trends you’ll see more of this year

 As we navigate our “new normal”, it’s obvious that so much has changed, including travel.

Here are five travel trends to watch in 2022.

Romantic travel

Hugely popular prior to the pandemic, destination weddings are expected to make a significant comeback, as countries around the world continue their trajectory towards a high vaccination rate. Many couples were forced to postpone their big day when countries closed their borders and cracked down on visitor arrivals, and as a result, some of these weddings are more than two years in the making! While destination weddings tended to be on the smaller side, now, most international wedding venues can accommodate anywhere from 50 to 250 guests and provide a selection of both indoor and outdoor venue options.

Revenge travel

After two years of staying home, travellers are now likely willing to pay more for the experience they want. Frequent travellers who were unable to travel as a result of COVID-19 related travel restrictions may be eager to splurge on luxurious experiences that include everything from boutique hotels, gourmet dining, and one-of-a-kind experiences. Richard Villeneuve, president of travel agency Voyages en Direct, says that price is no longer the most important factor driving bookings and his clients have a budget that’s 25-35 per cent more than they would have invested in holidays prior to the pandemic. After not travelling for such a lengthy period of time, those who can finally hop on a plane are eager to make the trip count!

Bubble travel

While group travel was often a popular choice, “bubble travel” is predicted to be the new way to travel with friends and family. Group travel could mean you are travelling with strangers from all over the world, but bubble travel ensures you’re with people you know, and who were likely in your social circles throughout the course of the pandemic.

Workation travel

In most workplaces, what started as a work-from-home model has evolved into a “work from anywhere” model. So long as an employee has the tools required to do their job appropriately, like a laptop, cell phone, and reliable internet connection, it really doesn’t matter if you’re working from your house in North America, or from a resort down in the Caribbean. Workation-style travel also allows employees to enjoy a destination without using up all of their vacation days, which are typically 10-15 per year. 

Wellness travel

Prioritizing one’s mental health and practicing self-care has become increasingly important during the pandemic, especially in countries who continue to practice tough restrictions, lockdowns, and other COVID-19 health and safety protocols. In 2022, expect to see more vacations centred around personal wellbeing— think yoga retreats, solo travel, spa retreats, and even silent retreats.