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Gen-X is finally getting into luxury travel in a big way

Sofitel is building a new high-end hotel in Sydney. Source: Sofitel

Never mind the parents spending your inheritance on travel: Generation X has an even better time when it hits the road.

Virtuoso, the global luxury travel network with US$14 billion in annual sales, has crunched its numbers, finding that while retired travelers spend more overall, Gen X goes short, sharp and flash to burn through more cash every day they’re away.

Seniors spend 56% more on travel annually – $US11,077 each – than Millennials at US$7,110. Generation X’s bill is US$8,458 at a daily rate of $US627, which is nearly 20% higher than Millennials at $US527, and the frugal seniors at $US471. Boomers seem modest by comparison, with an annual average of $US9,907 per trip and $US522 per day.

Seniors are away the most, at 23.5 days a year, followed by the Boomers on 19. Gen X and Millennials, who need to get back to work, have just 13.5 days.

What they do on holidays is where the differences begin to emerge with the older sector opting for a cruise – 26% of Boomers, 42% for Seniors – as their preferred adventure.

Millennials and Generation X-ers opt for private or escorted tour experiences (38% and 34%, respectively) and hotel stays over cruises (both at 15%).

And while Baby Boomers are the largest segment of travelers, Virtuoso has seen a surge in Generation-X clients to overtake the Senior market (born before 1946).

US-based Virtuoso, which recently announced it would use Sydney as its regional base for its expansion into the Asia-Pacific region, books around 12% of its turnover from Australia and New Zealand, has seen both countries make its seasonal top 10 list for overseas visitors, especially in Q1 2015 as northern hemisphere travellers seek to escape the cold.

Not surprisingly, the USA’s nearest neighbours, Mexico and Canada, head the list, with New Zealand just pipping Australia as preferred destination.

Here’s where everyone’s going this year, based on Virtuoso’s forward sales to March 2015.

    1. Mexico
    2. Canada
    3. New Zealand
    4. Australia
    5. Argentina
    6. United Kingdom
    7. Costa Rica
    8. South Africa
    9. Hong Kong
    10. Chile

Meanwhile, the Peter Jackson Hobbit effect as no doubt helped produce a dramatic rise in interest for Aotearoa, with Virtuoso’s “Hot List”, measuring year-over-year growth, putting New Zealand in second place behind Singapore. Aruba, if you’re searching the map, is a tiny Dutch-controlled south Caribbean Sea island just off the coast of Venezuela.

Here’s the hot list.

    1. Singapore (up 155%)
    2. New Zealand (up 95%)
    3. Aruba (up 36%)
    4. Israel (up 32%)
    5. Puerto Rico (24%)
    6. U.S. Virgin Islands (up 23%)
    7. France (up 22%)
    8. Bahamas (up 20%)
    9. Chile (up 20%)
    10. Spain (up 20%)

Business Insider asked Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch about the trends he’s seen in recent years. There’s been a big shift to luxury accommodation as Australia developed high-end places such as Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island, Tasmania’s Sapphire and more recently, One & Only on Hayman Island. Internal domestic travel has upgraded to these places.

“Australian luxury product has come a long way and we’re seeing an increase in short breaks – 2 to 3 days – at these places,” he said.

“The core market is still for luxury expeditions and cruising.”

Sales in Australia rose 15% in the past year.

The drop in the Australian dollar won’t have much impact on the luxury sector, but it will give visitors to Australia more money to play with when they get here.

His other point, as the head of a company that’s overseen more than US$32 billion in travel, is that any predictions that the internet age will see the travel agent go the way of the video store and photo lab are way off the mark.

“This is a profession that’s doing really well,” he says, arguing that the shifts wrought by online are similar to the ones experienced by stockbrokers

“Brokers who were truly were wealth advisers made the shift and the good ones did well,” he said.

“Some people think travel agents are just order takers, but in the luxury market they’re a trusted, collaborative travel adviser.

“Finding someone who will listen to exactly what you want and will deliver on that promise is the very definition of luxury travel.”

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