During times of societal uncertainty the first thing to go is discretionary spending, that includes travel.
But experts in the UK luxury travel sector, visiting Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas, say that despite the recent surprise of the “leave” vote it’s business as usual – at least for now.
“It’s too early to tell,” says Edwards Rom, the CEO of EFR Travel.
“[Brexit] happened at lowest time of writing new business in the leisure and corporate market.
“The proof will be in the pudding in late-August and September when the busy time should hit us.
“At the moment we’re level playing on last year so maybe it’s not taking effect as it could have.
“If business is effected then it maybe they’ll downgrade from business to premium economy, but we’ve sill seen a good pattern in the business. Transactions haven’t reduced.”
Ian Swain, the global commercial director for Ten Group, said his business post-Brexit was reacting a similar way.
“We haven’t really seen a reduction at all,” he said.
“What you have seen is the movement in the exchange rate in the short term, where there is a lot of speculation.
“If anything there’s a lot of last minute booking off the exchange rate.
“Really its too early to tell what Brexit is going to mean because we don’t know what is going to be negotiated.”
That’s not to say there wasn’t an immediate reaction. For some business was very quiet for a couple of days following the announcement.
“The was no panic the phone just went quiet for a few days, people were concerned, people were paying attention to what was happening,” said Rom.
For Andrew Dent, founder and CEO of Family Traveller, the days after Thursday, June 23 were little more concerning.
“Traffic [to our website] halved on the Friday, and half again on Saturday,” said Dent.
“100,00 people disappeared from the website but after two weeks it was back to normal.”
He said it put a lot of pressure on the business from an advertising perspective but to boost traffic they rallied, writing travel lists like the “best beaches to visit in the UK” and went hard on social media. The post attracted record Facebook engagement for the business.
“We had to be reactive and creative,” says Dent. “Now we’re back to where we were [pre-Brexit].”
He said one of the reasons business bounced back to quickly was that the luxury travel or corporate travel client still has to travel despite trying conditions.
“Our average client is a 30-50 year old mum and relatively affluent. Our average holiday booking is £4,000-10,000, so what’s a 10% currency swing. You can’t not take the kids on holiday, you’ll find a way to do it. You may make some different decisions, you may look for some slightly different value ad when you get there. But you’re still going to take the kids on holiday. Period. And if it’s costs an extra £500-600 you’ll find a way to make it happen.”
Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato says for these customers “travel is a must, it’s not a discretionary spend”.
In fact for these travel advisors global events like terrorism is more of a concern.
“I think the terrorism problem is as much of a problem as Brexit,” said Rom, adding particularly in Europe.
Tony Shepherd, who oversees global member partnerships for EMEA, said it as definitely something travellers consider when planning a trip now, and while they don’t stop traveling they “refocus”.
“They go well there’s terrorism over there, there’s nothing happening over here, I’m going to go there.”
Marchant says it opens up opportunities to explore different markets.
“It [travel] is always prone to external factors,” he says, adding that as a travel advisor while it means they have to remain vigilant, it also provides the opportunity to offer their guests with new destinations.
“When we look at this stuff we’re very responsive to it, but also in these time we see opportunities to develop opportunity to go elsewhere… creating trips to other markets.
“It’s a constant conversation and were not putting our head in the sand about it.”
“The name of the game is flexibility and being able to adapt,” says Rom.
The writer traveled to Las Vegas as a guest of Virtuoso.
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