UK luxury travellers want complex long-haul holidays to multiple destinations

Trend identified as trade body Abta says pent-up demand for travel remains despite Britain's cost-of-living crisis

A UK tour operator has said bookings in the past four weeks for Thailand holidays late in the year were 87 per cent higher than in 2019. Photo: Preto_perola
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The UK travel industry remains sanguine in the face of recessionary concerns, according to its trade body, while a new luxury trend has emerged after the coronavirus pandemic, an agency said on Monday.

On the eve of Abta's annual convention in Marrakesh, Morocco, a representative told The National it's “too early to say” how the UK's floundering economy and cost-of-living crisis will affect the industry but “there is still considerable pent up demand for overseas travel after over two years of severe travel restrictions”.

“Over the years customers have repeatedly told us that holidays are one of the last things they will cut back on when looking to ease financial pressures on hard-pressed budgets,” the representative said.

Speculation has also swirled that energy shortages will affect numbers partaking in the annual skiing pilgrimage to Europe's slopes, with increased wholesale prices meaning resorts are pricing up holidays to compensate.

“In relation to the ski market, almost three entire seasons were lost due to the pandemic and ski and snow sports lovers are a very loyal, repeat business market,” said the representative.

Empirical evidence from luxury travel agents Kuoni corroborates the broader optimism.

The Surrey-based tour operator said bookings in the past four weeks for Thailand holidays late in the year were 87 per cent higher than in 2019, while sales of group tours to India have recovered to 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Other locations with a recent rise in popularity among UK holidaymakers include Costa Rica, Japan and Kenya, Kuoni said.

Its tailor-made division has experienced a 36 per cent increase in website visits during the period compared with the previous four weeks. It has seen a surge in interest for complex, long-haul holidays featuring multiple locations.

“The spirit of adventure is back,” Kuoni chief executive Francis Torrilla said.

“A thirst for exploration is definitely in play for British travellers and there's been a notable shift even in recent weeks.

“Many people have put their big holiday plans on hold for three years, so they are coming to us for advice and expertise.”

From single destination to multiple

Mr Torrilla explained that a year ago, most bookings were for single destinations as people wanted “straightforward trips” and were “happy to just be on holiday again after the upset and turmoil of the pandemic”.

Customers are now “feeling more confident about the prospect of exploring the world again”, he said.

“We're seeing demand growing for multi-destination itineraries, and more complex travel arrangements for longer durations for up to three weeks as countries like Thailand and Japan finally drop their Covid entry restrictions.”

Kuoni said couples are typically spending between £15,000 and £20,000 on bookings involving customised itineraries.

One recent booking by a pair of food and wine enthusiasts going to South America will see them starting in Chilean capital Santiago, visiting Argentina's Mendoza wine region and travelling through Chile's Atacama Desert.

Small group adventure travel company Intrepid added 10 new tours to its premium range last month to meet demand from “discerning travellers” who want “hand-picked accommodation, private transport, first class train journeys and an array of signature stays and exclusive experiences”.

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Updated: October 10, 2022, 8:50 AM