With China and India rising as a cash-ready travel market, should Asia Pacific chuck in the towel on UK and Europe as a viable source market for luxury travel?
No, says Sandra Leach, founder of the Sandra Leach Company, a London based travel marketing consultancy that promotes Australia and the South Pacific to UK and Europe. If you know which sector to market to, there is still good business to be had.
Addressing 240 high-end travel buyers and sellers gathered for the Luxperience Thought Leaders forum in Sydney, September 1, she said that the last five years in the UK had seen a weak pound sterling, high aviation tax, soaring fuel charges and high unemployment.
A diminished travel market has therefore become defined by a “fortress me” mentality. Britons have increasingly cocooned themselves at home, surrounded themselves with modern technology, enhanced their bargain hunting skills and become “loyal to themselves—not brands,” she said.
Leach told the audience that Britons now prefer all-inclusive packages as they know what total holiday spend will be. Package holidays have risen from about 37% of the UK overseas travel market in 2010 to about 50% in 2013.
UK travellers have also rediscovered the value of travel agents. Holidays in Europe booked with a travel agent have consumer protection if the company goes bust.
“With rapid travel agent consolidation and travel firms closing down, there has been an alarming decrease in knowledge about long haul travel to ASIA PACIFIC in the travel agent sector, said Leach.”
Nevertheless, the UK was technically out of recession with the economy predicted to grow 1% this year.
Leach told the audience that viable business can be made if you concentrate on the UK’s 50-69 age group, a demographic which represents 25% of the UK’s long haul holiday market. Luxury travel and visiting family and relatives are also proving to be relatively recession proof, said Leach.
Helen Logas, CEO of Luxperience, said that the luxury sector was resilient and had been like a “saviour” in the UK travel market.
Leach advised companies to target a clear section of the market, be visible to tour operators, invest in partners to create longterm operations, use more B2C marketing, and add as much value to holiday packages as possible, including WiFi and onsite tours.
The Luxperience B2B high-end travel business exchange is now underway at the Overseas Passenger Terminal on Sydney Harbour and runs 2-4 September.