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The True Value of Luxury Travel Is Higher Than We Think

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Luxury travel, like a trip to Rio de Janeiro, supports people and jobs, socioeconomic change, and environmental sustainability.

Photo by Annie Fitzsimmons 

Luxury travel, like a trip to Rio de Janeiro, supports people and jobs, socioeconomic change, and environmental sustainability.

ILTM lends support to luxury travel ecosystem and travel advisors

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If you work in the luxury travel industry, have you ever felt like what you do is brushed off, treated—maybe with a bit of envy—as fluff that’s just for “rich people”?  

I have felt that. But I have always known the power of even a single luxury trip to support people and families, to encourage socioeconomic change and environmental sustainability, and to distribute wealth in an astounding way. 

I think of people I have met on trips: Mister T., the hilarious driver who served as my translator as I ordered tea, shopped for jewelry, and got my fortune told in Yangon, Myanmar; Vinícius, a food guide from Eat Rio who, while teaching me about jackfruit, caki, and caipirinhas in Rio de Janeiro, became a friend; Micaela Salinas, the concierge at Four Seasons Buenos Aires who helped me order empanadas to my room. I could go on and on. These are the real stories of the luxury travel world. 

And they are all part of the $2.05 trillion luxury travel “ecosystem,” described in a recent report published by International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM). 

Produced in partnership with Barton Consulting Group—powered by Wealth-X data—the report shows the devastating impact COVID-19 (still a massive public health crisis) has had on that ecosystem. 

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Among the report’s most interesting highlights: Luxury travel supports nearly 170 million jobs, more than 90 percent of which are family or small businesses. As an industry, it is much larger than others that depend on discretionary spending such as fashion (worth $1.3 trillion) and consumer electronics (worth $1.1 trillion). The global car industry is valued at $4 trillion but employs only 5.69 million people. 

I got to host a podcast during which I spoke with Winston Chesterfield, the founder of Barton Consulting Group, about how travel advisors will help bring the industry back. “Travel advisors are going to be interacting with some of the wealthiest travelers in the world,” he says. “The early adopters of the new world we will enter into are almost guaranteed to be the ones with the deepest pockets, the ones who are less concerned about long-term economic consequences. They’re going to take their wealth to these locations around the world that have been starved of this revenue for so long.” 

Chesterfield says the idea that luxury travelers care only about privacy, privilege, and hiding away in their suites is simply wrong: “That is a very stereotypical view. They will go around to a local restaurant. They will put money back into the local economy—and a significant amount.” Luxury travelers are highly engaged, seek out immersive experiences, and are concerned about sustainable travel and communities. 

For the full report and a link to the podcast, visit www.iltm.com/universe

For numbers on the impact of travel overall (not just the luxury segment), I suggest referring to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

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