There’s a new term for consumers’ desire to indulge in more travel experiences after being confined to their homes during the pandemic: revenge travel.
Adam Schwab, CEO and co-founder of Luxury Escapes, prefers to call it ‘pent up demand’, but admits that it has been a huge driver of bookings in recent weeks.
“The appetite for any sort of travel is incredible, nothing we’ve ever seen in more than a decade of Luxury Escapes,” Schwab told Inside Retail
“There’s not only plenty of savings and annual leave that have been accumulated in the last 18 months, but we’ve all realised just how much we’ve missed travel. This has created a sort of perfect storm.”
Following NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s recent announcement that travellers returning to NSW from overseas will not be required to quarantine after November 1, sales skyrocketed.
“We had our busiest week of bookings in our history,” Schwab said.
Australians seek to relax in luxury
The reopening of the international borders have prompted a lot of Australians to start booking overseas trips in early 2022. The top destinations for Luxury Escapes members are Fiji, Thailand and Bali.
“Fiji is just about the hottest place on the planet at the moment while Thailand, which is set to open its border to Australia on 1 November, isn’t far behind. Bali has been slower to open, but it’s not far off, and we’ve seen huge demand from members for incredible five-star Bali luxury trips,” he said.
However, Schwab says demand still remains strong for destinations within the country.
“There is still massive demand for Australian trips – the main challenge for many Australian hotels is that they aren’t yet able to operate at capacity because of staff shortages, so this means that lots of hotels are simply unable to cope with the huge demand,” he said.
“This is forcing lots of Australians to look overseas to places like Fiji and Thailand which have much larger hotels that can cope with the huge wave of demand.”
Willingness to spend more on travel
Luxury Escapes’ Travel Trends Report, which surveyed thousands of Australians, found the top three interests when travelling were food (51 per cent), local culture (44 per cent) and winery, distilleries & breweries (31 per cent).
But as consumers seek to indulge in new experiences and destinations to make up for lost time, are they willing to shell out more to do so? According to the Luxury Escapes report, 37 per cent of customers plan to spend more on travel than they did in 2019.
“It’s still early days but we’re seeing an increase in average order value with so many Australians boosting their savings over the past 18 months,” Schwab said.
“The willingness to splash could be a result of lower disposable income spending while in lockdown, with 84 per cent claiming they plan to spend their savings on future travel. We’re also seeing customers indulge in more expensive add-ons and luxuries, with 22 per cent of travellers saying they would be more likely to travel business class now than pre-pandemic.”
Why consumers want revenge
During lockdowns, many consumers may have realised the freedoms they previously had taken for granted, including travel, observed Jana Bowden, an expert in consumer psychology at Macquarie University Business School.
“The pandemic quite literally rewrote the rules. There have been times when we have not been able to act freely, and many times when we have felt anxious and even traumatised by the experience. For example, being restricted in how far we can travel from our homes; not being able to travel around our states; being prohibited from leaving the country; being restricted from re-entering the country,” she explained.
As a result, she says, consumers feel a sense of retribution against Covid-19 for taking away the power and are planning to “make up for time lost with a vengeance”.
“They want revenge,” she said.
Bowden said that while threats to our freedoms can cause some to react negatively, it can also spark a desire to actively plan ahead to take advantage of those freedoms when possible.
“In psychological terms, this behaviour is what we call ‘reactance theory’ and it motivates us to react and resolve the situation. The greater the perceived threat to our freedom, the more effort we invest to restore our freedom,” she explained.
“[Consumers are] craving a sense of normalcy. They’re craving a return to pre-pandemic lifestyle and they have banked two years of savings ($140 billion) that’s burning a hole in their pocket.”
This pent-up wanderlust has created a sense of excitement at the idea of travel and adventure.
“The desire to see new places, have new experiences, explore new destinations and reconnect with both people and nature is much more intense than pre-pandemic,” she said.
Bowden believes the concepts of revenge travel and revenge spending present big opportunities for tourism, hospitality and retail.
“It’s an opportunity to lean into that shift in consumer values, to really identify what the consumer wants and to capitalise on it,” she said.