Buoyant outlook for 2020 at Valerie Wilson event

NEW YORK — Travel agency and supplier executives attending
a Valerie Wilson Travel event are bullish about 2020 following a
record-breaking 2019.

“2019 was the biggest year in the history of the company,
but I’m optimistic that 2020 will be even better,” said Valerie Wilson,
founder and CEO of the New York-based agency (No. 38 on Travel Weekly’s
2019 Power List). 

Session moderator Kimberly Wilson Wetty, Valerie Wilson Travel’s
co-president, asked the panelists to talk about what they are predicting for
2020 and beyond.

The North American market is robust so far, said Chris
Austin, Seabourn’s senior vice president of global marketing and sales. 

2020 is an election year, which historically has meant less travel
demand. Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch referenced data the agency network compiled
about prior election years, which found that the year before an election, sales
in the U.S. averaged 14.3% growth. But during the actual election year, they
only grew 2.9%.

However, that’s not the case thus far in 2020, Upchurch
said. Demand for luxury travel also correlates with equity markets, which are
within points of historic highs.

Upchurch also said some trends — multigenerational travel,
a “carpe diem” attitude, a general prioritization of experiences over goods — will
further drive travel demand.

Silversea managing director of the Americas Mark Conroy agreed
that equity markets are usually good predictors of luxury travel. Also helping
drive demand is the fact that people are living longer and healthier.

According to Conroy, when clients who sailed with Silversea reached
75 years old, their travel schedules slowed down dramatically 10 years ago.
Now, travelers are slowing down at 85.

Last year was a historic one
for Delta Air Lines. Vice president of New York sales Chuck Imhof said Delta
has a positive outlook.

“We’re seeing strength in the corporate marketplace,” he
said.

Delta asked corporate partners about travel spending in 2020,
and 80% reported they would spend the same amount or more than the year before.

Four Seasons senior vice president of sales and hotel
marketing Ben Trodd said the company is seeing “great strength in new products”
such as its Private Retreats villas and Private Jet Journeys.

On the flip side, Wetty also asked the panelists what
concerns they have going forward.

World events can be particularly disruptive, Conroy said.
The good news for cruise lines is they can move ships if something happens, but
there is an immediate impact when things go wrong.

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