qualia Pebble Beach guests Hamilton Island - EDITED

Australia’s luxury holiday industry is set to experience a new wave of demand with an increase in high net worth travellers opting to book domestic holidays.

According to the inaugural Australian Luxury Travel Survey commissioned by qualia and Virtuoso, 74% of high net worth (HNW) Australian travellers believe Australia has become more of a luxury travel destination over the last five years and are upping their annual holiday budgets as well as booking more short-stay getaways.

As a result, the Australian owners and managers of luxury hotels and resorts are strongly placed to benefit from the further increase in domestic tourism dollars.

Hamilton Island’s CEO, Glenn Bourke, said: “Last financial year, domestic tourism increased by 5.1%. We can expect a further boost in 2015 partly as a result in the fall of the Australian dollar and the change in local HNW travellers’ holidaying preferences as they look to holiday in luxury closer to home.”

The research revealed the level HNW Australian travellers are prepared to spend annually, with 46% HNW having allocated an average annual luxury travel budget of $10,000 – $30,000 and one in 10 (10%) allocating $30,000 – $50,000 per year. This is topped only by the expenditure of 8% who revealed they’re prepared to allocate $50,000 and over.

HNW Australian travellers were also found to be repeat visitors, with qualia and Virtuoso’s research indicating one in four HNW Australian travellers explore Australia in luxury on average four to five times a year.

qualia Australian Ballet 2 - EDITED

“qualia’s bookings are certainly reflective of this trend with 25% of guests being repeat bookings in the past 12 months,” said Hamilton Island’s General Manager of Sales, Phillipa Harrison.

“For most of those guests, it was their second stay but for 31%, it was their third, fourth or fifth stay and for a fortunate few they were staying for their 15th time! In addition, short-stay breaks now account for 40% of qualia’s domestic bookings and we’ve seen a rise in time-poor guests visiting for a quick recharge. Given its easy access, with direct flights from all major cities, qualia lends itself to this type of break.”

Bourke added, “At qualia, we take the business of luxury very seriously and appreciate the changing needs of our guests. We are already putting plans in place to further enhance our luxury offering in response to the survey’s findings.

“It’s become increasingly important for the luxury hotel and resort owners and operators to have a very clear understanding about the personal requirements of guests prior to their arrival, with respondents expressing they want to experience a holiday that is personalised, bespoke and tailored directly to their needs,” he said.

Interestingly, the Australian Luxury Travel Survey reveals that 85% of HNW Australian travellers strongly believe luxury travel is defined by a property’s personalised attention to detail, followed by understated elegance, exclusivity and privacy (75%) and an extraordinary natural location and sense of place (59%).

“This is where qualia hits the mark,” he said.

Hamilton Island Race Week yacht fashion - EDITED

Hamilton Island Chairman, Sandy Oatley said it is gratifying to know more than seven years on, the family’s vision for the island’s jewel in the crown, qualia continues to align with what Australia’s luxury travellers are looking for today.

“When opening qualia in 2007, our aim was to create an understated luxury oasis that maximises the sheer beauty of its idyllic Great Barrier Reef location,” he said.

“We wanted to provide the very best Australia has to offer and exceed the expectations of the most discerning travellers from around the world.

“The 34 accolades the resort has received over the past three years, including the US Condé Nast Traveler title of ‘Best Resort in the World’, are testament to our qualia team who continue to perfect this vision daily.

“Our financial performance outlook for 2015 is positive for qualia and the Island,” Oatley said.

Gone are the days when it was the promise of opulence that was a key factor in determining a HNW traveller’s choice of luxury destination. Indeed, 22% of high net worth travellers identify a luxury property’s authentic, unique experiences as the factor holding the greatest influence on their final booking decision, followed by an established reputation and/or award winning history (20%) and an impeccable standard of service (19%). Only 4% of travellers believe the size and design of the property’s rooms hold the same weight.

The research also found properties backed by global brands are set to lose out from the wave in luxury domestic travel, with HNW Australian travellers preferring to stay in Australian owned properties. Only 3% of respondents nominated this latter style of property as their preference when travelling in luxury domestically.

When it comes to marketing and PR, not surprisingly, it’s the traditional word of mouth that is the highest influencer of bookings among HNW travellers, with close to one in two (47%) relying on the power of word of mouth turning predominantly to the trusted advice from family and friends, followed by inspiration found in traditional media outlets such as newspapers and magazines (44%) and online travel reviews (41%) such as TripAdvisor and Mr and Mrs Smith.

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management