Affluent Britons embark on trips of a lifetime as Covid restrictions ease | Travel & leisure


Wealthy people are ‘blowing down the bloody doors’ on extravagant holidays costing up to £100,000 to celebrate the easing of coronavirus travel restrictions with extended families.

Sally Donaldson, store manager at upscale travel agent Kuoni, said she was recently shaken when a couple with two children spent over £50,000 on a trip to the Caribbean island of ‘Antigua.

“It’s a lot of money. Amazing really,” Donaldson said. “We’re happy to help customers, but when you see that kind of money being spent on vacations, you start to shiver a bit… That’s more than how many years’ salary for most people? You wonder what these people are up to, but everyone works hard and we all deserve a vacation.

Donaldson, who runs the Kuoni branch inside the John Lewis department store on London’s Oxford Street, said that after being forced to cut back on travel plans during Covid, customers had extra money and were now ready to spend big. She and her colleagues have sold other bespoke trips for over £100,000.

“People haven’t traveled in two years because of the pandemic, and are really looking forward to going again and not questioning the price,” she said. “I would say over 80% cite the pandemic as a reason they want to get away, to spend time with family that they hadn’t been able to during the lockdowns.

“These are not your ordinary European breaks,” she said. “These are special travel adventures of a lifetime.”

The tendency to book super-expensive holidays as the pandemic abates – dubbed “freebies” by industry leaders – has been noted in research by travel agency ABTA.

“After more than two years of severely restricted travel, people are desperate to get abroad and many are booking the vacation of a lifetime,” said ABTA’s Sean Tipton. “Many of these trips will be funded by savings made throughout the pandemic when opportunities to go out to restaurants, bars, cinema, theater and other leisure activities have been massively reduced and as a result many have seen their savings grow.”

It comes as most Britons face the greatest strain on their incomes since at least 1990, with the Bank of England warning that people face a triple hit with inflation hitting 10%, energy bills reaching nearly £3,000 a year and rising interest rates.

It might sound a bit chilly, but Antarctica travel is booming. Photography: WorldFoto/Alamy

Tom Barber, the founder of London-based travel agency Original Travel, said many customers have “spent lockdowns flipping through coffee table travel books and making lists of places they want to go. Now they can finally put the lists into action.

“After years of taking travel for granted and then losing our right to roam, guilt-free ‘gratification’ is about throwing off the chains of lockdowns and quarantines to resume travel and all its pleasures,” he said. -he declares.

“No more waiting for ‘a day’ – it’s time to treat yourself and visit that place you’ve always wanted to go, enjoy the experiences you’ve always wanted to try, and generally take the vacation you always wanted to take.

“People tell us they’re absolutely going to blow down the bloody doors [on the spending on holidays] This year.”

Barber said average spend per booking had risen to around £21,000 from £14,000 in 2018-19. He said around 8% to 10% of all trips cost more than £50,000, up from 2% before the pandemic.

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— FCDO travel advice (@FCDOtravelGovUK) January 29, 2021

In addition to costing more, vacations are also getting longer. Barber said a quarter of all trips booked through his agency are now 15 days or longer, compared to around a tenth of trips before the pandemic. “A lot of people go on sabbaticals for months,” he said. “They realize that taking kids out of school for a school term isn’t such a bad thing as long as they’re doing something educational.

“Two years ago the government told us all that going on holiday was illegal, now people will never take traveling for granted again.”

Barber said popular “bucket list” trips clients have recently booked include a seven-week dive vacation in Indonesia and the Pacific island of Palau, a five-week family sabbatical road trip through the United States and a tour of Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain. .

Other top destinations include viewing the Northern Lights in Norway, mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda, and trips to Antarctica.

A silverback mountain gorilla in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
A silverback mountain gorilla in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Such trips are now on the to-do list, says Tom Barber, founder of London-based company Original Travel. Photograph: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

“We’ve all been dreaming, planning and anticipating the 2022 vacation for nearly two years, so it’s no surprise that the types of vacations we’re booking now are more ‘decadent’ in one way or another, the people wanting to treat themselves after such a long period of abstinence.

“Decadence means different things to different people; for some it’s about luxury, for others it’s about hedonism, a wealth of experiences or being completely disconnected.

Barber said three-generation travel — which he calls 3G — is also proving popular as families make the most of time together. “Now we really know how important family is, and if grandparents survived the pandemic, being together is that much more important.”

Barber said it can be difficult to find a place that suits all three generations and trips have to take place during school holidays, which can be very expensive.

“Often these will be large private rental properties, like a safari lodge in Kenya or a beachfront villa,” he said. “More often than not, it’s the grandparents who pay – dangling the trip as a way to bring everyone together.”


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