Dermatologist Shira Marieless, 45, decided she and her husband David deserved a European vacation with This summer – an extra treat as all four of their kids will be at camp or college. The New Rochelle, NY, pair are already avid travellers, but resolved to make 2022 travel a bang, increasing their regular budget by 20%.
Getting away and being pampered was a big priority.
“We’ve put a lot of things on hold over the years, and we need a pressure-release, a way out of your everyday headspace,” Maryless told The Post. “Part of us was, like, let’s do this — we don’t know when the next opportunity will present itself.”
They are not alone. “The spending has really shifted. Americans are getting a lot more lucrative with money now,” said travel agent Jacqueline Siena India. This includes renting private charter planes, spending six figures on villa rentals and doubly-high rates to rent yachts.
Maryelles and her husband asked their travel agent, Janelle Carnero, from NYC’s Embark Beyond to arrange a 10-day trip. He has planned an adventure that includes an EDM festival in Barcelona, primo seating for the Bulls’ running in Pamplona, and a five-star beach hideaway in Biarritz, France. The couple chose the priceless hotel available.
“We chose the more expensive option, and I don’t feel bad about it. I never mind taking a vacation,” Maryless said, “and anyone who’s traveling this year is paying a premium.”
and then some. Per hospitality data tracker STR, a tony hotel room in Europe this summer will cost $471.96 versus $364.91 in 2019—about a third more. According to the Consumer Price Index, airfares increased by 18.6% between March and April this year, the single highest increase ever.
Traveling this summer is an expensive proposition – but more wealthy Americans don’t care, even in the midst of record inflation.
“Many of my clients have more than doubled in terms of spending, although the amount they are going to spend is no longer part of the negotiations,” said luxury agent Carnero. “Now it’s, ‘This is what I want, tell me how much it’s going to cost me to get it.'”
Another of her clients, a couple who typically book two or three trips a year, can usually spend $30,000 a week in the Mediterranean. “Now they want private charter, not business class, and they spend so much on two nights of travel instead of an entire week,” Camaro said.
Of course, many of the world’s hotspots are desperate for this kind of free-spending generosity. Not only are they battling the pandemic shutdown, but the absence of two groups of free-spending travelers has kept five-star piles afloat: Chinese travelers largely barred from traveling abroad thanks to their government’s measures. while the sanctions keep many Russians away. Even those Russians able to travel to, say, St. Tropez may feel unwanted and instead prefer to live in Putin-friendly areas.
But Americans are making up for it.
“Americans are the new Russian,” Embark Beyond founder Jack Ezon told The Post. “They’re filling up med hot spots at ridiculously inflated rates, and they can’t get enough of it.”
They are also planning for the future, damn the impending recession.
“The travelers we’re working with now are looking to plan their next four or five amazing trips – we’re grabbing space in 2024 and 2025,” Keith Walden of Departures Lounge told The Post. “Many people now feel that nothing is guaranteed, and that if they put something off it may not happen.”
According to experts, insatiable hunger currently tops Italy. Carrie Gray of Gray & Co. said she sees customers cramming their days like never before.
“They’re doing it all, and they fit everything into a three-night stay in any city — some nights, they’re even doing two dinners,” Gray told The Post.
“People are spending about 40% more per capita this year,” said Jennifer Schwarz of Authentic Exploration, which specializes in ultra-luxe Italian Vacation. “And the big thing we look for during the booking process is the boats. People are renting out those who would have never done this before. They say ‘Omigod, let’s do it.'”
But renting a luxe yacht is more expensive than ever this summer, Azon said, mostly as a result of absent Russians. Many of the rental boats were Russian-owned and the inventory is down about 30% since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“It’s hard to get them,” Carnero said, “so most of the times you have to be prepared to pay double what you usually had before.”
Americans with deep pockets are also increasing villa rentals, a post-COVID trend that continues to accelerate. On the once Russian-heavy Cte d’Azur, for example, Americans are filling villas that sanctioned-drunken Muscovites can’t.
“Hands down, my biggest clients are two American families – they are so enjoyable to work with, and they just enjoy themselves,” said Alexandra Lloyd, a longtime agent on the French Riviera who owns a well-known firm and drives.
And while Americans, like the wealthy Russians before them, are willing to spend six figures for a St. Tropez escape, the difference is that Russians can stay for six weeks. The Yanks will drop out after a week or so, but they are splurge on every little detail.
Jeff Tolkien, who runs World Travel Holdings, the parent company of five-star specialist Villa of Distinction, told The Post that his internal data shows pricing has increased by 24% over the past year. And, among Americans, demand for add-ons such as personal chefs has increased by 30-35%.
Sean Siegel is one of Tolkien’s longtime customers and said he is making twice as many visits this year.
“Sometimes you need a break,” says the 49-year-old father of four, who runs a beverage delivery company and lives in Weston, Mass. “With this COVID thing, we are ready to get out there and spend all our money. It doesn’t matter. You only live once.”
He just returned from a two-week trip around Europe—including Italy—as well as a bucket-list trip to Iceland. He’s just celebrating another vacation, St. Martin’s, which is one of the family’s favorite Caribbean islands.
“I’m only concerned about how busy everything is,” he told The Post. “Everyone is leaving so there can be some frustration when you’re traveling.”