Survey reveals positive affluent spending trends

Jim Taylor, vice chairman of YouGov, released findings from the Time Inc. and YouGov 2014 Survey of Affluence and Wealth at the recent Luxury Summit in Naples, Florida. The results from 3,400 U.S. consumers with an income of US$125,000 or higher plus data from 11 other countries point to growth opportunities in the luxury travel industry in the coming year.

While Starwood Capital’s Barry Sternlicht recently commented on New York City hotel occupancy rates being a little soft, the results of the Time Inc./YouGov research seem to indicate otherwise.

With global personal wealth at an all-time high, the United States leads the way, accounting for 30% of the world’s wealth. Affluent Americans have achieved substantial growth in personal cash, growing their savings accounts by 7% and their checking accounts by 17% since 2011.

Seventy percent of affluent consumers in the countries surveyed are willing to pay more for true luxury in lodging, and they enjoy being treated like VIPs. And those surveyed say they will pay full price as long as the quality and service they deserve are guaranteed.

Fewer consumers are relying upon one brand in any category than in previous years, though they prefer goods that are “elegant,” “high quality” and “designer.” Shoppers have become “strategic” and use their smartphones and tablets to research and compare prices online before purchasing.

Reasons to be optimistic? U.S. luxury spending has gone up 6.7%, and travel is the top discretionary spending category among U.S. consumers. The survey forecasts travel spending will rise 11% this year.

The research also indicates, according to Taylor, that the United States is on the verge of a tourism boom with 50% of affluent consumers in China, Italy, Spain and the UAE planning on visiting in the next two years. Half of those travelers, and 71% of Chinese travelers, say they are coming to America to shop.

New York hotels may want to brace themselves for high occupancy.