American Express Travel President Talks About the Post-Pandemic Vacation Boom
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American Express Travel President Talks About the Post-Pandemic Vacation Boom

By Shivani Vora
Tue, Sep 26, 2023 8:35amGrey Clock 3 min

Audrey Hendley, as the president of American Express Travel, is attuned to how trips have evolved in recent years and what vacationers are seeking on those getaways.

The organisation is one of the largest travel and lifestyle networks in the world and spans 7,000 travel consultants in 23 countries. Its global footprint includes 1,400 lounges in 140 countries and more than 1,500 properties in its collection of Fine Hotels + Resorts.

Business at American Express Travel is bouncing back from the pandemic slump: In the second quarter of this year, bookings through the network across 138 million American Express cards that are currently in use reached pre-Covid levels.

Hendley, who lives in Westchester, New York, speaks to Penta about the most in-demand travel destinations, the new movement of traveling with a purpose, and her top advice for maximising any trip.

Penta: What are some travel trends you’re seeing this year?

Audrey Hendley: We have seen a notable shift in people’s interests driving travel decisions. Travellers are booking “set-jetting” trips that are inspired by shows like The White Lotus and Emily in Paris because they are increasingly inspired by pop culture.

Food also continues to impact booking decisions, with people building entire trips around reservations at incredible restaurants like Noma in Copenhagen or blocking off afternoons to do a taco tour in Mexico City. Travel has become less about the “where” and more about the “why.”

Which destinations are the most popular and what’s up and coming?

We put out a Trending Destinations list every year that highlights the places our card members are traveling to; 2023 is a mix of perennial favourites like Paris and the Florida Key, and some lesser-known destinations like Woodstock, Vermont, and Montenegro. While people are still revisiting the cities they love, we are also seeing an increase in trips to places that are off the beaten path. And as borders have opened post-pandemic, we’re seeing more trips being booked to places like Asia and Australia.

How do you think the rising cost of travel will impact decisions in 2023?

Our 2023 Global Travel Trends Report found that 80% of travellers would rather take a dream vacation than purchase a new luxury item. Our values have fundamentally shifted since the pandemic, and now, people want meaning in everything they do—travel included. They’re more purposeful.

Pre-pandemic, travel was about checking off a list of destinations you wanted to see. Now, it’s about really exploring and seeing a place in depth. Travelers will go to fewer places but see more where they do go. And they’re willing to spend on experiences and memories—what better way to create those things than travel?

How are younger generations shepherding the travel trends that we are seeing today?

As they continue to gain independence and financial freedom, millennial and Gen Z travellers are putting their stamp on modern travel trends. They want experiences, especially ones that look good in photos on social media. We are also seeing that they are extremely conscious of the impact their trips have on the environment and the communities they visit. They are pushing the industry to be more purposeful—they want hotels that prioritise sustainability, support local economies by employing locals, and value inclusion and diversity.

Can you speak to the hallmark of a great hotel and a great hotel stay?

It’s a property that knows you when you’re there. The staff addresses you by name and makes you feel at home. They offer exceptional service, a luxury that’s relaxed and infuses your stay with personal touches. I was in Paris on a recent work trip, for example, and stayed at the Maison Delano, one of the newest properties in the city. I walked into my room and found a charger that worked in France waiting for me as a welcome gift. It was such a simple gesture but meant so much on a work trip.

The Centurion Lounge Network has been regarded as one of the most luxurious airport lounge experiences. What sets it apart from other airport lounges?

I think it’s the quality of the product. We try to offer elevated food and local flavours. The lounge at San Francisco Airport, for example, features wines from nearby Napa Valley, and in Seattle, home to a big coffee culture, we have a coffee and espresso bar. With cuisine, we try to use chefs from that location to create menus, and they’re all different by location. We also try to use as many local producers as possible.

In addition, we offer high-touch services like chair massages and manicures in some lounges.

As a globetrotter yourself, what are some of your best travel tips?

I like to travel like a local, especially to touristy destinations. I always look for the small shops and restaurants that give me the true flavour of a destination rather than the big names where all the tourists go.

I also enjoy visiting popular destinations during the so-called off-peak season. I was in Venice [Italy] in February where the weather was glorious, and there weren’t nearly as many crowds as there are during the summer.

On business trips, I love carving out some personal time to balance the intensity of long workdays. I also start the day with some form of exercise whether it’s a run or jog—this also gives me an opportunity to see the destination.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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New York Watch Auctions Record Uptick in Sales in the Face of Market Slowdown
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Luxury watch collectors showed ongoing strong demand for Patek Philippe, growing interest in modern watches and a preference for larger case sizes and leather straps at the June watch sales in New York, according to an analysis of the major auctions.

Independent and neo-vintage categories, meanwhile, experienced declines in total sales and average prices, said the report from  EveryWatch, a global online platform for watch information. Overall, the New York auctions achieved total sales of US$52.27 million, a 9.87% increase from the previous year, on the sale of 470 lots, reflecting a 37% increase in volume. Unsold rates ticked down a few points to 5.31%, according to the platform’s analysis.

EveryWatch gathered data from official auction results for sales held in New York from June 5 to 10 at Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s. Limited to watch sales exclusively, each auction’s data was reviewed and compiled for several categories, including total lots, sales and sold rates, highest prices achieved, performance against estimates, sales trends in case materials and sizes as well as dial colors, and more. The resulting analysis provides a detailed overview of market trends and performance.

The Charles Frodsham Pocket watch sold at Phillips for $433,400.

“We still see a strong thirst for rare, interesting, and exceptional watches, modern and vintage alike, despite a little slow down in the market overall,” says Paul Altieri, founder and CEO of the California-based pre-owned online watch dealer, in an email. “The results show that there is still a lot of money floating around out there in the economy looking for quality assets.”

Patek Philippe came out on top with more than US$17.68 million on the sale of 122 lots. It also claimed the top lot: Sylvester Stallone’s Patek Philippe GrandMaster Chime 6300G-010, still in the sealed factory packaging, which sold at Sotheby’s for US$5.4 million, much to the dismay of the brand’s president, Thierry Stern . The London-based industry news website WatchPro estimates the flip made the actor as much as US$2 million in just a few years.

At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire
Richard Mille

“As we have seen before and again in the recent Sotheby’s sale, provenance can really drive prices higher than market value with regards to the Sylvester Stallone Panerai watches and his standard Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1a offered,” Altieri says.

Patek Philippe claimed half of the top 10 lots, while Rolex and Richard Mille claimed two each, and Philippe Dufour claimed the No. 3 slot with a 1999 Duality, which sold at Phillips for about US$2.1 million.

“In-line with EveryWatch’s observation of the market’s strong preference for strap watches, the top lot of our auction was a Philippe Dufour Duality,” says Paul Boutros, Phillips’ deputy chairman and head of watches, Americas, in an email. “The only known example with two dials and hand sets, and presented on a leather strap, it achieved a result of over US$2 million—well above its high estimate of US$1.6 million.”

In all, four watches surpassed the US$1 million mark, down from seven in 2023. At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire, the most expensive watch sold at Christie’s in New York. That sale also saw a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM52-01 CA-FQ Tourbillon Skull Model go for US$1.26 million to an online buyer.

Rolex expert Altieri was surprised one of the brand’s timepieces did not crack the US$1 million threshold but notes that a rare Rolex Daytona 6239 in yellow gold with a “Paul Newman John Player Special” dial came close at US$952,500 in the Phillips sale.

The Crown did rank second in terms of brand clout, achieving sales of US$8.95 million with 110 lots. However, both Patek Philippe and Rolex experienced a sales decline by 8.55% and 2.46%, respectively. The independent brand Richard Mille, with US$6.71 million in sales, marked a 912% increase from the previous year with 15 lots, up from 5 lots in 2023.

The results underscored recent reports of prices falling on the secondary market for specific coveted models from Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. The summary points out that five top models produced high sales but with a fall in average prices.

The Rolex Daytona topped the list with 42 appearances, averaging US$132,053, a 41% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, with two of the top five watches, made 26 appearances with an average price of US$111,198, a 26% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar followed with 23 appearances and a US$231,877 average price, signifying a fall of 43%, and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak had 22 appearances and an average price of US$105,673, a 10% decrease. The Rolex Day Date is the only watch in the top five that tracks an increase in average price, which at US$72,459 clocked a 92% increase over last year.

In terms of categories, modern watches (2005 and newer) led the market with US$30 million in total sales from 226 lots, representing a 53.54% increase in sales and a 3.78% increase in average sales price over 2023. Vintage watches (pre-1985) logged a modest 6.22% increase in total sales and an 89.89% increase in total lots to 169.

However, the average price was down across vintage, independent, and neo-vintage (1990-2005) watches. Independent brands saw sales fall 24.10% to US$8.47 million and average prices falling 42.17%, while neo-vintage watches experienced the largest decline in sales and lots, with total sales falling 44.7% to US$8.25 million, and average sales price falling 35.73% to US$111,000.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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