The Future of Luxury Travel

Asoka Elon

This year, more than 5,000 luxury travel professionals (from 100+ countries!) gathered in Las Vegas at Bellagio, Aria, and Vdara resorts for Virtuoso Travel Week. Virtuoso is a global network renowned for creating meaningful experiences in luxury travel, and its annual Virtuoso Travel Week serves as the pinnacle by bringing together the group’s world’s-best travel partners and the industry’s most influential travel agencies and advisors. With a laser focus on driving future sales while establishing the latest travel trends from around the world, the event sets the stage for the future of travel. Judging by the numbers, the 2022 Virtuoso Week was a tremendous success, providing measurable value to the group’s members, advisors and preferred partners. Some statistics from this year’s event:

  • 98 percent of Virtuoso Week attendees said the event achieved the primary business objective of offering Virtuoso members the opportunity to network and build/further relationships with preferred partners
  • 97 percent of people said that attending Virtuoso Week was a good investment of their time.
  • 90 percent of attendees felt that the new eight-minute meetings were the right amount of time for the one-to-one appointments
  • Globetrotting was among the highest rated events, achieving a score of 9.1 out of 10

New additions featured at this year’s event proved successful as well. For the first time, Virtuoso introduced a Technology Summit featuring speakers from well-known tech entities such as Hopper and Expedia and Virtuoso’s own Senior Vice President, Digital & Consumer Products Travis McElfresh, while also including venture capitalists that fund travel technology. Virtuoso also joined forces with Condé Nast Traveller for the first time, revealing research each brand had conducted during an hour-long panel featuring Condé Nast Traveller Senior Features Editor Rebecca Misner and Virtuoso Senior Vice President, Marketing Helen McCabe-Young.

Additional features included the first-ever Pinnacle Lounge, a by-invitation-only setting for Virtuoso’s top producing advisors to meet with select partners, the Cruise Café, and partner lounges that invited advisors in for a glimpse at various experiences they can offer. Virgin Galactic was a standout as it brought in an actual seat from its spacecraft and provided attendees with a feel for what suborbital space looks like.

As an added nod towards sustainability, this year’s event totes were responsibly made from recycled plastics pulled from oceans. Attendees also had the ability to opt out of receiving the bag and everything in it, and instead make a donation (paid for by Virtuoso) to one of three charitable organizations: World Central Kitchen, Fairtrade International and Natural Resources Defense Council.

Sustainability remains top of mind, not just for the organizers behind Virtuoso Week, but for travelers as well. Below, five other trends from this year’s event, plus the destinations to watch and must-know insider news.

This Year’s Top Travel Trends

Sustainability Remains a Top Priority

In a recent survey, 74 percent of Virtuoso travellers said they’re willing to pay more to travel sustainably if they know where their money is going. And 70 percent agreed that traveling sustainably actually enhances their vacation experience. Travellers are increasingly committed to purposeful travel, and not just in a strictly ecological sense. They’re also seeking out companies and experiences that focus on “benefitting local people and the economy” and “preserving natural and cultural heritage.”

Travellers of All Ages Are Willing to Splurge on Value-Added Services – Like a Good Travel Advisor

According to a recent Virtuoso survey, 76 percent of travellers have accepted that we’re living in a “new normal,” which explains the growing demand for – and increased value of – an expert advisor who can save travelers time, energy and the headache of sitting on the phone for hours with customer assistance. Even Millennials and Gen Zers are turning to travel advisors. “My daughter is 25 years old and she’s an advocate of using a travel professional,” said Virtuoso travel advisor Susan Bowman. “She tells everyone and her friends also agree. They appear to be a generation that gets it, and they’ve figured out that we add value.” Between navigating airport travel and handling trip logistics, many travelers are opting to work with a dedicated travel advisor. “One of the simplest definitions of luxury goes like this: ‘Of course I can do it myself. I don’t want to’,” said Matthew D. Upchurch, Chairman and CEO of Virtuoso. “Travellers want to find someone who really knows what they’re doing, has great connections, saves time and has their back.”

Travellers are Back to Planning Ahead

With people hitting the road in record numbers, there’s never been so much frenzy around booking flights and hotels. In response to this pent-up demand, travellers are now booking their trips an average of 58 days in advance for domestic hotel stays, and 80 days for international trips (compared to 2019’s 44 and 60 days, respectively). “We’ve seen so much last-minute demand and literally the space is not there,” said Virtuoso advisor Beth Washington. “We’re seeing people now willing to think about things for 2023 instead of planning so last-minute.”

Off-Season Travel is Gaining Steam

If it seemed like everyone was in Europe this summer that’s because they were. According to a Virtuoso poll, seven of the top ten international destinations this summer were in Europe, with Italy and France leading the way. The surge in bookings has some destinations, like Italy, concerned about the effects of overtourism. As a result, travel professionals in Italy – the second-most popular spot for fall travel – are urging travellers to visit in the off-season. It’s a win-win for destinations and for travellers who get to see beloved places without the crowds. In a recent survey, the majority of Virtuoso travellers said they’d be willing to visit a popular destination during the off-season. Virtuoso’s own editors suggest booking a room at Passalacqua, the new Lake Como villa from hotelier Valentina De Santis and the Grand Hotel Tremezzo team, which is open year-round – a rarity in the Lake Como region.

The Destinations to Watch

Palm-fringed beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, island-hopping. No, we’re not talking about the Maldives, but India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Located on the southeastern edge of the Bay of Bengal, the archipelago is known for its spectacular diving and bioluminescent waters, which travellers can experience with nighttime kayaking off Havelock Island.

About a 45-minute drive north of Cabo San Lucas is the East Cape, a relatively unknown stretch on the Sea of Cortés where a new Four Seasons resort has just landed. According to the tourism board, the destination is a nature lover’s dream, situated near the Cabo Puma National Marine Park, a UNESCO Marine World Heritage site.

All eyes are on Greenland! Silversea is set to launch new itineraries in the Arctic country—the world’s largest island—next year, with other cruise lines, including Quark and Lindblad, set to expand their offerings.

Virtuoso on-site tour connection Access Italy let Virtuoso in on one of their hidden gems: the beautifully preserved hilltop village of Civita di Bagnoregio. Located between Rome and Florence, the medieval town is only accessible by a pedestrian bridge. And as for right now, it remains blissfully under-the-radar.

More Insider News from the Week

One of the best ways to plan for future travels is by creating a Wanderlist and sharing it with a Virtuoso advisor, who can make dreams of pearl harvesting in Australia or taking a private tour of Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio a reality. Virtuoso tapped into its worldwide network to find out what else was on the experiential horizon for its global citizens.

A new camp inspired by astronauts is touching down in Antarctica in December. Echo, from super high-end tour operator White Desert, will comprise six futuristic sleeping pods and a common area inspired by a visit from Buzz Aldrin and co-founder Patrick Woodhead’s love of Star Wars. The experience runs $104,000 per person and includes an excursion to the South Pole and private flights to and from the ice landing strip on the property’s doorstep.

On November 3, Auberge Resorts will open a relaxed surf retreat in Punta de Mita, on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Susurros del Corazón will feature 59 rooms and 30 villas clustered around a three-tier infinity-edge pool, which fronts a glorious white-sand beach. Activities include a “surf safari” that will take guests to lesser-known beaches with consistent breaks and little-to-no crowds.

Fiuggi, Italy is the setting of The Ranch’s newest outpost. The wellness retreat will offer weeklong detoxes and hikes along ancient trade pilgrimage routes.

Armendaris is the newest addition to Ted Turner Reserves, known for its sustainable wildlife preserves in the American Southwest. The four-bedroom hacienda is situated on 360,000 acres in New Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert and comes with a private chef plus experiences like nature photography workshops, wildlife tours and mountain biking.

Iceland is due to get its first rooftop bar! Next spring, the Reykjavik Edition will debut a rooftop perch where guests can sip cocktails while taking in the Northern Lights.

In November, Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace will unveil six vegan suites, constructed without animal products and featuring vegan menus and amenities.

Starting this fall, guests of Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole can hop a private plane and discover a remote corner of Yellowstone National Park, where they’ll meet with an expert naturalist to learn about the area’s elusive gray wolves – and maybe even see a few up close.

Safari operator Singita has created art galleries at its Sabi Sand and Kruger National Park Lodges. These spaces will showcase the work of pre-eminent and emerging African artists. The initiative is part of Singita’s overarching mission to celebrate and incorporate local culture into its offerings.

About Virtuoso

Virtuoso® is the leading global travel agency network specializing in luxury and experiential travel. This by-invitation-only organization comprises over 1,200 travel agency locations with more than 20,000 travel advisors in over 50 countries throughout North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East. Drawing upon its preferred relationships with more than 2,200 of the world’s best hotels and resorts, cruise lines, airlines, tour companies and premier destinations, the network provides its upscale clientele with exclusive amenities, rare experiences and privileged access. Normalized annual sales of (U.S.) $25–$30 billion make Virtuoso a powerhouse in the luxury travel industry. For more information, visit www.virtuoso.com.

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