A consortium of top travel agents (so good at what they do that they prefer to be called “Travel Advisors”), Virtuoso is the best-known organization of its kind in the luxury travel space. Advisor membership is by-invitation-only, and after decades of growth and reputation building, the U.S.-based association now includes more than 1,200 travel agencies and over 20,000 travel advisors in 50-plus countries.
Four years ago, as a tool for clients, Virtuoso unveiled a software platform called Wanderlist to help travelers and families narrow down, map out and schedule their Bucket List aspirations. To do that, an advisor at a Virtuoso agency sends an online questionnaire to every member of a “travel circle,” meaning a group that wants to vacation together, such as family, friends, or a club. Each participant answers questions about their desired destinations and experiences, then the analytics crunch the results and produce a suggested roadmap for future travels. All these Wanderlist questionnaires also enables Virtuoso to track the most desired states for domestic vacations and countries for international trips every season of ever year, and observe trends among these. They just announced the results for this summer’s travel.
Top 10 U.S. Destinations for Summer 2022
8. South Carolina
9. New York
Hawaii, New York and Massachusetts are always popular summer destinations, but there are some interesting new trends in this data that Virtuoso observed. A big one is that traditional winter-vacation ski destinations like Colorado and Montana are emerging as in-demand summer playgrounds, while in a reverse of this trend, warm southeastern states, including South Carolina and Florida, are expanding their seasonal winter popularity into the hot and humid months. In both cases, despite the rising popularity, it is still “off-season” and you can beat the crowds and find some great deals.
Meanwhile, Alaska – which was basically off-limits last year – cracked the top 10 without even taking into account the cruising season, which is how most travelers experience the state. This fits into the larger pandemic-induced trend of people acting more quickly on Bucket List travel, and Alaska is a good example of a place many people want to go “someday,” and thanks to COVID, someday is now. Overall, according to Virtuosos, California leads the way for summer travel by “offering amazing diversity throughout the state, from expansive beaches to culturally rich cities,” not to mention the nation’s premier wine country regions.
Top 10 Global Destinations for Summer 2022
1. United States
6. United Kingdom
Domestic travel exploded during the pandemic, and interest in National Parks and natural wonders remains very strong, along with emerging hot tourism cities including Nashville and Austin, and old favorites like San Francisco, New Orleans and especially Las Vegas, which is surging with new openings and attractions. But according to Virtuoso, while Americans are continuing to explore the splendors of the U.S., it’s the return to European summer vacations following a two-year hiatus that is clearly creating the most excitement among travelers. With seven of the top 10 destinations located in Europe, pent-up demand so far seems to be outweighing any concerns associated with the conflict in Ukraine. Neighboring Canada, which was also off-limits to U.S. travelers last summer, quickly made its return to the top half of the list.
Among European countries it’s no surprise that Italy is number one, because it is typically the number one dream destinations for Americans in every travel survey, every year. But while old favorites such as Venice were already over-touristed before the pandemic, and hot summer regions such as the Amalfi Coast are extremely popular with Virtuoso bookings this year and almost sold out, I recommend going a bit further off the beaten track. Every corner of Italy is worth visiting, but I am personally entranced with the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Region of amazing natural beauty that is full of charming towns and great food. Even though it has grown dramatically in popularity it remains a bit of a hidden gem. I wrote a winter travel story here at Forbes on the region, which is a world-class ski destination, but much of the info is applicable to summer. I also recommend Puglia in the far South, a very different landscape with great weather, full of history, amazing food and Italy’s largest olive oil producing region.
Switzerland is a small country but one full of wonderful big cities and small mountain towns where it’s easy to get off the beaten track – I’m going in June. Spain is a much larger country, and if you skip over-touristed spots like Barcelona there are tons of great options, with stellar hotels and incredible food, and also many gorgeous beaches. Mallorca, long popular with the British, is one of the hottest growing destinations in Spain for American travelers, and United is starting t the first non-stop service from the U.S. in June, out of Newark. I’m headed there next week to see what all the fuss is about.
But to really make the best choices about where to go in these destinations, ask an expert – like a travel advisor. I know a honeymooner who wanted to go to Greece this summer, and Greece has been wildly popular, especially the most famous islands such as Santorini and Mykonos, which are small and jammed. So I sent my friend to a top advisor who recommended Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, full of diverse attractions, top shelf lodgings and enough capacity to handle more tourism. The islands in the South, closet to Turkey, such as Rhodes, are also often overlooked.
I have written here at Forbes in the past about why you should use a travel agent/advisor even if you think you know a lot about travel and using the internet. To learn more, look at this 3-Part series I did. More recently I wrote this piece on “5 Reason Why You Need A Travel Agent – More Than Ever.” The bottom line is that a good travel agent will almost certainly make your travel experience better; will almost certainly produce better outcomes when anything goes wrong (flight cancellations, illness, natural disaster, war); has a much better chance of making your dream trip possible at times like right now when travel demand is surging and supply is limited, especially in the most popular spots; and in some cases, will also save you money.
Because these agents have top notch clients and do annual sales of $25-$30 billion, Virtuoso is a powerhouse in the luxury travel industry, and as such commands special benefits from its hotel, cruise line and other travel partners. For instance, you can stay in a Four Seasons or St. Regis hotel simply by booking on your own, or you can have an advisor do it at the same price and get a negotiated and contractually guaranteed Virtuoso “amenity package.” These are generally valued at two to three hundred dollars and typically include extras such as room upgrades, free breakfast daily, welcome gifts like chocolate, wine or champagne, and can even include free nights, private airport transfers, club floor upgrades and spa treatments. It’s basically a bonus you get just for using an advisor. Those in the travel industry want the best advisors to use them, so Virtuoso has these kinds of preferred relationships with more than 2,200 of the world’s best hotels and resorts, cruise lines, airlines, tour companies and has access to the best local guides and ground staff worldwide.