Lifestyle

Virtuoso Reveals Top Destinations For Upscale Travelers This Fall

Global luxury travel network Virtuoso has just revealed when, where and how the affluent are traveling next.

Respected as an industry-leading trend forecaster, Virtuoso recently gathered data and insights from its network of travel advisors, preferred partners and ultra-high net worth clientele based on its data warehouse of more than $49.5 billion in transactions and an ongoing series of surveys. The results were shared at luxury travel’s leading event, the 33rd annual Virtuoso Travel Week. Running August 8-13 at Las Vegas’ Bellagio Resort & Casino and ARIA Resort & Casino, the annual event is recognized as the “fashion week” of travel, where the latest news and trends affecting the industry are unveiled.

According to the survey, the year 2021 started off with promise and growth in every travel sector – tours, hotels, and cruises, with 45 percent of those polled looking to travel within the next three months. California leads the way as the top domestic destination, while Italy holds the number one spot for overseas travel. City escapes are making a strong rebound and cruising, which was non-existent in 2020, is showing continued momentum. Festive season is already pacing strong with almost half of Americans planning a holiday escape.

Highlights of the survey:

Cruise Travel

·        One year ago, only 26 percent of travelers said they would take a cruise and in June 2021, that number increased to 46 percent.

·        Cruise bookings are up 20 percent from 2020.

·        2022 cruise bookings are outpacing 2019 bookings.

For example, Regent Seven Seas Cruises just unveiled its new 2023-2024 Voyage Collection, featuring 129 overnight stays and four Grand Voyages, with reservations opened on August 18, 2021.

Maiden Calls: The 2023-2024 Voyage Collection boasts 15 new ports of call, including Vanuatu’s Mystery Island, the majestic island of Syros in Greece, the captivating and untamed Lofoten Islands in Norway, and the charmingly colorful Puerto Banus in Spain.

New Voyages: Crafted to create memories and stories that last a lifetime, Regent will sail an incredible 139 new voyages, with itineraries across Africa and Arabia, Alaska, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, the South Pacific, Canada and New England, the Caribbean and Panama Canal, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and South America, as well as transoceanic crossings, and four mesmerizing Grand Voyages to explore.

Holiday Travel

Approximately 41 percent of luxury travelers in the Virtuoso data are considering traveling during the 2021 holiday season. They have either booked their plans or are waiting to see how conditions evolve and will book closer to the date.

 Sustainable Travel

The pandemic is leading people to travel more responsibly in the future. The results indicate the travelers are cognizant of their place and impact in the world and this has led to what Virtuoso calls the “the conscious comeback.”

 ·        82 percent of travelers say the pandemic has made them want to travel more responsibly in the future

Hotel Bookings

·        Hotel bookings are up 122 percent compared to 2020.

·        Bookings for city hotels have increased 233 percent since January 2021 as cities opened and visitors returned

·        71 percent of travelers prefer a food-and-wine trip compared to a wellness retreat – a shift from 2020’s focus on self-care travel.

 Looking Ahead: International Destinations

Virtuoso also reviewed insights garnered by users of Wanderlist, the network’s free interactive social site for travel dreaming and planning. A predictor of where high net worth clients are heading next, Wanderlist compiles the destinations and experiences travelers are most anticipating in the future (pending travel restrictions.) Top 10 locales:

 ·        Italy

·        Greece

·        France

·        Japan

·        Ireland

·        Australia

·        Spain

·        Scotland

·        Mexico

·        Iceland

Helen McCabe-Young, Virtuoso vice president of marketing based in San Diego, granted me an exclusive interview about the survey for Forbes.com, and this is what transpired.

What was the most surprising thing you discovered in this survey?

Not a huge surprise that we are well on the path to what we’re calling a “conscious comeback” with regard to sustainable and conscious travel being on the rise. The sheer percentage of 82% of travelers said that the pandemic made them want to travel more responsibly. Then 78% said it was important to choose companies that have a strong sustainability focus. These are significant numbers, and it further emphasizes that this is a huge market potential for the future. Our brand focus is on meaningful travel experiences that we believe result in a  higher return on life, with conscious travel being a force for good.

Why do you think California leads the way as a top domestic destination?

Multiple reasons. California has a wide range of diverse experiences and generally good weather.  It has beaches, national parks, cities, and ever-increasing food-and-wine opportunities that appeal to leisure travelers. It has a lot of diversity that is easily accessible either through driving or flying. A lot of people who live in the state travel in the state.

Why do you think Italy is so ever-popular?

The love of Italy is pretty universal. With a range of options from sea to countryside, historical, cultural, the arts – the magnificent food-and-wine that is a major part of leisure traveler interest that never goes out of style. Italy has it in spades. When Italy is open, people are going.

Where will people be going for holiday travel 2021?

This holiday season islands and beaches will be a main draw. Cruising – ocean or river – is showing improvement over last year. Adventure and wellness retreats took a bit of a downturn as opposed to festive season 2020. 

Tell me about the momentum with cruising.

First of all avid cruisers want to get back to it –  there is a huge amount of pent-up demand. For those who haven’t cruised in the past, it’s a really great way to see multiple destinations and take your hotel with you. Today that’s very reassuring for a lot of people. It reduces a lot of hassles if you want to see multiple destinations. Cruise lines always do a good job leading with safety and health protocols. Those who plan cruises book a bit further out – it’s a great experience with something for everyone.

Why do you think that food-and-wine trips right now are more popular than wellness trips?

Some of that has to do with opportunity returning. People can engage more freely in exploring food and wine – it’s more communal –  to share those experiences. There’s a return of that natural craving for that interest. Not necessarily a lack of interest in wellness, but people want the sheer pleasure of food and wine. It has long been a strong driver of what people seek on leisure trips.

What’s the most surprising destination?

There is so much pent-up demand. It depends on what is open and the sense of ease with which people can do it.  For domestic US. Travel, the top five are Hawaii, California Florida, Arizona, and Tennessee.

What’s in Tennessee?

I’m asking the same question.

for more about my Wanderlust travelers, please Follow me on Instagram at @Debbikickham and please subscribe to Forbes.com.

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