This week, international luxury travel network, Virtuoso®, revealed the top seven travel trends to emerge from Virtuoso Travel Week, luxury travel’s preeminent event. We have to say that based on our travels the past two years, we have seen these trends in action and couldn’t agree more.
“Travel has been trending for some time toward authentic experiences,” says Virtuoso Chairman and CEO, Matthew D. Upchurch, CTC. “And now we’re seeing our travel providers take it one step further by catering to each individual traveler’s wants and needs. It’s not enough to experience a destination; travelers want to do so in a way that is completely unique to them. This trend of individualized travel aligns perfectly with what we’re seeing on the agency side: clients want an advisor who ‘specializes’ in them as well as products and destinations. Completely customized travel experience is exactly what Virtuoso-affiliated travel advisors do best.”
Here’s what Virtuoso Travel Week revealed* — the top seven travel trends:
1. Catering to the Individual Traveler
Customized itineraries? Check. Personalized menus? Check. As travel companies continue to perfect and enhance their offerings, this leaves travelers more discerning than ever – expecting and wanting more. No longer is it enough to merely travel to the latest, off-the-beaten path destinations; personalized travel is the new “luxury.” Experiences have to go deeper and appeal to personal interests. Tailor-made excursions continue to become de rigueur. Travel must also address certain desires and needs whether health allergies or food preferences. Companies are even changing their entire brand proposition to better support this trend.
2. Special Interest Travel
Travel is deeply personal. Travelers more than ever can connect to a given destination by exploring their passions and interests.
- Yoga retreats are nothing new. But the WAY that yoga retreats are now being marketed and planned has taken it up a notch. Check out The Travel Yogi for an idea of what we’re talking about.
- Isramworld, one of America’s leading tour operators, enables travelers to experience the people and unique attributes of a destination. The company unveiled new Jewish heritage and GLBT tours to Cuba – the #1 Emerging Destination from Virtuoso’s 2013 Luxe Report – to experience previously unexplored sides of the destination.
- andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve launched a new safari concept: it now offers a four-day yoga safari program in South Africa; guests are able to spiritually connect with the magnificent landscape through the open-air yoga.
- For stargazers, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay offers an astronomy discovery with Parag Mahajani, one of the most respected field experts in astronomy, for nightly discussions and solar flare sightings by day.
3. Health and Wellness Travel
Along the same lines as yoga retreats, interest in improving health and remaining physically active while on holiday has only continued to increase.
- The Fairmont Fit program, available at Fairmont Hotels around the world, provides Reebok workout apparel and footwear, an MP3 player and a yoga mat with stretch band, all which can be delivered directly to your room upon request. You can also schedule a private workout in your room or around the property with just a phone call to the concierge. Fairmont Fit is available to all members of Fairmont President’s Club and is complimentary for Premier and Platinum members. We were at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park this past week and enjoyed an adventurous hike up to the Lake Agnes Tea House with the Fairmont’s heritage guide Michael Vincent.
- In an industry first, Crystal Cruises broke the news that it is introducing hypoallergenic cabins for guests –Deluxe PURE Staterooms. Crystal is partnering with PURE Marine Solutions, sister company of leading allergy-friendly hospitality innovator PURE Global, for a comprehensive transformation utilizing the only hypoallergenic process patented and proven to deliver a safe and healthy environment.
- In addition to rolling out a series of new spa offerings with ESPA, Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo is partnering with the spa company and celebrity chef Joel Robuchon to introduce a new spa culinary experience at Odyssey, his 3rd restaurant within the hotel, designed by Karl Lagerfeld.
- COMO Shambhala Estate in Bali has created a new Traditional Oriental Medicine Program in which expert practitioners create a comprehensive and bespoke healing plan based on classical systems of health and longevity, such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, and meditation.
- Backroads offers various hiking, walking, and biking tours around the world. Not an avid biker or an experienced hiker? No worries. They have trips and itineraries for all levels of fitness to suit your needs and desires.
4. “Culture Brought to Life” Experiences
Art, television, music and books have influenced travel for years, but never before like this. From Harry Potter tours to tracing the steps of Hemingway, travelers can now experience the place or time of their favorite artists or characters through exclusive access and unforgettable events.
- NoteWorthy Events, the United Kingdom’s leading personal travel specialists, announced its ability to gain private access to the sold-out Highclere Castle, Hampshire, England – home to the real ‘Downton Abbey’ – where guests can walk in the shadows of the Crawley family. The company also can provide access ‘Behind the Getty Gates’ of Buckinghamshire, England, to view John Paul Getty II’s famed library with literary treasures such as a first edition of William Caxton’s printing of “The Canterbury Tales;” Anne Boleyn’s Psalter or Book of Psalms and the first folio of William Shakespeare’s “Comedies, Histories and Tragedies.”
- Ballyfin has opened its famed costume department to transport guests through time and allow them to live out their favorite Jane Austen novel against the backdrop of this fully restored manor home.
- GoldenEye Hotel and Resort in Jamaica, once the home of Ian Fleming and where he penned all 14 James Bond novels, allows guests to embrace the rich history of his storytelling by staying in his original villa, complete with his writing desk.
5. Living Like a Local … Only Better
The phrase “like a local” is now so overused that even we are tired of it. But you can’t argue with the fact that no one knows how to navigate the places of the world better than a local. City hotels are catering to guests’ adventurous sides and providing them with “authentic” and localized experiences.
- The highly anticipated Park Hyatt New York‘s savvy concierge team will direct guests to all of Manhattan’sbest kept secrets, such as the hottest boutiques for one-of-a-kind pieces.
- In London, Rocco Forte Brown’s Hotel is introducing the exclusive “Virtuoso Dream Teen Team” program, a concierge-designed experience exclusively for young adults. Rooms are outfitted with games and snacks, and each teen gets an Oyster Card to go off and explore the city as they please.
- Anantara Phuket Villas can arrange visits to the heart of the island’s historic district for guests to discover local markets, temples, and interact with descendants of the Koh Sireh people, Phuket’s first inhabitants.
6. Private Residences
In the spirit of living like a local, private residences and villas continue to increase in popularity, with top travelcompanies enhancing the design, amenities, and services of these offerings.
- Serenity in the French Quarter of New Orleans? Yes, indeed. An historic collection of seven cottages that offer guests ultimate privacy, The Dauphine Orleans’ Audubon Cottages include guest-only access with a shared saltwater pool, said to be the oldest pool in New Orleans. Set in original brick, the pool is surrounded by lush foliage and offers seating in wrought iron chaise lounges. A French Quarter butler is on hand to attend to every detail.
- The K Club announced the opening of Straffan House, a private residence on the grounds of the Club owned by founder Sir Michael Smurfit available for exclusive hire. The new building took inspiration from the original “Staffran House,” now the hotel at the Club.
- In South Africa, Singita Castleton will reopen in October. Reminiscent of an African farmhouse, it comprises six individual cottages that are privately staffed with a guide, tracker, and chef.
- Villas of Distinction now offers exclusive tours and experiences that can be customized to complement guests’ stays in its private residences; travelers no longer have to choose between tours and a villa stay – they can have both.
7. Destinations Making News … and Why the Time to Go is NOW
- Brazil – home of the 2014 World Cup – is the destination on everyone’s lips according to Embratur, the country’s tourism board. Not only was Rio de Janeiro voted #6 in the “Cities That Excite” list from Virtuoso’s “2013 Travel Dreams Survey,” but LATAM Airlines Group is announcing new routes to JFK and Miami by November.
- Travel to Turkey has increased by more than 18 percent since last year. Turkish Airlines, recently votedEurope’s Best Airline at the 2013 Skytrax Passengers Choice Awards for the third consecutive year, saw a 26 percent increase in global ticket sales from the same time period in 2012 – a total of more than 22.4 million passengers. Consumer interest and tourism is also driven by the May 2013 opening of the country’s newest luxury hotel, the Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul.
- And while we’re not admitting that one of our guilty pleasures is watching “The Bachelor,” you can’t ignore the fact that destinations highlighted in the dating reality show see dramatic increases in tourism (think upwards of 17 percent!) once they’ve been featured in the show.
* Some details and information courtesy of Virtuoso and Adventure Travel Trade Association