Awakening the wander list: where in the world do those with exceptional wealth vacation?
Tempus goes beyond the glamour of the 31st Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas to uncover the latest HNW travel trends
Las Vegas might seem an unlikely location for the world’s biggest travel conference. But when one considers Sin City’s homage to those most famous of Grand Tour destinations – the Paris Hotel’s Eiffel Tower, the Luxor Resort & Casino’s Pyramids of Giza, the Statue of David in Caesar’s Palace – it starts to make a little more sense why Virtuoso Travel Week would choose to host its 31st event in this staple of US vacation fun.
Tempus joined Virtuoso’s 6,500 guests – among them luxury travel advisors, hotel group CEOs, property and experience experts as well as select members of the global travel press – at the event, which is best summed up as the global fashion week of the travel industry. Such is its influence within the worth travel market – worth a staggering $8.8tn (£7.1tn) in the last year alone – that it was this year hosted by two of Las Vegas’ biggest resorts, including MGM’s opulent and iconic Bellagio Hotel.
There are more than 20,000 Virtuoso travel advisors across 50 countries, and it is estimated that the 340,000 partner meetings that occur during the event lead to almost £340m spent in travel sales worldwide.
The question asked by Virtuoso’s expert speakers this year was ‘What’s on your Wanderlist?’ – an odd question, perhaps, for an industry leader, but one that inspired attendees to indulge their childhood dreams and life-long ambitions. It’s this, they say, that forms the basis of lasting relationships with the top-spending demographic, and what allows them to predict accurate travel patterns for the coming year.
“In a world where there is more pressure and speed than ever before, you can’t take the human out of humanity,” says Matthew D. Upchurch, Virtuoso’s chair and CEO. “We are in the business of helping people optimise their memories. That’s one of things we are trying to scale here.”
To this ene, Virtuoso introduced a travel planning process and digital platform to support its face-to-face method of creating a bespoke travel experience. “It’s estimated a future traveller spends an average of 8.4 hours on the internet planning a trip,” is how one speaker explained the move, adding that the modern user interface keeps customers within reach. “The tools of artificial intelligence are becoming more workable and therefore maximising planning, booking and management capabilities – but we will always require a human touch for true luxury, bespoke assistance and Virtuoso service.” >>
SUSTAINING THE ECO-TRAVEL TREND
The sustainable travel trend has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and Virtuoso reports that this has shown no sign of stopping. No longer is the desire of HNW travellers just to visit beautiful, famous or nostalgic destinations – or, despite the hype, travel thousands of miles to recreate the ‘it’ Instagram photos. Instead, affluent individuals are reporting a wish to do good.
Upchurch says that Virtuoso’s clients actively seek to avoid locations experiencing over-tourism. They actively seek out ways their travel can assist local habitats and eco-systems at their destinations. This means there is rising demand from travel experts for research-intensive, personalised trips, as well as long- term travel planning by serious and sophisticated travellers.
“Sustainable tourism represents a transformative movement — from saving endangered species to supporting community development projects around the world,” says Upchurch. “I believe we’re reaching a tipping point as more travel companies across the Virtuoso network embrace sustainability and focus on educating their guests on how to have a great vacation while also giving back to local people and the planet.”
TRAVEL ACROSS THE GENERATIONS
This year, a particularly interesting trend was noted in the influence children have in family holiday planning – and it would seem today’s youngest generations are enjoying a high level of environmental education. Yes, when it comes to the environment, kids today are not afraid of speaking up.
One luxury travel advisor spoke of how one HNW family cancelled a trip to Rwanda worth more than £200,000 because the parents’ teenage children felt strongly that “the gorillas should be left alone”. The industry, therefore, is adapting quickly to the concerns of the youngest travellers among us.
But that’s not to say today’s planet-protecting youth is not clamouring for adventure. The top travel destinations for family holidays are, according to Virtuoso, Iceland, the Galapagos Islands, Cuba, Botswana, Mongolia and, for an extraordinary glimpse of the Earth’s extremes, Antarctica. >>
RIVERS OF GOLD
The art of personalised river cruising promises to blow the ocean-cruising trend out of the water. Not only does river travel allow for shorter, more curated trips but it affords intrepid HNW travellers to embark on cultural experience ashore.
There is particularly interest growing in the waterways of Europe, where the Rhine, Danube, Rhône and Moselle rivers connect you with picturesque cities and towns without the deluge of tourists created by disembarking cruise liners.
And it’s not just Europe seeing this trend take to the water. Personalised trips along the Nile in Egypt, as well as China’s stunning Yangtze River, are showcasing the very best of these countries and allowing small groups and families to experience life on the water paired with a unique adventure
INDULGING THE SENSES
While the wellness travel trend is still going strong, Virtuoso says travellers today are turning their backs on spartan yoga retreats and detox diets. Instead, it’s now about indulging the senses with gastronomic adventures that take us to the very source of our treats.
For true foodies, culinary-focused holidays might feature anything from multiple Michelin-starred meals to hands-on cookery classes with local gastronomes, complete with fishing, hunting and truffle foraging.
“The gastronomic trend allows travellers to experience a destination’s soul through its cuisine,” says Upchurch, noting that many luxury hotels around the globe specialise in culinary travel, offering catered plans that feature award-winning restaurants, local delicacies, food tours and private dining. The perfect way to give guests a true taste of their surroundings.