Global luxury travel network Virtuoso® reveals when, where and how the affluent are travelling for the remainder of 2023. Respected as an industry-leading trend forecaster, Virtuoso gathered data and insights from its network of travel advisors, preferred partners and high net worth/ultra-high net worth clientele based on its data warehouse of more than $63.6 billion (approx. £49.8 billion) in transactions and an ongoing series of surveys. The results were shared at luxury travel’s leading event, the 35th annual Virtuoso Travel Week. Running August 12-18 in Las Vegas at Bellagio Resort & Casino, ARIA Resort & Casino and Vdara Hotel & Spa, the event is recognised as the Fashion Week of luxury travel for its presentation of the latest news and trends affecting the industry before thousands of industry leaders, as well as the multi-million dollars in travel sales it drives.
The lead story: travel shows no signs of slowing down, despite inflation and global economic challenges. In the first half of 2023, Virtuoso reported a 69 percent uptick in sales versus 2019 numbers, with hotel and cruise segments leading the way, up 173 percent and 122 percent respectively.
Luxury hotels in the U.S. have seen a 57 percent increase compared to 2019, while luxury international hotels have soared to a 58 percent uptick.
Future leisure travel sales leading into 2024-2025 are equally strong. When comparing sales leading into 2020 from 2019, considered to be luxury travel’s highwater mark, 2023’s future sales are pacing 107 percent higher. Future sales for 2023 into 2024 are also pacing 44 percent higher than they were in 2022 leading into 2023.
Likewise, 2023 future cruise sales are 44 percent higher than they were in 2022 and 106 percent higher versus 2019.
Travellers are heading abroad in record numbers. Paris, London and Florence ranking among the most-booked cities this autumn. When it comes to the hottest travel trends, Virtuoso advisors have noted continued demand for exclusive-use experiences, such as private aviation and yachting along with itineraries that incorporate next-level stimulation and engagement (think scientific expeditions in Antarctica). The wellness sector continues to thrive, with 94 percent of travellers incorporating self-care into their travels and a rising interest in programmes that incorporate creative and performance art. Iceland has emerged as a wellness destination, as has Thailand, as travel to Asia returns. What hasn’t changed, but is even more pronounced following the pandemic, is the importance travellers place on genuine, personalised service and their willingness to invest in collaborating with a travel advisor to arrange VIP treatment and access, to have reassurance, accountability and save time, and to ultimately have the experience they want.
An overview of the information is below, with complete findings here:
The United States, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and Mexico are taking the lead as the top global destinations for autumn travel.
While many Americans are still travelling domestically, Virtuoso has seen a shift back to international travel for travellers across global markets, including Australia, Canada and the U.S.
Travellers are swooning over some of the world’s most dynamic and vibrant cities, and they’re willing to pay for it, too. This fall, Paris is seeing hotel rates 11 percent higher than 2022, while London and New York rates are up 16 percent. Rome is up 19 percent, and Florence tops them all with a 37 percent increase in rates over last year.
Looking for great value? Hotels in Palm Beach, Athens and Cabo San Lucas have scaled back rates.
This festive season, the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica and Thailand are set to be the hottest global destinations. Travellers are dreaming of islands like Anguilla, Turks & Caicos, Bahamas, and St. Barts. Demand is also soaring for Kohala Coast/Kailua-Kona, Wailea, Argyll and the Isles of Scotland, and London.
There is sustained and slightly increased year-over-year hotel pricing, with average daily rates for preferred hotels this festive season climbing to nearly $1,600 (approx. £1,254) per night.
Value destinations for the festive season include U.S. domestic spots New York, Los Angeles and Vail, though a 13 percent decline in hotel rates only represents relative savings in winter playgrounds.
It’s All About the Experience
Tailor-made travel is in even higher demand. In a recent study, 57 percent of travellers across the globe said that “creating a travel experience that best fits my expectations is more important than price.” This is particularly true for travellers from Mexico, Hong Kong, Brazil, China and Australia
For many, private travel is something they tried in the pandemic and a luxury they’re not willing to give up now, even as the scarcity of exclusive-use products drives up rates. Yachting is increasing in demand in the Caribbean, Croatia, Greece and St Tropez, and Virtuoso’s 2023 yacht bookings are up 79 percent over 2019.
Private aviation is climbing in popularity for domestic and shorter international flights, while commercial first-class is still the go-to for longer-haul flights.
More travellers are seeking out activities that require greater mental and physical exertion. There’s a rising interest in scientific expeditions like shadowing researchers in Antarctica and the Galapagos, and C-suite clients are indulging in activities that push beyond the typical comforts.
Thirty-seven percent of high-net-worth individuals are travelling for cultural reasons; 34 percent are looking for adventure; and 16 percent are seeking expedition travel.
Food and wine are top priorities, especially among Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers: 70 percent of Virtuoso advisors have seen an increase in culinary travel, and 20 percent of clients book trips with food and wine as the main focus. They’re willing to pay for it, too – a whopping 47 percent spend between $10,000 and $25,000 (approx. £7,840 and £19,600) per trip, with another 15 percent spending $25,000-$50,000 (approx. £19,600 and £39,201) per trip.
Top culinary experiences include visiting a brewery or distillery (88 percent) and street food (60 percent), followed by culinary-themed tours (58 percent) and celebration with family and friends (57 percent). Meanwhile, emerging culinary experiences include a desire for authenticity and cultural immersion (87 percent), hyper-local, neighbourhood-to-table dining (53 percent), and high-low foodie experiences (48 percent). Participants were permitted to choose multiple options.
On the rise are culinary destinations such as Portugal, Copenhagen, Croatia and Colombia, with each poised to become culinary capitals.
Wellness travel shows no signs of slowing down: 47 percent spend between $5,000 and $10,000 (approx. £3,920 and £7,840) per wellness trip, and another 44 percent spend $10,000-$25,000 (approx. £7,840 and £19,600) per trip. The top destinations include Mexico, the U.S. and Europe, with 59 percent embarking on solo wellness getaways.
Emerging wellness experiences include creative and performance art (44 percent), sleep programmes (34 percent) and sustainable wellness (34 percent). Thailand, Bali, Fiji and Iceland rank among the emerging wellness destinations, and we’re also seeing an uptick in African safaris with a wellness component.
The Virtuoso Impact Report, Sustainable Travel, 2023, released during this week’s Virtuoso Travel Week, highlights Virtuoso partners and how their practices are viewed by guests. Eighty-eight percent of travellers want to see their tourism dollars go toward protecting the planet, particularly initiatives like waste management and recycling, protecting and restoring landscapes, and the usage, implementation or support of sustainable and renewable energy (such as solar, wind, hydro or geothermal).
Sixty-four percent of travellers are committed to sustainability in culture, like supporting Indigenous communities and aiding in cultural restoration of sites.
And another 64 percent are interested in the economic potential of activities like supporting local and independent businesses and youth programmes.