As reported by Annie FirzSimmons in this Forbes’ article, “the love of a career in selling luxury travel and relationships was flourishing in Las Vegas. Our leisure time is valuable, and last week in Vegas is where many travel trends are established and announced. 350,000 (yes you read that number right) “speed-dating” appointments between advisors and suppliers in cavernous Bellagio ballrooms set the tone.”
I am one of the luxury travel advisors that treated this trip to Vegas as a buying trip for my clients and instead of clothing, I was selecting the best travel experiences around the world. “The gathering works – they estimate that $450 million in annual sales is generated from advisors who attend.”
Here are the top 6 luxury travel trends that Annie highlighted for Forbes.
1. River Cruising: Annie wrote that, “river cruising is the fastest growing sector of the travel business, and it’s not just in Europe. Gary Murphy, the VP of National Accounts for AmaWaterways, says the company is growing faster than 10% a year. Their first ship was built in 2006 and there are 15 ships now. It is still a great option for older travelers but AmaWaterways has seen a younger clientele booking, and has spent $600,000 putting free WiFi on the ships for those that need to be connected. They also claim they are the only river cruise line that has built dedicated storage facilities for bikes, very popular with active cruisers. Viking is continuing to roll out their improved Longship-style boat, for a total of 14 new ships over 2 years, with cutting-edge technology and spacious suites. For exotic, truly impressive river cruising, Aqua Expeditionswas all the buzz, announcing a new Mekong River cruise in Cambodia and Vietnam in January 2014, while still filling their popular Amazon River/Peru experience.”
I had the opportunity to meet the executive chef of Aqua Expeditions, and try some Amazon cuisine at VAST, the pre-Virtuoso Travel Week day that had 38 Virtuoso Active & Speciality Travel suppliers come together. It was exotic and flavourful cuisine, and I’m sure will appeal to both foodie clients, as well as those who just want to see a different part of the world.
Of course, Tauck does river cruising, as does Uniworld. And there is also a company doing canal cruising with smaller ships.
2. Younger, More Affluent Travelers: Annie wrote that, “Virtuoso says they have seen major growth in the traveler from 40-55 years of age using advisors to help plan their trips. Many advisors told me that young, successful families in their early 30s and 40s are planning adventurous trips with young children and even babies. They want their children to have these experiences young and they don’t want to give up their own travel freedom.”
I am all about “return on life.” I tell my clients they only have a limited number of trips they can take with their children while they are still young. You have to maximize the return, and figure out what family memories you want to build now!
3. Undiscovered, Unfamiliar Locales: Annie wrote that, “Bhutan is high on the list for travelers searching for something new. The Ambassador to Bhutan, Lhatu Wangchuk, spoke at the event about Bhutan, a small country “under the protection of the great Himalayas.” Bhutan was isolated for centuries and is now experiencing incredible growth, with 50 hotels currently being built. Luxury brands like Aman and Taj have properties there. However, “we have no plans for Disneyland or bungee jumping,” the ambassador joked. Other countries on hot lists include Colombia, Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia and for the next ten years, South America will continue to shine with Peru, Ecuador, and Argentina growing even more in popularity.”
I was fortunate enough to hear the Ambassador speak at the opening session of Virtuoso travel week on Sunday, and I met him in person at a cocktail party hosted by Ashish of Big Five. I believe that Bhutan will be embraced by travellers seeking something new and different. Why wouldn’t we all embrace a country that focuses on the Gross National Happiness of each citizen?
4. Space Travel: Annie wrote, “We’ve been hearing about it for years, but it’s closer than you think. Virgin Galactic is one of the companies developing suborbital space flights and they are currently in the advanced stages of flight testing, with over 500 people booked on flights. Tony Poe sells these flights and says “We are not just selling space flights. This is a whole new era in tourism.” Virtuoso has already sold more than $10 million for Virgin Galactic, including its first full charter (6 seats). Space tourism should bring in between $600 million and $1.6 billion in revenue in the first ten years, says Reuters.”
Of course, I’m thrilled to be affiliated with Vision 2000 Travel Group. Vision 2000 has 2 accredited ASA agents in our executive vice-president, Stephanie Anevich; as well as Michael Broadhurst. Vision 2000 agents have sold a lot of the Virgin Galatic product already. If you wish to learn more, contact me. It’d be my pleasure to help.
5. More All-Inclusive Options: Annie wrote, “James Shillinglaw, Editor-in-Chief of Agent@Home, Vacation Agent, and Travel Pulse, mentioned that travel has been headed to more all-inclusive options for quite some time, citing frustrations that travelers have with resort fees, airline fees, and huge cruise line add-ons. The image of an all-inclusive experience is changing with more hotels and cruise lines delivering great options. Stacy Small, President of L.A. based Elite Travel International, recently returned from The BodyHoliday LeSport in St. Lucia raving. “I am always skeptical about “all-inclusives” but LeSport is in a category all its own after $25+million in renovations with more planned, including rooms and the entire spa. I was most impressed with the healthy and gluten-free dining options and range of fitness classes from spinning to paddleboard yoga. This is the IT spa of the Caribbean,” she says. On Seabourn cruises, known for small, intimate all-suite ships, all dining venues are complimentary, from room service to restaurants. There are open bars all over the ship and tipping is not required or expected.”
Regent and Crystal are two other cruise lines that are embracing the all-inclusive product.
6. New Value From Luxury Operators: Annie wrote, “Abercrombie & Kent, a name synonymous with luxury travel, unveiled one of the biggest pieces of news in Vegas, announcing their new Connections line debuting in September 2012. The 17 small-group itineraries around the world including India, Peru, Croatia, Africa and Australia will cost 30% less than their average trip, using hotel brands like Fairmont, Hyatt Regency, Marriott and Intercontinental.”
Tour operators continue to develop the scale and value of the products they sell, to appeal to the different makeup of its clientele.
So – there are indeed 6 luxury travel trends that the Forbes’ article pointed out – but there are many more too. Follow this blog for further details about Virtuoso Travel Week – and how I can help orchestrate your travel dreams.