Travelers in 2020 are seizing the day and prioritizing trips now, powered by the belief that customized experiences are the best investment of their money and time, according to the latest Virtuoso Luxe Report. The luxury travel network annually surveys its top travel agency members and their advisor sales force across 50 countries to predict what lies ahead in the coming year. The Luxe Report has become a trend forecaster, revealing consumer inclinations in high-end and experiential travel.
“Carpe diem” travel is fueling the desire to savor as many new destinations and exciting experiences as possible in more authentic ways. While travelers still want to journey in comfort, the new definition of luxury is personalized adventures shared with family and friends. Both trends led to Virtuoso’s introduction earlier this year of Wanderlist, an approach to planning trips to ensure travelers maximize opportunities now and in the future.
The Luxe Report unearthed six trends highlighting how upscale globetrotters continue to assert their influence in the travel-sphere for 2020.
1. Untouristed and Unexpected: With some favorite destinations seeing an untenable rise in demand, the well-traveled luxury set is seeking remote, unspoiled destinations to avoid crowds at over-touristed locales. Virtuoso advisors report a rise in requests for places ranging from the culturally distinct to those steeped in nature, including Borneo, Greenland, and Oman.
2. Country Coupling: Travelers are heeding the advice of well-informed Virtuoso advisors, who encourage clients to explore multiple countries, even during shorter journeys. Trips that mix locales are trending, especially ones with surprising combinations. Travelers may pair a ski adventure with a beach finale, or a city stay with a jungle adventure, or a well-traveled place followed by a little-known spot to mingle with locals. The focus is on varied experiences that enrich the trip with each stop.
3. Tasty Travels: Culinary travel has transcended “trend” to become its own niche, with amazing food and drink now considered essential to any trip. Cooking classes, eating in private homes, Michelin-starred restaurants, farm-to-table visits, truffle hunting – culinary experiences are as varied as travelers themselves, and allow foodies to go beyond a seat at the table. Dining has become such a focus that some travelers are requesting restaurant reservations at the same time they book their flights – sometimes even before.
4. Group Getaways: Travel unites those who share common interests, and Virtuoso advisors say clients want to connect with like-minded people. Gen X-ers, Boomers and even Matures are traveling to bond with friends and others who share their passions or are at the same life stage. Women’s travel is on the rise as well, including soft adventure trips and affluent girl getaways to unplug, relax and play. Groups of couples are also traveling together, including buddymoons, where newlyweds bring pals along for the fun.
5. EQ Encounters: Today’s traveler is seeking more profound experiences leading to increased emotional intelligence. Pushing beyond their comfort zone combined with genuine interaction among locals provides travelers with a deeper appreciation for the people and cultures they encounter. Foregoing the usual attractions, Virtuoso clients are instead opting to tap into their passions, such as a tasting with the owner of a local winery, a motorcycle tour or a personal shopper to guide them through the latest pop-up stores. They also want accommodations that reflect the destination – inns full of character, small neighborhood hotels, and private homes.
6. Enjoying the Journey: Embracing the philosophy that the journey is half the fun, upscale voyagers are using exclusive services including meet-and-greets planeside to avoid the stress of changing terminals, locating gates, or waiting in customs lines. The Private Suite at Los Angeles International Airport offers a members-only terminal where travelers are escorted through TSA screenings, driven to and from aircraft in BMWs, and provided a room to relax in between flights.
Italy continues its reign as the global favorite, as well as the top spot for solo travelers, while slipping to second place in the honeymoon and family travel categories. Croatia heads the list of emerging destinations, attracting buzz due to the Game-of-Thrones effect as well as its rich history and convenience to other major European hubs. Antarctica, poised for a big year, takes the top spot for adventure travel from longtime favorite South Africa (now in fourth place) and ranks number two as an emerging destination. And Greece catapulted into the top five for three categories, including the top spot for Millennials as well as second on the global destinations list and a third place for honeymoons.
Key findings from the 2020 Virtuoso Luxe Report:
Top Travel Trends
1. Multigenerational travel
3. Active or adventure trips
4. Family travel (immediate family)
5. Celebration travel
Top Global Destinations
Top Millennial Destinations
Top Family Travel Destinations
4. Costa Rica
Top Solo Travel Destinations
Top Adventure Destinations
3. Galapagos Islands
4. South Africa
A total of 1,300 travel advisors from Virtuoso-affiliated agencies in North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and the Middle East took the Luxe Report survey to offer insight into 2020’s top trends.
Photo: Courtesy of Ilene Perlman Photography