I’ve had a few weeks to digest all of the information I picked up this year at Virtuoso Travel Week, a gathering of the best luxury travel providers and advisors, I wanted to share my top take-aways. A lot of what I heard from my peers and the luxury travel industry leaders centered on the theme of the new “breed” of luxury travelers. This year was the network’s 25th anniversary and the theme focused on the next 25, which had us all looking ahead. I, for one, am seeing some really positive and interesting trends and I am very excited to see what the future holds!
My 2013 Virtuoso Week Impressions:
- A new generation of travelers: Last year, so many of the sales pitches were focused on how to please the multi-generational family travelers, this year was all about how to keep 30-something travelers happy. Being a 30-something myself, I appreciate all of the attention on my generation, but I felt like a lot of the suppliers are missing the boat. An extra layer of shellac to an overly shiny wood grain and hammered metal detailing or modern art installments aren’t going to impress me. It feels like cheating. Sure, design is important, but I think the clients that share my age can see right through a half-hearted effort. Instead, I believe that genuine, relaxed hospitality and localized personality will resonate best. Give me a charming bartender that has worked with your company for 40 years, a butler that knows how to provide intuitive service without hovering, a chef that takes pride in the hotel’s backyard garden and a concierge that can suggest a quirky activity that I would have never dreamed up on my own and I’m there, credit card in-hand!
- Flexibility / behind-the-scenes service:speaking of my generation… I believe that tour companies are in for a rough patch. Business is still out there, but the sales pitch needs to change drastically. I’ve encountered very few people my age that are interested in over planned, play-by-play itineraries. We don’t want someone (even a destination expert) to dictate how we spend our precious vacation time. We want the flexibility to arrive at the airport in our chosen destination, tweet “I’m here!” and then spend our days seeking out the experiences that our social network recommends. But, if I only get 10 days of vacation a year, I don’t want to waste my time wandering from lame site to boring pub trying to figure out what my friends are talking about. Enter Virtuoso tour company to save the day! All I need is one pre-planned city familiarization tour and maybe a local cell phone with your concierge’s number pre-programmed. Once we get a feel for our destination and read through our twitter feed, we’ll come to you with a few requests. Can we get a last-minute reservation to a michelin starred restaurant? How about tickets to a cricket match we heard about at the pub last night? The tour company that will resonate best with these clients will be one with a strong foundational knowledge of the locale and a staff that can respond to requests on the fly. Luckily, I met a few that seemed to fit the bill during the Virtuoso meetings!
- Eating Well: By-the-way, those Michelin stars that every 5-star hotel restaurant strives for? They are still important, especially to this new generation of travelers. I’ve been encountering more and more “star collectors” in my travels and within my own client base. So far, I have only collected 7, but I have plans to increase that number exponentially! If you’re looking to get a jump start on a Michelin Star collection, head to Basque Country in Spain; they have one of the highest concentrations of Michelin stars in the world!
- What’s old is new:If you do head to Spain, don’t stop there! The old world is in demand this year! France, Italy, Switzerland, The United Kingdom, etc. etc. But, this time around, travelers are looking for new, in-depth ways to get to know these countries. They are looking for total immersion and, perhaps a slower pace as well. River Cruising and Bike Tours are particularly popular options these days and wine tasting, the old standby, is gaining a new generation of interested travelers. Personally, I have a big trip planned in September/October to visit Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin, Prague, Rome, and Ravello and I am looking forward to some old world adventure!
- The new world is not forgotten: And it is expanding with new, “hot” destinations. Some that caught my eye or have been on my radar are: Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Tasmania, Bhutan, and the list goes on and on! I can’t wait to see what destinations cross my desk over the next year!