As the holiday season has arrived, luxury travelers are making decisions about where to take their next vacation. Should they whisk the kids off to Aspen for a week or two of skiing and snowballing? Should they punch up the romance with a New Year’s getaway to Paris or seek out the barefoot luxuries of St. Barts? Or perhaps they are hearing the hidden charms of Cuba calling? The choices are endless, and it goes far beyond deciding whether to bundle up in a winter wonderland, explore new and uncharted territory or escape to the warmth of a tropical paradise.
Thanks to Virtuoso, the global network of luxury travel agencies, and its 2017 Virtuoso Luxe Report, Previews® Inside Out has taken some of the guesswork out of your next travel planning session. The group’s annual survey of its worldwide travel advisors identified emerging travel trends and the top destinations for the coming year — just in time to satisfy your sense of holiday wanderlust.
Top Travel Trends
1. Multigenerational Travel
Multigenerational travel is a defining trend, according to Virtuoso affiliates, which usually includes three generations of travelers. Japan made its way onto the emerging destination list for the first time due to its rising interest as a less traditional location for family travel. Educational destinations where the children are going to learn about different cultures or ecosystems — like he Galapagos Islands, Iceland and Mexico — are also popular.
“This is really a continuing trend,” says Lynda Turley of Alpine Travel of Saratoga, a Virtuoso Agency. “We started to see this trend emerge after 9/11. People realized that things mean nothing. They wanted experiences with their loved ones and to create a lifetime of memories.”
Exclusive-use travel is a key trend for 2017, whether it is renting a villa in a prime destination such as St. Barts or even a private island, or chartering a yacht for a Croatian sail.
“I’ve booked a private villa for families in Hawaii, the Caribbean or Cancun where eveyrone from the family gets together,” says Turley. “But you do have to think about three generational dynamics — because not everyone gets along together. In these cases, it means hiring a chef because the moms don’t want to be responsible for the cooking. And, being sensitive to certain family dynamics – like, if some of the adult kids don’t have kids. The key is to have a variety of activities to choose from. Everyone do their own thing during the day and come together at night.”
2. Active or Adventure Trips
Active journeys, or adventure trips, have become increasingly popular — and are expected to rise in 2017.
“I think what is driving this trend is a desire to be fit — especially in the Americas,” says Turley. “The time of sitting in a lounge chair, drinking Mai Tais all afternoon…those days are gone for most people. The travelers I work with want to be out, exploring, hiking or biking. This is really true for all ages.”
African safaris, swimming with whale sharks in Mexico or Australia, and hiking the Swiss Alps are all popular excursions. Travelers are even splurging on an over-the-top exclusive experience, like hiring a personal guide for a city tour or boarding a private jet for their unforgettable round-the-world journey.
“People always didn’t know about these kinds of trips, but now word is spreading amongst friends,” says Turley.
3. River Cruising
Another trend gaining momentum is luxury river cruises that match traveler preferences and personality. Virtuoso advisors often recommend river cruising because of its convenience, value and range of options.
“People want to see different places and they view the river cruise as convenient because they’re not packing and unpacking — the cities come to them,” says Turley. “River cruising offers greater cultural immersion and the opportunity to explore the heart of a destination. Expedition cruising is also popular for its focus on nature and more intimate, experiential itineraries to remote destinations.”
Cruises on the Danube and the Rhine are popular. If travelers want a more exotic experience, they’re heading to Southeast Asia, Africa and India.
“River cruising appeals to everyone,” says Turley. But beware, she warns: not all river cruises are created equal.
“The ones that sell the most have the most activities on shore,” she says. “There are biking excursions throughout a city or immersive experiences like an artisan cheese making workshop or shopping for fresh produce with a local chef and making a lunch together on shore. These kinds of trips are incredibly popular. In fact, space is already gone for 2017.”
4. Travel with Immediate Family
The idea of parents traveling with their kids may not seem new — but not long ago, it was not the norm to travel with your children.
“It’s just evolving where parents are not afraid to travel with their kids,” says Turley. “Nowadays, people want to expose their children to different cultures, foods and experiences.”
Destinations such as New Zealand and Australia, and even as far-reaching as Antartica have wide appeal for parents.
“Arrivals to New Zealand from North America are up 30% in 2016,” says Turley. “If you’re not booking nine months in advance, you’re not getting space in New Zealand. And if you want to go over there in our wintertime or over New Year’s, it’s a year in advance because it’s their summer and it’s high season. Parents like it because it’s safe destination, and they don’t have to worry about food or water. And it’s a trendy conscious, self-sustaining country. They grow a lot of their own fruits and vegetables. It’s a beautiful country.”
5. Celebration Travel
Celebratory travel is another hot item. “Any time someone plans a trip to celebrate an event or milestone, such as a 25th wedding anniversary, 80th birthday or retirement — we consider that celebratory travel,” says Turley. She says she is also seeing an increase in luxe “babymoon” trips. Usually the destination is close by and “somewhere in the United States, so the parents-to-be are not too far away from a hospital,” adds Turley, who recently sent an expectant couple to a beautiful resort in Sedona called Enchantment Resort. “They could hike, bike, do yoga, get a massage and take cooking classes.”
In addition to these trends, affluent travelers are also seeking out rapidly changing destinations, with some even being endangered. For example, Cuba topped the list, with concerns over retaining its rich cultural heritage in the face of increased tourism. Advisors also named the polar regions of Antarctica and the Arctic due to the threat of global warming. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which is losing its coral due to pollution, and Venice, with its deteriorating lagoon, also made the list. The United Nations has declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, making this topic particularly timely and relevant.
Top Emerging Destinations
4. South Africa
Top Endangered/Changing Destinations
3. Great Barrier Reef
5. The Arctic
Top Global Destinations
2. South Africa
Top U.S. Destinations
1. New York, NY
2. Maui, HI
3. Napa Valley/Sonoma, CA
4. Las Vegas, NV
5. Miami/South Beach, FL
Top Family Travel Destinations
4. Orlando, FL
Top Honeymoon Destinations
2. Maui, HI
3. French Polynesia
Top Cruise Itineraries
3. European river
5. Greek Isles