Global luxury travel network Virtuoso annually surveys its industry-leading travel agency members and their advisor sales force across 50 countries to predict what lies ahead in the coming year. The Luxe Report, which has earned Virtuoso its reputation as a respected trend forecaster, reveals consumer inclinations in high-end and experiential travel.
According to Virtuoso’s Australia-based travel advisors, “carpe diem” travel is fuelling the desire to savour as many new destinations and exciting experiences as possible in more authentic ways. While travellers still want to journey in comfort, the new definition of luxury is personalised adventures shared with family and friends. Both trends led to Virtuoso’s introduction earlier this year of Wanderlist, a revolutionary approach to planning trips to ensure travellers maximise 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.
Untouristed and Unexpected: With some favourite 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.
Country Coupling: Travellers 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. Travellers may pair a ski adventure with a beach finale, or a city stay with a jungle adventure or a well-travelled place followed by a little-known spot to mingle with locals. The focus is on varied experiences that enrich the trip with each stop.
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 travellers themselves, and allow foodies to go beyond just having a seat at the table. Dining has become such a focus that some travellers are requesting restaurant reservations at the same time they book their flights – sometimes even before.
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 travelling 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 travelling together, including buddymoons, where newlyweds bring pals along for the fun.
EQ Encounters: Today’s traveller is seeking more profound experiences leading to increased emotional intelligence. Pushing beyond their comfort zone combined with genuine interaction among locals provides travellers 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 neighbourhood hotels and private homes.
Enjoying the Journey: Embracing the philosophy that the journey is half the fun, upscale voyagers are using exclusive services including meet-and-greets plane-side 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 travellers are escorted through TSA screenings, driven to and from aircraft in BMWs and provided a room to relax in between flights.
In keeping with the “live for today” motivation, celebrating a milestone is the top factor inspiring Australian travellers in 2020 – a first for the Luxe Report. Their love of voyages on the high seas is demonstrated in the favourite trends: adventure cruising and ocean cruising place first and second, respectively.
Japan continues its reign as Australians’ top emerging destination, while jumping from fourth to the top slot as global favourite and appearing on this year’s lists for Millennial, family and solo travel destinations. Antarctica tops the adventure destinations list and places as an emerging destination – with more cruises available now to carry travellers to the pristine continent. Croatia also finished strongly this year, taking the top spot in the Millennial destination category again, while appearing on the top global, emerging and adventure lists.
Key findings from the Australian version of the 2020 Virtuoso Luxe Report: