Where are upscale Americans spending their travel dollars?
Should you do what they do?
Wealthy or not, it’s good to know where the well-do-to are vacationing and where the up-and-coming “it” destinations will be for the next few seasons.
A shortcut to that intel comes from the advisors who consult with upscale Americans about their vacation goals and bucket lists and then book those journeys.
So where are well-to-do Americans jetting off to? Here’s a story I put together recently for CNBC.
Global luxury travel network Virtuoso polled advisors, crunched numbers from $49.5 billion in bookings and transactions for September through December 2019 and shared a couple of Top 10 lists as well as insights on some emerging travel trends.
The Top 10 destinations
“Americans increasingly choose to travel domestically for the holidays,” notes Virtuoso, which puts the United States, with its vast array of destinations and attractions, in the lead spot in the Top 10 list.
As it has in the past, Europe’s appeal as a summer destination is extending into the fall this year, with destinations such as Italy, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain in spots 2, 3, 4, 8 and 10, respectively, on the Top 10 list.
South Africa and Israel, in the middle of the list, at #5 and #6, remain popular destinations for families seeking “trips of a lifetime” during the holiday season, according to Virtuoso. And Japan, the top emerging “it” country in Virtuoso’s 2019 Luxe Report, takes its place on the Top 10 list of fall and holiday season destinations at #9.
Luxury leisure travel bookings being made by advisors in the Ovation Travel Group for 2019 and 2020 seem to be following those trends, said Gina Gabbard, Ovation’s Senior Vice President of Leisure & Independent Advisors.
“Italy is overwhelmingly the hands-down favorite among international destinations, with increased interest now in Southern Italy,” said Gabbard, “Our advisors note its amazing food and wine, culture and diversity of things to do, including history and art, along with available luxury accommodations. Direct flights from the U.S. are a plus.”
Despite concerns about Brexit, bookings to the United Kingdom
are holding their own, said Gabbard, “The added benefit to our clients is that
the value of the U.S. dollar is so strong against the pound.”
Virtuoso’s Hot 10 list
Virtuoso also shared its “Hot 10” list, which is made up of countries experiencing the largest increases by percentage in year-over-year bookings. In some cases, the increases come from a country and its offerings being “discovered” or better promoted; in other cases, political fears may be subsiding.
For September through December 2019, the list is topped by Uruguay (up 286 percent), which Virtuoso attributes to the country’s award-winning wineries, pleasant climate and adventure opportunities.
Bookings are also way up for travel to the beach retreats of the Maldives (up 171 percent) as well as Malta (up 140 percent), Romania (135 percent) and Egypt (up 122 percent). Puerto Rico, Rwanda, Qatar, South Korea and the fjords of Norway (up 96 percent) round out the “Hot 10” list.
Where are upscale Americans staying?
“We’re seeing a rise in exclusive-use travel as people look for the ultimate in privacy and seclusion while getting away from it all,” said Misty Belles, Virtuoso’s managing director for Global Public Relations, “Home rentals, from villas to condos, jumped 56 percent this year, with millennials and multigenerational trips both contributing to the growing popularity in residences.”
Belles says private yacht travel is also gathering momentum as people look to escape crowds and explore smaller, lesser-known ports of call.
When it comes to hotel stays, Becky Powell, President of Virtuoso-member Protravel International, says hyper-personalized stays are in.
“Increasingly, hotels are using technology to connect and build relationships with guests and instantly fix issues,” says Powell. Hotels are also focusing on sustainability and emphasizing connections to the destination or city they are in with local partnerships and unique experiences, she said.
Upscale travelers and overtourism
Lots of stories about overtourism have been in then news, “But now we are seeing it translate into client conversations and influence decisions,” said Jack Ezon, founder of Virtuoso member Embark, “Our clients want to feel like travelers, not tourists. And no matter how wealthy they are, they don’t want to see a Prada or Gucci on every corner,” he said.
Instead, Ezon says upscale travelers are increasingly seeking out charming and “new” secondary destinations, staying in neighborhoods beyond the popular city centers and traveling during the off or shoulder-seasons not to save money, but to have more of the city to themselves.
Have a destination you’d like to tell us about? Please share your tips in the comment section below.