Last month, I attended Virtuoso Travel Week, a gathering of high-end travel advisors, travel agencies, and travel suppliers from all over the world. The event attracts 4,842 people in the industry to the Bellagio in Las Vegas. There were more than 90 countries represented. What I heard over and over again was that luxury experiential travel is the now and the future of travel. Here are nine trends that are changing the face of the industry.
1. Biking is the new golf. I’ll say no more. Okay, I will say more: Cycling appeals across generations, and more and more, travelers are looking for the vantage point that two wheels provide. Companies like Gray & Co and Backroads specialize in custom-made trips that offer plenty of indulgence along with the exercise.
2. Travel with family is huge right now. Especially rising in popularity: Three generations or more are booking river cruises in Europe together; south- or east-African safaris; and multi-country Latin American trips.
3. The future is not in sedentary travel. Across generations, luxury adventure travel is booming. For Gen X that means experiential, active, and immersive travel. Family drives Gen X, which means kids are going to places their grandparents couldn’t have dreamed of. The kids are getting out of their day-to-day and enjoying atypical and interactive experiences.
4. Generation X now loves health and wellness travel—especially coming out of the 2008 recession and as they age. As one travel advisor put it, it’s all about “kale, quinoa, and cardio.” These travelers want to get away, quickly disconnect, get in shape, and bond with family.
5. Millennial travelers are willing to pay for the red rope. They want to go places where they have bragging rights, because they share so much across social media. They want the truly local feeling, whether they’re in their own city or 3,000 miles from home. Additionally, they’re looking to be a part of the big events (such as Coachella, Art Basel, and Burning Man), but they want an experience a little bit beyond everyone else’s, in a better, bigger way.
6. Travelers are eschewing the stuffy and the formal, especially when it comes to fine dining and lodging. It’s no longer about Michelin-star restaurants and white tablecloths. It’s about the authentic, local trattoria on the corner where there’s a great scene.
7. Travelers are looking to hotels to serve as their cool local guides. A community vibe matters, and travelers—especially younger ones—want to feel like their hotel is providing them with the best recommendations, personalized for them by interests.
8. Local guides who can provide context into a place are the winning ticket. This crosses generations.
9. It’s all about the food. I’ll say it again: It’s all about the food.