Courtesy of Casa Angelina
Casa Angelina is located between Amalfi and Positano
Plus, should there be a Code of Conduct for travelers?
This year’s Virtuoso Travel Week–the 31st annual event–was the biggest yet, with more than 6,500 luxury travel advisors and preferred partners (hotels, cruises, tour operators, tourism boards, airlines, and on-sites) meeting in Las Vegas.
Virtuoso continues to grow. There are now 20,000 travel advisors in 50 countries in the network, compared to 11,400 in 2016. These advisors generate $26.4 billion in travel sales, compared to $15.5 billion in 2016. And it is estimated that the “speed-dating” appointments that occur during Travel Week lead to $420 million in travel sales.
(These high numbers are matched by the high number of shoes that many attendees pack for the week. Pro tip: Flats are your best friend in the long Bellagio halls.)
Virtuoso’s Best of the Best Hotel awards–voted on by its network of advisors–honored the Four Seasons George V in Paris as hotel of the year and Amanda Hyndman at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London as hotelier of the year. At the Destination Showcase Dinner, Switzerland Tourism took home Tourism Board of the Year for the fourth time in six years.
AFAR’s destination news editor Lyndsey Matthews attended the conference. Her big-picture takeaway? How the travel industry is seeking to address overtourism. “The conversations I had came from a standpoint not of ‘too many people’ but more about ‘badly behaved people,’” Matthews says. “Many tourism boards and hotels kept saying that they wanted a Code of Conduct for travelers.”
Many Virtuoso attendees had ideas to address these issues. Roberto Payer, the GM of the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, predicted that, in time, governments will implement new rules and laws to alleviate crowding, and that we must educate visitors today about the culture and history they are seeing. The city of Venice recently voted to fine tourists up to 500 euros for bad behavior. Advisors can help by steering their clients to visit during off-peak times. Andrea Grisdale of IC Bellagio says travelers might have St. Mark’s Square to themselves during early winter mornings.
Responding to the outrage caused by the now-infamous photo of a long line of people trying to ascend Mount Everest, Catherine Heald of Remote Lands suggested that the cost of a permit to climb Mount Everest should be raised from its current $11,000 and that climbers must be required to hire more than one sherpa.
Even the meetings themselves are becoming more sustainable. Partners often bring brochures or small gifts to the speed-dating meetings. But Brandi Brister of Valerie Wilson Travel noticed a thoughtful difference from Alrov and The Set hotels. “In lieu of a tchotchke or cumbersome printed materials, they donated $3 for every minute of meetings they conducted,” she says. “This resulted in a $10,000 donation to WaterAid. I hope more suppliers do this next year!”
Matthews also noticed how advisors kept talking about how much influence older children have over their parents when it comes to planning travel. In wealthy families, travel is seen as a supplement to children’s education, and the kids are speaking up, often in the name of sustainability. One advisor told Matthews about teens asking their parents to cancel a $250,000 trip to Rwanda because “the gorillas should be left alone.”
It’s a week where advisors learned that the Orinoco River could be the next big thing in Colombia, and that Durban is up and coming in South Africa. They learned that London continues to be a magnet for luxe properties—Raffles, Waldorf Astoria, and Nobu are all opening properties in the capital in the next few years—and that Six Senses New York, opening near the High Line in Chelsea, will be a banner opening for IHG in 2020.
We talked to some of our favorite advisors about the tips, trends, openings, and destinations that stood out to them.
Jim Wiedeman, Valerie Wilson Travel, Palo Alto, California
Krista Betts, Balboa Travel, Austin, Texas
Susan Zurbin-Hothersall, New York
Kayla Douglas, SmartFlyer, New York City
Brandi Brister, Valerie Wilson Travel, New York City
The full list of Virtuoso’s Best of the Best Hotel awards:
Hotel of the Year: Four Seasons George V, Paris
Hotelier of the Year: Amanda Hyndman, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London
Best Achievement in Design: Rosewood Hong Kong
Best Dining Experience: La Réserve Paris Hotel & Spa, Restaurant Le Gabriel, Paris
Best Bar: Le Sirenuse Champagne Bar at Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club, Miami
Best Wellness Program: Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa, Tucson
Best Virtuoso Newcomer: Montage Los Cabos, Mexico
Sustainable Tourism Leadership: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, Australia
Best Family Program: Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico
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