I just returned from five very full days in Las Vegas for Virtuoso Travel Week. For those not familiar, Virtuoso is an invitation-only network of luxury travel advisors and vetted travel partners (hotels, cruise lines, airlines, and tour operators) that helps facilitate personal relationships among the top players of the travel world. While Virtuoso hosts networking events and conferences throughout the year, Virtuoso Travel Week is the big shebang with over 6,500 global professionals in attendance. During the week, I had approximately 220 meetings and attended 17 events! With such a large volume of information to digest in such a short timespan, it was easy to glean some key trends that I’m seeing for the next level of luxury travel. Here are my top takeaways:
- The Check-in Process is being Revamped. Luxury hotels are realizing that no one wants to start their vacation doing paperwork and talking about money. Guests want to relax and hotels want them to feel as if they’re coming home. So the boring part of the check-in process is increasingly being handled in advance of arrival with the necessary details and paperwork finalized in the weeks leading up to the trip. The new check-in process involves a glass of champagne, a casual chat in a lounge or even in your room, and a short tour of the hotel.
- Expedition Cruising isn’t just for Antarctica. When you think of cruising, you may picture hopping around the Caribbean isles in a floating city or leisurely drifting down a European river. But these days, it’s all about expedition cruising. Avid cruisers and non-cruisers alike are looking for ways to reach the most remote areas of the earth without sacrificing for luxury. It seems every major cruise line is now expanding their fleet with expedition liners and adding more adventurous itineraries to their calendars. And it’s not only about Antarctica – you can take expedition ships to cruise the Chilean fjords, to see polar bears in the Arctic and even to temple hop around Japan.
- Genealogy Tourism is on the Rise. For the past 5 or 6 years, we’ve all been spitting into a tube to learn more about our ancestry. If you’re like me, and can trace the majority of your DNA to the British Isles, you may want to participate in the boom of genealogy tourism in that region. Throughout Ireland, England and Scotland, genealogy is becoming an increasingly popular focus for travelers. Whether it be a full trip or just a half day excursion – hotels and tour operators offer a variety of packages to help you trace your family line and visit sites significant to your heritage.
- Spas and Wellness Amenities are Now the Norm. I laughed when one hotelier told me she’d been challenged by another advisor not to say the word “spa” in her 4 minute pitch. As a wellness specialist myself, I’m thrilled to see that spas and wellness features are now becoming a standard at hotels around the world. I don’t believe that wellness needs to be the sole focus for a trip, but rather it can easily be incorporated in a small way into any vacation. While many properties may just be capitalizing on this latest trend, they’re still filling an essential need. We go on vacation to relax and unwind from the stress of every day life, and what better way to do that than at a spa?
- The 3Ps: Private Plunge Pools. If you’re a new island or beach-focused hotel, you better be sure you have private plunge pools in all of your rooms. This amenity is now becoming a signature for many beach resorts. While guests may want to spend a few hours lounging at the beach or a larger resort pool, who doesn’t want to take a quick morning or evening dip from the comfort of their own room?
- Treehouses Aren’t Just for Kids. Remember how cool it was to have a treehouse in your backyard? These days, adults are reliving their childhood fantasies with treehouse accommodations at resorts around the world. Check out this list from Travel & Leisure for the top treehouses you can stay in.
- Hotels are Standing Out with Unique Amenities. Stay tuned next week for a full list of some of my favorite unique and personalized touches that I learned about at Virtuoso Travel Week. I’m so excited that hotels (and even cruise lines and tour operators) are starting to take it up a notch with surprising amenities and offerings. When it comes to luxury, there are plenty of hotels that can offer a stand-out room, 5-star service and gourmet food, but to me, its the little touches that truly make a stay memorable.