Virtuoso, the prestigious global network specializing in luxury and experiential travel, has outlined when, where and why the wealthy will venture into 2022.
To find the most compelling trends, Virtuoso collected insights from travel advisors, partners, and its HNV/UHNL clients, conducted ongoing surveys, and leveraged its data warehouse of more than $49.5 billion in transactions. This year’s top discoveries include belated celebrations as a driving catalyst for travel, and people are increasingly looking to international destinations – and while the pandemic continues to affect mobility, optimism and the desire to travel remain strong.
What was a deterrent to travel just weeks ago is now a motivating factor. People who have contracted and recovered from the virus see the “antibody window” as the perfect time to escape. Virtuoso consultants have reported that clients have contacted them to plan their next vacation while they are still in quarantine. This is in line with a survey conducted by Virtuoso in January 2022, in which 85 percent of travelers said they were in a “ready to travel” mindset. Travel intent is strong, with 86 percent of travelers surveyed saying they plan to travel internationally this year, and Virtuoso expects bookings to continue the upward trend towards the end of the first quarter and into the second quarter as the omicron wave recedes.
As Misty Beals, Vice President of Global Public Relations at Virtuoso, told me in a phone interview, “We continue to see the interest in travel and the intent to travel incredibly strong… and there is undoubtedly a lot of pent-up demand… … and the appetite for international travel is huge. Right now, the only fear of the virus is the fear of getting stuck – if travelers have already taken Omicron, they see right Now As the perfect time to travel. It relieves a lot of anxiety about getting stuck somewhere.”
Where is the next? Hint: Backpackers go big and spend big
Virtuoso experts say 2022 will be the year of once-in-a-lifetime trips. Utilizing their expert advisors on exclusive excursions, Virtuoso found that 76 percent have seen a recent increase in ultra-luxury travel, with African safaris, Caribbean islands, city-world destinations, and cruises as their top favorite experiences.
The slight increase in high-end travel is the result of pent-up demand and expansion of financial means. Being able to spend more is an added bonus because travel inflation means costs are going up. Virtuoso Bookings shows future hotel prices are up 54 percent internationally and up to 80 percent within the US, while airfares for this spring are up 19 percent compared to 2019.
Where are some of these travel trips? Ms. Bellis adds, ‘Africa is in high demand – people have been putting off going on safari for the past few years. There are four A destinations: Africa, Alaska, Antarctica – it’s the final frontier – and Australia, for the same reason. Visitors over the past two years and it is opening again. These destinations are the must-see destinations.”
Travel Advisors vs. Do It Yourself: No Contest
It’s hard to have peace of mind in the midst of a global pandemic, but travel consultants continue to prove their value to both their clients and the travel industry in general. Even during “normal” times, travel planning isn’t always easy. As international travel rules continue to change, it has never been more important to turn to a planning and reservation consultant and, most importantly, make sure you have a backup plan in case of travel disruptions. Consultants continue to show their value, driving demand for professional planning, as Virtuoso reports that requests from people looking for a consultant grew 50 percent last year compared to 2020.
“There are a lot of unknowns that don’t make you completely comfortable planning your travel – it’s a much more complex travel environment than it was a couple of years ago. No question. When you use a consultant, you use someone who does it day in and day out – they have relationships on the ground to get by. Real-time information.
Celebration Travel: Snatch the Gang
Making up for a lost year (or two) of lost milestones has become a priority for those seeking to reconnect with loved ones. Seventy-eight percent of Virtuoso consultants saw a slight uptick in travel to celebrate, with anniversaries and notable birthdays being the primary drivers. Multi-generational travel continues to drive family gatherings with Mexico and the Caribbean islands leading the way as favorite destinations. When asked, 95 percent of advisors also believe that travel to celebrate will continue to be a major trend through 2022.
“Traveling to celebrate is a great motivator for people,” Ms. Bellis adds. “Over the past couple of years, anniversaries and birthdays have been so important. Multigenerational travel has come back really strong – families were separated during the pandemic – but the ability to travel is now progressing again. Grandparents really cherish this time with their grandchildren, having those shared experiences and making Memories, is what people strive for.”
The pandemic is leading people to be more aware of their impact on the world, and this has led to what Virtuoso calls a “conscious return.” In a recent Virtuoso survey, 82 percent of travelers said the pandemic has made them want to travel more responsibly in the future, and 78 percent said it’s important to choose travel companies that have a strong sustainability policy, leading them to look for companies that are committed to what Virtuoso calls the three pillars. For sustainability: protecting the planet, supporting local economies, and celebrating cultures. And 70 percent agreed that traveling sustainably enhances their vacation experience.
This is another consequence of the pandemic – and in silver lining – 82% of travelers surveyed said the pandemic makes them want to travel more responsibly in the future. People are becoming more aware and tourism cycles do not follow the same seasonality they did two years ago. “People are looking to travel companies that have a policy of sustainability. People are looking to support their local economies, those local cultures.”
2022 opening hotel to watch
Virtuoso hotel bookings for 2021 are up 87% from 2020, and the momentum continues with January 2022 bookings up 119% over the same period last year. The city’s hotels took the lead, with bookings in January 2022 up 240 percent compared to January 2021. Tracking the top hotels that opened around the world, Virtuoso named these must-see hotels:
· Madrid Edition – Opening 2022Located near Puerta de Sol in the heart of the Spanish capital and within walking distance of The Golden Triangle of Art – one of Madrid’s most famous art museums – the hotel will offer 200 rooms and suites.
· Fifth Settlement Hotel – Opening Spring 2022: Housed in one of New York City’s architectural masterpieces from 1907, this Martin Brudinski-designed hotel masterfully blends old and new. The two hotels consist of two contrasting and complementary buildings at the same time: the “palace” with 24 guest rooms and the tower with 129 rooms.
· Waldorf Astoria Cancun – Opening July 1, 2022Spread over 100 acres of secluded, palm-fringed coastline, the resort will offer a blend of traditional Mexican heritage and modern elegance. The 178 guest rooms and suites will feature private pools, while the spa will offer treatments that harness the healing power of local ingredients.
· Atlantis Royal Dubai – Opening 2022: The city’s newest icon will be home to 795 rooms and suites – including some with their own pool – plus a selection of Michelin-worthy dining and a 300-foot sky infinity pool.
Virtuoso is a leading global travel agency network specializing in luxury and experiential travel. This invite-only organization includes over 1,200 travel agency websites with 20,000 travel consultants in 50 countries across North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.
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