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The Latest Trends in Active & Specialty Travel

active_travel_1What travel niche is growing at a rate of 65 percent a year?  If you guessed active travel, you’re right.  A study by the Adventure Travel Trade Association and The George Washington University also found that last year consumers spent upwards of $345 billion on active itineraries.


Virtuoso travel advisors and suppliers excel at customizing specialty travel experiences to the exact tastes of their travelers. “For art lovers, we can arrange visits to private galleries and artists’ showrooms along with one-on-one meetings with some of Africa’s foremost art authorities and artists,” explains Anna Pinto, executive director of Micato Safaris in New York, New York.


“A guest with epicurean interests might spend time in Kerala, India fishing for fresh Pearlspot from a private riverboat, then learn from a private chef how to cook the fish with traditional Kerala spices,” Pinto elaborates.  “A traveler who enjoys running marathons might spend time at the elite marathon training camps of Kenya with some of the world’s best competitive runners.”


Another luxury trend in the active travel segment is seeking out territory far off the beaten path. “One couple started with a Micato safari, then added gorilla trekking in Rwanda,” recounts Virtuoso travel advisor Honey Mistry.  “They are now planning a trip to Antarctica for 2015.”


Mistry says that small safari-style land-based trips into the Arctic are particularly hot, as well as small-ship river cruises to destinations such as Southeast Asia.


ecotourism_5Virtuoso’s large network of travel advisors and suppliers ensures that travelers will enjoy an adventure tailored for them by experts.


“If you haven’t been to the destination, you can be confident you have a partner who knows it in depth,” says Michelle Bemis, a Virtuoso travel consultant in McLean, Virginia. If you get a request, you have a partner who can help you.”


Looking to go on an active or specialty trip?  Visit to find an advisor who will be happy to help plan your dream adventure.


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The Inside Track on the World’s Hottest New Hotels

Rosewood Beijing, China (opening March 2014)

Rosewood Beijing, China (open March 2014)

Do you enjoy staying at buzzworthy new hotels?  How would you like to have access to a list of the world’s most-talked-about new properties – and enjoy special amenities while staying at them such as complimentary breakfasts and hotel credits?

Virtuoso Preview allows clients of Virtuoso travel advisors to stay in these emerging luxury hotels before the rest of the world discovers them.  You’ll be in the forefront of the hottest trends in global hospitality when you stay at one of the memorable Preview properties.

Virtuoso’s current Preview properties include these stellar up-and-coming hotels:

Metropolitan by COMO, Miami Beach, Florida (opening January 2014)

Metropolitan by COMO, Miami Beach, Florida (open January 2014)

- Sofitel Montevideo Casino Carrasco & Spa, Montevideo, Uruguay (opened June 2013)
- Rosewood London, United Kingdom (opening October 2013)
- L’Apogee Courchevel, Courchevel, France (opening December 2013)
- Metropolitan by COMO, Miami Beach, Florida (opening January 2014)
- Rosewood Beijing, China (opening March 2014)
- Portrait Firenze, Florence, Italy (opening May 2014)
- Park Hyatt New York, New York (opening mid-2014)

Want to be ahead of the curve with your next vacation?  Contact your Virtuoso travel advisor today and ask about these new Preview hotels.  Or find an advisor by visiting


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Cruising Perfect for Multigenerational Family Vacations

multigenerations_shutterstock_13855123Talk about a family trip to remember.

Marcella Rappoport, a Virtuoso travel advisor in New York, recently planned a Caribbean cruise for a family celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary. “They chartered a ship and invited the people who married them, and the people who were at their wedding,” she recalls. “There were 420 people on board. They brought a rock band and a couple of singers they liked, and a chef from their hometown of Chicago. The mother wore her wedding dress and they had vow renewals.”

The 2013 Virtuoso Luxe Report found that family and multi-generational travel are big travel trends, with river and luxury cruises taking the next two spots. The report also found that spending time and reconnecting with loved ones were among the top reasons motivating travel. Not surprisingly, Virtuoso travel advisors have seen a lot of crossover in these trends, with more people booking multigenerational cruises over the past three years.

Kimberly Wilson Wetty, a Virtuoso travel advisor in New York, notes that cruise lines have been quick to cater to this growing audience. “New builds that have come out in the last five years have more family suites and connecting rooms than ever before,” she says. “If we look at the luxury market, they have all created more children’s programs, which allows for multigenerational travel.”

Cruising lends itself well to families with a range of ages and interests. “It’s the convenience of being able to travel together, of only having to unpack once, and experiencing a variety of destinations together as a family,” says Vanessa Bloy, director of public relations for Paul Gauguin Cruises.

“Imagine the challenge and cost of going to multiple destinations by train or plane with the whole family,” adds Camille Olivere, vice president of sales for Norwegian Cruise Line. “Guests can go off for the day, onboard or ashore, and do what they like. Then they can get together for dinner and talk about their day. They don’t have to be together every minute.”

people_on_cruise_shutterstock_62075938Luxury cruises also give families the authentic experiences they seek from trips, the second most cited reason Virtuoso Travelers are vacationing, according to the Luxe Report.

“My family did a cruise in Alaska where we landed on a glacier and did dog-sledding, but the musher was part of the Iditarod,” explains Wetty. “He walked us through on a map how far they have to go, and really made the story come to life for us.”

The lesson stuck. “We did that trip four years ago,” Wetty recounted. “My daughter is now in third grade. They were studying the Iditarod, and she remembered. She brought in our photo album and talked about it.”

Contact your Virtuoso travel advisor for more information on booking the cruise of a lifetime, including special values available only to clients of Virtuoso agencies.  To find a Virtuoso advisor, visit

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What are Your Virtuoso Travel Moments?


Virtuoso is now accepting entries for the 2013 Virtuoso Traveler Photography Contest. (As seen in the May issue of Virtuoso Life® magazine)

As some of the most well-traveled people on the planet, our clients, we invite and encourage you to submit your original travel photographs that best reflect the contest theme – Your Virtuoso Travel Moments. So, round up your photographs from your worldwide travels, and submit them today. Four lucky Virtuoso travelers will earn cash prizes and may even have their photo featured in Virtuoso Life magazine or other Virtuoso materials.

The deadline to enter is Sunday, June 16, 2013. ENTER HERE

Judges will be looking for images that show you, your family, and/or your friends enjoying moments captured during vacations planned by your professional travel advisor. You’ll have a chance to title each image, to indicate where and when it was taken, and to tell us a little about what made it a special Virtuoso moment for you.

Virtuoso will award cash prizes to four lucky Virtuoso Travelers – one Grand Prize (US$1,000), one first prize (US$500), one second prize (US$300), and one third prize (US$200). In addition, you might just have one of your vacation photos published in an award-winning travel magazine. Submit your entry, and you’re one step closer to fame, fortune, and cash.

The contest entry form is available exclusively online. To enter (and for complete image requirements, contest details, and official rules), visit the Virtuoso Traveler Photography Contest website today. Good luck!

Email us at


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Virtuoso Opposes the Immediate Ratification of IATA Resolution 787 by DOT

Today is the deadline to join Virtuoso and over 200 travel industry professionals worldwide who have already signed a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary LaHood stating opposition to IATA Resolution 787. To add your signature, go to It will be filed on the docket tomorrow, the DOT’s deadline for industry comment. If passed, this resolution would negatively impact airline competition, and increase airline prices for consumers.  For more information, visit

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Tips for Worldwide Travel in 2013 Virtuoso Best of the Best

bob-400x400Want to get insider advice on the best hotels and destinations in the world?  Look no further than Virtuoso’s annual directory of the best properties around the globe.

In the 2013 Virtuoso Best of the Best directory, you’ll meet an impressive array of hotels and resorts.

View the digital edition of 2013 Virtuoso Best of the Best

Virtuoso Best of the Best, winner of the 2012 Maggie award for Best Consumer Guide, is the perfect tool to help you plan extraordinary experiences in dream destinations. These properties have been thoroughly evaluated to ensure your stay will be exceptional. And Virtuoso travel advisors have provided tips throughout the guide to help you plan your travel experiences.

When you book through a Virtuoso travel advisor, you’ll enjoy exclusive amenities including breakfast for two daily and value-added extras like guaranteed room upgrades, resort credits and complimentary meals.

Highlights include:

Annual Best of the Best Award Winners
The hotels receiving special accolades from Virtuoso travel advisors for 2012

Virtuoso Preview
New hotels offering exclusive access to Virtuoso travelers

Virtuoso Villas & Private Retreats
Unique accommodations in remarkable destinations

ellen-wyler-100Virtuoso Travel Advisor Tip: Renting a villa is a special experience for sophisticated travelers. You can immerse yourself in a destination, bond with companions and live like a local while still enjoying luxurious accommodations.

Ellen Wyler
Cincinnati, Ohio


Africa & Middle East
Dine on a rooftop overlooking Jerusalem or enjoy butler service in a luxury tent in Kenya

fairvalley-100Virtuoso Travel Advisor Tip: If you are visiting the wine country of Franschhoek, a “must do” is a visit to Haute Cabrière Estate. Learn to open a bottle of exquisite champagne the old-fashioned way . . . by sabre! A delightful afternoon of sampling great wines and snacking on wonderful hors d’oeuvres awaits.

Debbie Fairvalley
Atlanta, Georgia

Asia & Pacific
View Hong Kong from a rose petal bath or make an overwater bungalow your home in Tahiti

jim-strong-100Virtuoso Travel Advisor Tip: Particularly in Asian countries, it is always best for travelers to wear slip-on shoes while touring, as it is very much the custom to remove shoes when entering shrines and buildings.

Jim Strong
Dallas, Texas


Canada & United States
Settle into a cliff-top Big Sur abode or view wildlife right outside your door in Alberta

trish-100Virtuoso Travel Advisor Tip: For your trip to Santa Fe, your Virtuoso travel advisor can arrange a chocolate walking tour of Old Town. What could be more fun?

Trish Mercer
Columbus, Georgia


Caribbean & Bermuda
Drift into reverie on Anguilla’s white sands or swim with dolphins in Bermuda

patricia-100Virtuoso Travel Advisor Tip: Bermuda offers awe-inspiring pink sand beaches, world-famous golf courses and fabulous resorts with amenities to pamper you each day. A ferry or scooter is a great way to get around on this small, beautiful island.

Patricia Lehman
Fort Wayne, Indiana


Dine upon acclaimed cuisine in Monte Carlo or luxuriate in a beachside villa on Crete

ansley-82Virtuoso Travel Advisor Tip: April is a great time to visit Italy. It is the heart of spring, but you can still get ‘shoulder season’ rates at most hotels. In general, rates increase at the beginning of May.

Ansley Thomas
Atlanta, Georgia


Mexico, Central & South America
Learn Spanish in Cozumel, sip premium coffee in Costa Rica or find eco-luxury in Peru

loretta-88Virtuoso Travel Advisor Tip: You’ll find riding horseback in Peru to be very interesting and truly delightful, even if you’ve ridden countless times in other countries. The horses just seem to have a different mentality, which is especially noticeable when they canter. It’s something that must be experienced!

Loretta Carson
New York, New York


Index of Attributes & Amenities
Useful information including number of rooms and sought-after amenities

Presenting the Newest Best of the Best
Introducing the latest hotels and resorts to join the Virtuoso network

Find out more about using a Virtuoso Travel Advisor for your next trip.

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Virtuoso’s Luxe Report Reveals Top Emerging Destinations And Other Key Trends For 2013

luxe_report_2013_5Virtuoso recently revealed the top destinations for 2013 as determined by the network’s annual Virtuoso Luxe Report. Based on input received from a survey of the world’s best travel advisors, the report provides insight on where, when and how travelers will go next – whether on land or afloat – be it couples, families and adventure-seekers, alike.

With the debut of Myanmar, Bhutan and Chile to the “most popular emerging destinations” list, findings indicate that Virtuoso’s clients are eager to venture into new territory, no matter how far-flung or remote. In these instances, the opportunity to explore lesser developed destinations to gain a richer experience outweighs the desire for more traditional “luxury.”  Meanwhile, Cuba and Vietnam maintained their respective places among the top five emerging locations in the world, garnering attention from travelers in the know.

As baby boomers continue to drive travel sales, and the desire to spend time with loved ones prominently factoring into decisions, it is no surprise that the top and recurring trend for the upcoming year is multigenerational family travel. Ocean cruising is predicted to have renewed strength in 2013, with the Baltic Region making a new appearance on the list aside perennial favorites like Alaska, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.  River cruising continues its strong growth trajectory, especially on the European waterways, and the addition of new routes throughout Asia will only bolster its popularity in the coming year.

Italy continues its reign as the top destination for international travel in 2013, followed by South Africa, France and Australia. This year Latin America emerges with Argentina making a first-time appearance on the list.

shutterstock_115729408The biggest change from 2012 to 2013 is within the U.S. travel market. Napa Valley/Sonoma claim the top spot as the most sought after U.S. destination, bumping both Maui and New York from their touted positions. While Las Vegas remains on the list, the city now shares an unlikely fourth place juxtaposed with the state of Alaska.

For families traveling in 2013, Italy will remain the chart-topper, with adventurous Costa Rica moving up in popularity to join England.  New to the list this year is Mexico, breaking through to capture fourth place in the ranks of family travel.  France, the Galapagos Islands and Turks & Caicos all tie for fifth place.

The most popular destinations for romantic travel continue to be Italy, French Polynesia, France, and Bali. This year Fiji joins the list of exotic locations, reconfirming that romance knows no boundaries.

As in past reports, the motivation behind high-end travel continues to be: seeking authentic experiences in new destinations; rest and relaxation; personal enrichment; seeking adventure; and spending time or reconnecting with loved ones – again, supporting the emerging destinations as well as emphasizing multigenerational travel as one of the biggest trends for 2013.

“This year’s Luxe Report has unveiled fascinating first-timers to the list. Myanmar, Bhutan and Chile are destinations growing in appeal to the savvy traveler and our 2013 report reflects this passion for exploring something new,” says Virtuoso Chairman and CEO, Matthew D. Upchurch , CTC. “The multi-faceted Virtuoso traveler wants to reconnect with loved ones, explore new destinations, and seek out opportunities for personal growth. These are all areas where collaborating with a Virtuoso travel advisor is essential, as their goal is to help travelers realize these dreams.”

The 2013 Luxe Report also predicts there will be a rise in longer trips (eight days and longer) to international destinations and suggests that when necessary, travelers are willing to book lower room categories in order to stay in nicer hotels. Travel advisors still continue to be the lead influencer in determining their clients’ travel decisions, followed closely by input from friends and family, which shows that crowd-sourcing will continue to factor into the travel planning process.  Meanwhile, Business Class is still the preferred way to fly, with Economy Plus gaining popularity as more airlines introduce and expand this on-board product.

Find out more about the top destinations featured in the Luxe Report here.

For more information, go to

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Luxury Rail Travel: A Stylish and Novel Experience

Eleanor Hardy’s clients had been saving for years to take their trip of a lifetime: a European tour on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express. “When they arrived at the station in Venice and saw that beautiful, deep blue train with the cream-colored roof, they burst into tears,” says Hardy, owner of The Society of International Railway Travelers in Louisville, Kentucky, a Virtuoso member. “It was their dream come true.”

Luxury trains top the bucket lists of many travelers who feel they’ve done everything else.  “People into train travel tend to be older,” notes Julie Lemish, president of Virtuoso member Rex Travel in Chicago, Illinois. “Mostly couples, a few singles, not many families. The quarters on trains are pretty small.”

Because the classic trains are expensive to maintain and the service level is top-notch, a luxury rail trip can cause sticker shock for the uninitiated. For train buffs with deep pockets, the service and ambience are worth every penny. “It’s like a rolling, elegant cocktail party,” Lemish says.

Anna Skubiak, director of strategic partnerships for Virtuoso supplier Orient-Express, agrees: “Elegant bar cars where guests mingle with fellow travelers are so very indicative of the golden age of travel.”

In addition to the iconic Orient Express, luxury rail lines roll across multiple continents. “The Pride of Africa has a lovely, open-air deck,” says Hardy, “and I love the Royal Scotsman because it is so intimate.”

In western Canada, Virtuoso supplier Rocky Mountaineer offers a first-class tour. “Along our rail routes, our guests marvel at the ferocious rivers, still blue-green glacial lakes, waterfalls in the distance and the stunning Canadian Rockies,” says Karen Wiseman, Rocky Mountaineer’s director of sales, U.S.

For travelers who want more modern adventures, some rail lines are adding amenities. “Some trains have hair salons, libraries, video facilities, and wi-fi,” says Owen Hardy, CEO of The Society of International Railway Travelers. “One, in India, even has a spa car where you can get a massage or workout.” From the South African Blue Train’s safaris to the hiking and biking excursions from the Trans-Siberian Express, luxury rail can accommodate adventurous as well as lower-key passengers.

Virtuoso membership makes it easy for advisors to incorporate luxury rail into customized itineraries. Because trains are typically just one piece of a client’s trip, the transfers, hotel nights, and on-the-ground tours are important, too. “Virtuoso provides access,” says Linda Barber, partner at Virtuoso member in Nelson, B.C., Canada. “When I talk to Virtuoso On-Sites around the world, I can trust my network to provide a high class of service to my clients.”

For the been-there, done-that traveler, luxury rail offers a special experience. The Orient Express’ Paris-Istanbul journey stands out in Owen Hardy’s mind. “Everything about this trip is over the top. Since this trip is done just once a year, the train’s arrival in Budapest, Bucharest, Istanbul and other stops is a celebratory occasion for the local populace. Waving from your compartment, you feel like an international celebrity.”

For more information about booking your own rail travel vacation, call your Virtuoso travel advisor. Don’t have a travel advisor? Click here to learn more.

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Unique Culinary Programs Distinguish Virtuoso Properties

From world-class restaurants to local specialties, memorable meals can be a destination in and of themselves for travelers. Virtuoso suppliers have responded to the growth in culinary travel by transforming mealtime into an unforgettable experience. These three properties have created innovative programs to make delicious cuisine a true adventure.

Executive Chef Fabrice Guisset at Las Ventanas al Paraiso, a Rosewood Resort, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico found that many guests enjoyed cooking and sharing favorite recipes.  He also noted the popularity of cooking competition shows such as “Top Chef.” Thus the “Challenge the Chef” game was born.

This light-hearted competition gives guests the opportunity to cook any dish they wish under the tutelage of a chef. Guests begin the game with a pre-meal consultation. Then on the evening of the event, the guest prepares the dish in an open kitchen on the property. “It is the perfect time for guests to prepare their famous dishes with help of equipment and ingredients that are generally not available in a home kitchen,” explains Guisset.

After tasting the results, Guisset gives pointers on ingredients, preparation and presentation so that guests can improve their culinary prowess. The most common mistake?  Guisset says it’s an unbalanced dish, such as one that’s too sweet or salty.

Guest chefs receive a “Challenge the Chef” diploma and a shot at culinary stardom: winning dishes are added to the resort menu for a week with the guest’s name. Mouthwatering past winners include a double pork chop roasted with fettuccine cake and port-glazed onion, and fish with prosciutto and mango chutney. The service is $130 for set-up and $85 per person.

At the Virtuoso-exclusive property Four Seasons Resort Nevis, guests can go a step beyond preparation and catch their own meal. The “Dive and Dine” experience gives certified divers the opportunity to search for their own lobsters in the warm Caribbean waters.

Guests are taken by boat to hotspots for hunting the elusive lobsters, where the Nevisian crew helps divers capture their dinner using traditional methods. British author Dominic Midgley recently tried the experience and noted, “Lobsters may not look like the cheetahs of the sea but when someone tries to lasso them with twine on a stick they can move with lightning speed, when…it’s safely in the dive master’s net bag there’s a real sense of achievement.”

The day’s catch is prepared for a private beach dinner, where guests can take turns slathering on sauces and picking up tips at the grill.  Meals feature in-season ingredients, such as fresh mango glaze.  Created as an over-the-top luxury experience, the service costs $1,950 for the first two people and $500 for each additional one.

For guests looking for an easier route to delicious cuisine, the Hotel Arts Barcelona in Spain, another Virtuoso-exclusive property, offers a new Michelin dining program. “Many disciples of [famed Spanish chef] Ferran Adria have started their own restaurants, and increasing the popularity of the region amongst foodies,” explains hotel representative Lorriane Lacy.  In response to this growing enthusiasm, the hotel gives guests VIP access to the region’s top restaurants by making lunch reservations and providing quick, luxurious transportation via helicopter.

The journey begins with a five-minute transfer from the hotel to a heliport, then a scenic flight of 45 minutes to an hour. It includes a bird’s eye tour of Barcelona with glimpses of famous sites such as Sagrada Familia and Montjuïc. The rest of the journey could include sweeping views of coastal Catalan towns and beaches or rocky inland landscapes.

Part of the program’s appeal is the guaranteed reservations at some of the most sought-after tables in the region, where access usually takes months to arrange. Guests may choose among the two and three-star rated restaurants El Celler, Miramar and Les Cols, enjoying avant-garde tasting menus and artistic creations such as fresh tomatoes and caviar drizzled with olive oil and quail egg tempura. All for $4,923 per couple.

These hotel stays, and other unique hotel experiences, are best when planned by your Virtuoso Travel Advisor. Don’t have an advisor? Click here to find out more.

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Virtuoso Week Media Coverage Achieves New Heights

In synch with the strategy to rebrand Travel Mart as Virtuoso Travel Week, consumers got an extended glimpse behind Virtuoso’s Vegas velvet ropes as mainstream media—including CBS, USA Today and―outnumbered trade media for the first time.

As of August 29, Virtuoso’s PR outreach for Virtuoso Week has generated more than 209 million impressions, which can be translated as the cumulative number of times coverage of the event has been in front of viewers and readers. The Virtuoso Week coverage brings Virtuoso’s year-to-date total to nearly 2.3 billion impressions.

The plan to attract more mass media—and ultimately reach exponentially more consumers―dovetails with Virtuoso’s Collaborative Commerce™ strategy, which features consumer engagement as a key element of a three-pronged focus.  Network sales growth will be propelled by the introduction of new traveler-focused tools such as Virtuoso Travel Folio and the forthcoming relaunch of

Press coverage was also driven by the first Virtuoso Week news conference in which suppliers and other affiliated organizations leveraged the assembled media to announce product launches and other developments.  Participating in the inaugural presser were AmaWaterways; Ecuador Tourism Board; the governments of Mexico and Bhutan; Aqua Expeditions, which unveiled its expansion into Southeast Asia; and Abercrombie & Kent, which revealed the launch of a new brand.

A few highlights of the Virtuoso Week coverage:

CBS This Morning: Virtuoso Week and luxury travel luxury travel advisor is a dream job luxury travel trends from Virtuoso Week

USA TODAY: a tour of world’s 10 ‘Best of the Best’ luxury hotels

Luxury Travel Advisor: Virtuoso Week photo gallery

Luxury Travel Advisor: Virtuoso Week parallel with Fashion Week

Luxury Travel Advisor: engaging consumers with

Luxury Travel Advisor: trend towards small and exotic travel

Travel Pulse: video interview with Matthew Upchurch

Travel Pulse: the new Virtuoso Travel Week

Travel Weekly: Virtuoso takes social media to the next level

Travel Market Report: Virtuoso advisors say sales are strong

To learn more about Virtuoso, visit

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