9 Booming Destinations for Holiday Travel

Looking for a great spot for your holiday travel this winter, or even next spring break? Virtuoso Chairman and CEO Matthew Upchurch shared some advice with CNBC viewers: book now.

Why Book Holiday Travel Now?

“Global tourism is on a rampage,” Upchurch said in a Sept. 12 appearance on the cable network’s Squawk Box program. He recommended booking holiday travel six to eight months in advance – even a year out if possible. Those who delay, says Upchurch, risk disappointment in not getting the hotels or flights they want: “It’s just availability at the best places at the right times.”

Hot holiday travel destinations: Orlando

Bookings for Orlando, Florida are up an impressive 87% from last year

Holiday Travel Destinations: United States

Upchurch also discussed the hottest destinations for upcoming holiday travel in the CNBC appearance. The destinations were determined from year-over-year comparisons of Virtuoso travel agency sales figures.

The top US domestic travel destinations are:
• Orlando, Florida – up 87%
• Colorado – up 72%
• South Florida – up 13%

Hawaii is also trending strongly for holiday travel.

Holiday Travel Destinations: World

Where are Virtuoso’s American clients venturing outside their home country for holiday travel?
• 42% Mexico
• 14% Europe
• 12% Canada
• 12% Caribbean
• 12% other
• 8% Asia

Hot holiday travel destinations: Mexico

Mexico is the top international destination for U.S. travelers, with more five-star hotels than the entire Caribbean

“They’re focusing on the big trips, the things they really want to do, their dream trips,” commented Upchurch.

The hottest international destinations to consider for your holiday travel are:
• Mexico – up 15%. An interesting fact for luxury travelers: the country has more five-star hotels than the entire Caribbean. “The best value right now is Mexico,” declared Upchurch. “The rebound in Mexico tourism has been unbelievable.” He estimated that a five-day vacation at a five-star property for two people would be about $4,000. The average Virtuoso trip is about $8,000 per person.
• New Zealand – up 400%. “New Zealand used to be the add-on to Australia and now it’s huge,” Upchurch observed, noting that the destination is still benefiting from the “Lord of the Rings” effect (the trilogy of movies was shot in New Zealand as a stand-in for Middle Earth). “New Zealand has it all. It’s a great family destination, it’s great for adventure travel, food and wine, the lodges that are there are incredible. It’s the whole package.”

Hot holiday travel destinations: New Zealand

Travel to New Zealand is up an enormous 400%, partly due to the “Lord of the Rings” effect

• United Arab Emirates – up 336%. Said Upchurch, “UAE is big. I think part of the reason UAE is is not only the inventory on the ground but the air service there. It’s becoming really one of the go-to places.” To match the consumer demand, the number of new hotels under construction has grown significantly.

Two other international destinations exhibiting impressive growth in bookings are Australia (up 90%) and South Africa (“very hot and has been for quite some time,” according to Upchurch).

Start planning your holiday travel today with the help of a Virtuoso travel advisor. If you don’t have a specific destination yet, an advisor can help you settle on one that’s right for you. If you do have a place in mind, find a specialist in that destination by searching at www.virtuoso.com.


20 Top Luxury Travel Destinations

travel destinations: new zealand

New Zealand’s growth as a luxury travel destination has doubled from 2013

Every year, Virtuoso holds the ultimate luxury travel shopping and networking event: Virtuoso Travel Week. This year, more than 4,100 travel advisors and suppliers such as hotels, cruise lines and airlines are spending a week in Las Vegas meeting with each other on behalf of their shared clients. Each year, an estimated $450 million in sales to travel destinations far and wide results from Virtuoso Week.

Leisure travel is experiencing a massive increase, with more than one billion tourists now crossing international borders – a new record. Luxury travelers are increasingly gravitating to a few select worldwide travel destinations.

Where Are The Hottest Luxury Travel Destinations?

Drawing upon its data warehouse of more than $32 billion in client transactions, Virtuoso has released its latest lists of where luxury travelers are venturing. Travel to countries outside the U.S. is up 21 percent compared to the same time last year. And trips to Virtuoso’s 10 most popular travel destinations are averaging an 18 percent uptick. Western Europe and North America dominate the list:

Virtuoso Top 10 Most Popular Travel Destinations

travel destinations: italy

Italy is the most popular destination among Virtuoso clients

  1. Italy (up 6%)
  2. United Kingdom (30%)
  3. France (23%)
  4. Canada (9%)
  5. Spain (20%)
  6. Germany (31%)
  7. Mexico (17%)
  8. South Africa (down 5%)
  9. Netherlands (18%)
  10. Greece (57%)

Virtuoso’s Hot List of Biggest Year-Over-Year Growth

A surge in demand for Down Under has propelled New Zealand to the top of the Hot List of growing travel destinations, with Australia also occupying a spot. Fueled by the popularity of the Lord of the Rings films, New Zealand has become a standalone destination in its own right rather than being tacked onto an Australia trip for a few days. It’s often a first trip abroad for a family, and is appealing to everyone from foodies to adventure-seekers.

Central Europe is experiencing a surge, including Hungary (86%), Croatia (68%), Austria (48%), Poland (48%), and Czech Republic (23%). Russia, however, has seen a sharp decline, down 69%. Overall, travel to European countries is up by 23%. 

  1. New Zealand (196%)
  2. Chile (103%)
  3. Indonesia (103%)
  4. Hungary (86%)
  5. Hong Kong (72%)
  6. Croatia (68%)
  7. Australia (58%)
  8. Ecuador (57%)
  9. Greece (57%)
  10. Norway (54%)

Journey to Global Citizenship

travel destinations: global citizens

Luxury travelers are giving their children international experiences to create global citizens

The latest luxury travel developments also emerge at Virtuoso Week, and here are three of the newest trends. While family and multigenerational travel have been significant trends for some time, Virtuoso has spotted the latest evolution in that niche. Travelers want to vacation with their loved ones to build closer connections both within their families – and with the world around them. Using travel to supplement traditional education for children is a new philosophy Virtuoso has termed the “Journey to Global Citizenship.” Parents and even grandparents are looking at travel as a way to give the next generation a leg up in the world. They’re even matching travel experiences to the topics their children or grandchildren are studying in school.

“One of the smartest things you can do, if you have the means, is take your kids to China or India or Brazil,” advised Virtuoso Chairman & CEO Matthew Upchurch. “These countries will influence much of the business being done now and in the future, and kids who have insight into these cultures, who learn to adapt in unfamiliar surroundings early on, and who gain an understanding of the world around them, will have a certain advantage when it’s time to enter the workforce.”

Collecting Countries and Experiences

travel destinations: collecting new countries

Seasoned luxury travelers are seeking out new travel destinations like Bhutan – and new travel experiences

No longer satisfied with visiting the same travel destinations with the same experiences, today’s luxury vacations crave what’s new. For the tried and true places, people are looking to experience them in a new way, visiting lesser-known sites, absorbing more of the local culture and looking for anything not in a guidebook. Travelers today want to take home a feel for the destination rather than a list of what they saw.

Travelers are also on a hunt to collect countries. “There is a race towards trying to get to some of the more pristine places because of the rise in mass tourism and globalization,” observed Upchurch. “The opening up of some of the new non-traditional destinations offer even more incentive for travelers to explore.”

Planning Your Own Trip

If any of these trends or hot destinations resonate with you, why not contact a Virtuoso travel advisor to make your vacation dreams come true? At virtuoso.com, you can browse a catalog of hundreds of expert advisors and find a great match. You can even find one who specializes in your travel destination of interest.


Virtuoso Best of the Best Helps You Experience the Exceptional

BoB_2014_Final_Cover_75The 2014 edition of the definitive guide to the world’s finest luxury hotels and destinations is out.  Virtuoso Best of the Best shows what you’ll experience at more than 980 Virtuoso hotels and resorts.


Each property listing provides an overview and an insider tip – either from a Virtuoso travel advisor who has experienced the property or from someone at the property itself. These tips offer valuable insight to enhance your stay, including recommendations you may not find anywhere else.


Each Best of the Best listing also reveals what you’ll get as a complimentary amenity for booking with a Virtuoso travel advisor, such as a resort credit or a meal. All Virtuoso hotels and resorts offer these value-added amenities, as well as preferred rates and availability, room upgrades when available and breakfast for two daily.


New this year: discover Exceptional Experiences to enhance your stay. Best of the Best features 32 pages of excursions that your Virtuoso travel advisor can arrange and customize. Here’s a sneak peek at a few:


Worlds ApartWorlds Apart

  • In Paris, the owner of one of the world’s most exquisite collections of artists’ jewelry opens her apartment to show you exceptional pieces by Picasso and other acclaimed talents.
  • In New Zealand, head to the source of the country’s finest wines and produce, starting with a private tour and tasting in Marlborough Wine Country.

Brazilian Bounty



Brazilian Bounty

  • Join one of the city’s famous samba schools, singing and dancing in costume to the rhythms of the world’s biggest Carnival celebration.
  • Explore the area around Caraíva, a traditional fishing village, aboard a fisherman’s boat, then sample deep-fried pastries before trying stand-up paddle boarding.


Greek Odysseys




Greek Odysseys

  • Join Greek families as they pick the vines and celebrate the annual harvest with traditional music, food and last year’s vintages – you can even stomp grapes with your bare feet.
  • Hop aboard a helicopter and visit the monasteries of Meteora, with a stop at the archeological site of Delphi to explore the Temple of Apollo.


If you’re ready for an Exceptional Experience or a stay at any of Virtuoso’s hotels and resorts listed in Best of the Best, a Virtuoso travel advisor can customize your next trip.  Visit www.virtuoso.com and search using the Meet Your Advisor function.




New Virtuoso Destination Guide Features Island Adventures

Discover Treasured Islands and Adventures Down Under.

What arouses your travel passion and ignites your imagination? Perhaps it’s the romantic allure of a sun-soaked day spent on a private beach. The enjoyment of savoring unique island cuisines. Or discovering the peculiar wildlife, unrivaled wine routes and ancient cultures waiting Down Under.

The November, Island Adventures Destination Guide, features an amazing and unsurpassed collection of cruise itineraries, vacation packages and exclusive values. To enjoy the digital version in its entirety, click here.

Whether you explore Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii or the South Pacific by land or sea, your Virtuoso travel advisor can create the best travel experience that features an array of exclusive amenities you simply can’t find anywhere else. When a Virtuoso travel advisor plans your vacation, they deliver:

• Value – We have access to pricing, amenities, perks, upgrades and experiences not available anywhere else.
• Customized experiences – Designed with you and for you.
• Confidence – You’ll rest easy knowing we’re handling all the details before, during and after your trip.

A travel advisor provides invaluable assistance that will make your Island Adventure truly extraordinary. For a weekend getaway or the trip of a lifetime, call on us. Don’t have a travel advisor? Click here to find one.

How Does a Vacation Become the Trip of a Lifetime?

Who can forget a honeymoon spent at a five-star French Polynesian resort, a morning with the kids spotting tigers at an African game reserve, or winding your way through Europe on an amazing culinary journey?

This month’s Virtuoso travel catalog is loaded with dream journeys to faraway places, breathtaking hotels and luxurious cruises to exotic destinations that will help you plan the trip of your dreams! And, as expected, the exclusive Virtuoso perks make all the difference.

View the digital version of the Trips of a Lifetime Travel Catalog

Highlights include:

Dreams Come True Island Escapes

      - Whether you’re dreaming of cascading waterfalls in New Zealand, a hedonistic spa treatment in the Bahamas or the paradise called Polynesia you’ll find your land escape just a few pages away.

Once-in-a-Lifetime Adventures – Journey across India on the Maharajas’ Express. Take an inaugural rail route through Australia. Or perhaps you’d rather ride a camel, venture elephant-back or blast across the Sahara in a 4×4.

Ultimate Trips Selected by the Virtuoso Staff – In the 2010 Travel Dreams survey, you got to list your dream destinations and travel experiences. Now the Virtuoso staff list their picks for the ultimate in amazing journeys and extraordinary travel.

Never-to-be-Forgotten Wining, Dining and Romance – Savor a new vintage, discovered at the vineyard. Tour the great British pubs. Dine under desert stars. Get away to hotels with private butler service and award-winning cuisines prepared by world-renowned chefs.

Planning a trip of a lifetime is effortless when you use a Virtuoso travel advisor. Click here to find out more.

Travel Aspirations Go Global

Virtuoso Life Magazine reveals the results of the annual Travel Dreams Survey

In 2010, travel aspirations have gone global, according to the results from the fourth annual Travel Dreams Sweepstakes Survey, presented by Virtuoso. Nearly 11,000 readers of VIRTUOSO LIFE, the network’s award-winning magazine, weighed in on the survey to reveal the exotic lands, life-changing experiences and thrilling adventures that upscale travelers are currently seeking.

When asked what they consider the trip of a lifetime, readers were clear that setting sail for a world cruise would be a paramount experience. Calling on all seven continents and visiting the new wonders of the world followed close behind as trips of a lifetime, indicating the desire of travelers to visit the globe. The Galápagos Islands also had a strong presence in this year’s results: This island destination was named the most alluring island escape; the second best outdoor adventure; and the third best destination for families.

“This year’s survey results reflect a shift in consumers’ motivation to travel,” said Elaine Srnka, editorial director for VIRTUOSO LIFE. “Travelers want to see the world. They are no longer content with staying in one place. Whether it’s visiting the far corners of the earth on a world cruise, hiking through remote Machu Picchu or tasting local cuisines through cooking schools, travelers want unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”

The top 10 dream destinations also reflected readers’ longing to visit far-off lands, with Australia, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and Greece nabbing the first five spots. Paris held onto its reign as the most romantic city to spend time with a loved one, as well as the best gourmet city. Rome remains the city with the most beautiful architecture, and Tuscany continues to be the wine region travelers want to toast the most. Again this year, readers felt going on a safari to Africa would merit the best outdoor adventure.

The Travel Dreams results largely supported Virtuoso’s 2010 Luxe Report, insight gleaned from the network’s elite travel advisors, which revealed that travelers in 2010 are booking longer vacations to more distant destinations. Of the travel professionals that participated in the Luxe Report survey, 71 percent reported that clients are seeking international travel for 10 days or more.

This year, readers had extra enticement to share their opinions: an opportunity to win their own dream trip!  Three lucky winners got to choose one of these trips: a ten-day exploration of the Galápagos Islands aboard Lindblad Expedi­tions’ National Geographic Endeavour; a 12-day cruise aboard the Seabourn Pride from Bangkok to Shanghai; or a trip to South Af­rica on Virgin Atlantic Airways to spend five nights at the One&Only Cape Town.

VIRTUOSO LIFE’s Travel Dreams survey was designed to gather consumer travel trends and offer inspiration for future journeys. The 12-question survey explored readers’ opinions about everything from their dream destinations and the best cities for dining to the best destinations for romance and families.  Top-line results can be found below, and the results are featured in the July/August issue of VIRTUOSO LIFE.

The survey results were tallied from responses from almost 11,000 VIRTUOSO LIFE readers who participated in the Travel Dreams Sweepstakes. Virtuoso promoted the sweepstakes via email and within the magazine.

To view a digital edition of the VIRTUOSO LIFE July/August “Readers’ Choice Travel Dreams” issue, click here.


Behind the Scenes with Virtuoso Life in New Zealand

By Marika McElroy Cain, Senior Editor, Virtuoso Life

The biggest story that didn’t make my feature on New Zealand’s North Island for the March/April issue of Virtuoso Life was our accompanying cover shoot in the Bay of Islands. The shoot fell at the tail end of a truly unparalleled trip organized by Seasonz Travel. Associate art director Korena Bolding and I had fly-fished, helicoptered, sailed, and, yes, dined our way through the best of North Island, and our final undertaking before heading back across the Pacific for home was to oversee the cover shoot.

No matter how many cover shoots I work on, it never fails to amaze me how much work it takes to get one perfect, inspiring, effortless-seeming, crowd-pleasing shot. Months of planning preceded the shoot: countless calls and emails with our photographer and his assistant, wardrobe discussions, logistical wrangling, location and talent scouting, and more.

Our Auckland-based crew arrived the evening before the shoot, and over champagne and Thai takeout at Eagles Nest, we plotted out our moves. Everyone had done their homework: our model was professional and lovely, our makeup artist had stellar credentials, our stylist had pulled exactly the right looks, and our photographer was New Zealand’s best. Cue the one element no one can control: the weather.

Sure enough, shoot day arrived, and our 5:45 a.m. call time coincided with lashing wind and steady drizzle. Not to worry, Kieran Scott, photographer and professional cool cucumber, assured the crew as they played poker for almonds and waited for the storm to blow over. The weather in the Bay of Islands can change in a blink.

And change it did. By late afternoon, the clouds had cleared and we were basking in sunshine. We enjoyed the same fine weather during day two of our shoot and the result was a cover that perfectly captures the beauty of the Bay of Islands.