BY: AMY CASSELL
Every year, thousands of Virtuoso travel advisors and travel industry experts descend upon Las Vegas for the biggest luxury travel conference of the year, known as the “fashion week of travel.” This week’s theme is “Your World Awaits” and we asked advisors and agency executives for insight on this year’s most popular destinations, their predictions for where travelers will be heading next, and a glimpse into their own upcoming adventures. Because what’s a better way to champion travel than by getting out and doing it yourself?
Before we ask for your picks, what exactly makes a destination hot or trending?
“It’s a place travelers’ friends are starting to talk about, or they have some friends they admire who have just come back and spoken very highly of a destination. Think about Iceland, for example: It was on nobody’s radar ten years ago, and now it’s everywhere.” – Claudia Rossi Hudson, Sydney, Australia
“Either the destination is virtually unexplored and has finally developed the balance of infrastructure and mystique, or it’s an old favorite that has re-created itself and offers new exciting ways to experience it.” – Ange Wallace, Amelia Island, Florida
“We often see interests and trends stem from new TV shows or movies filmed in unique places. With an emotional tie to the story, many want that personal connection to the destination. In addition, new airline service to a destination helps increase the spotlight and make it ‘hot.’ ” – Michelle Holmes, Omaha, Nebraska
What are some of this year’s top destinations?
“Cruising to Cuba has a lot of interest. People are anxious to travel to a country that has been banned for many years.” – Ruth Turpin, Fort Worth, Texas
“Japan is a destination most of our clients haven’t traveled to yet, and it has really come on strong in the last two years. The culture, food, natural beauty, and history all contribute to its popularity.” – Cristina Buaas, Houston, Texas
“More and more of our Australian clients are cruising. They’re seeking luxury, practicality, and multi-destination journeys through Asia or Europe that enable them to see new ports and cities they wouldn’t normally visit.” – Anthony Goldman, Melbourne, Australia
“South America has developed the infrastructure to offer travelers comfort and style, and new sites to explore are opening every year. The culinary and wine scene has developed rapidly – Peru is especially coming into its own.” – Ange Wallace
“Madrid, Paris, and New York City. These three cities offer many attractions: cultural, gastronomic, unusual luxury accommodations, top services, best shopping, and good sporting experiences.” – Fernando Rosete, Mexico City
“Iceland is huge. People are looking for more adventure travel, and it’s a great place for families. It hits all of the targets.” – Jenny Westermann, Fort Worth, Texas
“Our clients are taking a genuine interest in Colombia now that it’s considered safe, and we’ve had some really positive feedback – locals are super friendly and the food is very good. We’re big on food in Belgium, and when we send people somewhere, that’s something we always have to bear in mind.” – Mickey Creyf, Antwerp, Belgium
Any up-and-coming destinations on your radar?
“Sri Lanka. It’s safe, and there are some good hotels and on-sites there now. For people who have been to Southeast Asia, India, or Bhutan, this is where they want to go, because very few people have been here. I think we’re going to see Sri Lanka evolve over the next few years.” – Tony Huffman, Chicago, Illinois
“A truly remote region that I think the world is going to wake up to is The Kimberley region here in Australia. The land is untouched by modern man, and you still have evidence of Aboriginal occupation dating 60,000 years. And now you can see it in style on beautiful ships from Ponant and Silversea.” – Claudia Rossi Hudson
“Egypt will be very much on the radar next year. It was the single largest growth market for Abercrombie & Kent in London.” – Valerie Wilson, New York City
“I love destinations where it still feels like you can have true local experiences that aren’t trendy. For me right now, that’s Mongolia, South Korea, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Philippines.” – Tania Swasbrook, San Diego, California
“The Arctic immediately comes to mind. I believe that this popularity is due to a heightened awareness of the effects of global warming. Clients seem to not only want to learn about this region, but really want to experience it on a deeper level. Travelers come back transformed, realizing how much of an impact the health of the Arctic has on the world overall, and wanting to do what they can to preserve it.” – Amanda Klimak, Waterbury, Connecticut
A classic getaway you’ll always return to?
“Italy – you can’t beat the delicious food and stunning vistas.” – Kemi Wells, Vancouver, British Columbia
“Hands down, London. The city continually reinvents itself, from the theater to the skyline to the hotels.” – Mary Kleen, New York City
“We sail off the coasts of Turkey and Croatia in a gulet every September with friends. Just give me a boat and I’m a happy person.” – Mickey Creyf
“Africa, Africa, Africa! And as much as I have had many destinations around the world excite me, none have touched my heart and have made me feel as alive as when I’m in Africa.” – Amanda Klimak
Where are you headed next?
“I’m going on my first Backroads multi-adventure trip in September to Provence and the Luberon Villages.” – Cristina Buaas
“The extended Goldman family is visiting Israel next April for the first time together. I’m looking forward to the look on my children’s faces as we approach the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.” – Anthony Goldman
“I’m planning to take my entire family on safari next year in East Africa. I firmly believe that a safari in East and Southern Africa is a life-changing experience. I did my first one back in 1989, when there was very little luxury anywhere, so it’s wonderful to see the changes that Virtuoso has made around the world.” – Valerie Wilson
“I and a handful of other Virtuosos will be climbing Kilimanjaro in October. I’m looking to conquer that mountain, both figuratively and literally.” – Joshua Bush, Villanova, Pennsylvania