Virtuoso Travel Week 2017

Why You Should Care: Every year, thousands of Virtuoso travel advisors descend upon Las Vegas to shop for the upcoming year of travel.  What does that mean? We like to compare it to fashion week runway shows, where the likes of Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Dior present next season’s looks. Here, Virtuoso travel partners – including hotels, cruise lines, and tour operators – fly in from around the world to talk about what’s new in the world of travel. Over the next week, we’ll share our best finds and travel trends – plus, spotlight some attendees at the show.

Virtuoso Travel Week 2017 – the biggest ever with 5,670 attendees – kicked off in high fashion yesterday with supermodel Rachel Hunter appearing on stage at the opening session with CEO Matthew Upchurch; actress Sarah Jessica Parker surprised attendees as well, to say hello and celebrate the launch of her new shoe store at Bellagio, SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker (a select group of lucky Virtuoso advisors met her at a VIP shopping event).

Sarah Jessica Parker at the opening session.

The opening session focused on the necessity of human connection in a world of fluctuation and uncertainty. Hunter’s new TV show, Rachel Hunter’s Tour of Beauty, took her to 23 countries around the world, where she immersed herself in local culture, relationships, and food – and revealed what beauty really means. On her travel radar? The expanding number of wellness options around the world.\

Keynote speaker Erik Qualman, an expert in digital leadership, stressed that technology changes every second, but humanity never does. “Face-to-face can’t be replaced,” he said.

Or, as Upchurch added: “The more tech we have, the more human connection we crave.”

One of Virtuoso Travel Week’s three host hotels, Aria (Photo by Korena Bolding Sinnett).

On Saturday, Upchurch also hosted Virtuoso’s first-ever Sustainability Summit with wife Jessica, which brought 25 top industry leaders together, including Brett Tollman, CEO and President of The Travel Corporation, and Singita CEO Luke Bailes (read our interview with him). The group discussed trends, strategies, and how to maintain strong leadership in sustainability efforts.

What’s Hot in Luxury Travel 

Yamuna Fonseca, a healer at Nicaragua’s Mukul resort, met with travel advisors during Virtuoso’s “globetrotting” event.

We gathered some of our favorite finds from the weekend at Virtuoso’s new “globetrotting” event, which allowed advisors to shop for travel based on a specific niche, from adventure to cruising, family, wellness, and even shopping.

  • Mexico: Chablé, a 300-year-old hacienda turned luxury wellness resort, recently opened to rave reviews in Merida, Mexico. JoAnn Kurtz-Ahlers, a travel and wellness expert who handles marketing for the property, recommends it for its sense of balance – exercise, and healthy eating, but also one of the largest collections of tequila in the world.
  • South Africa: The Silo Hotel, built in a historic grain silo compound on the V&A Waterfront, is the latest high-end hotel to open in Cape Town. Its focus is on art and architecture, and many rooms have incredible views of Table Bay.
Liz Biden, Founder & CEO of The Royal Portfolio, designed the new Silo Hotel in Cape Town.
  • Golden Door: Virtuoso travel advisors got to sample the Southern California spa retreat’s delicious wildflower honey (also available online) – the bees that create have to fly about 55,000 miles per each pound they produce. The resort’s ethos is admirable: 100% of net profits go to their selected charities, including ones that fight child abuse and support children’s cancer therapies.
  • UnCruise Adventures: The company sees a growing awareness and interest in Panama right now, and not just as a canal crossing. Adventure-themed expedition cruises in Panama include explorations of the Darién Jungle.
  • Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises:The focus of Crystal’s 62-passenger Crystal Esprit is on a fusion of luxuries such as butler service and “Michelin-level” dining with water adventures (paddle board, kayak, snorkel, etc.) from the ship’s marina platform. Also noteworthy is the ship’s deep-sea submersible, where guests can arrange for special experiences in it, including getting married or renewing vows.
  • Crystal River Cruises: With river cruising’s meteoric rise, travelers may want to check out Crystal’s all-suite river boats in Europe. All food on board is local, fresh, and brought on at each port.
  • Amankora in Bhutan: “Kora” is a circular journey of discovery. Guests can visit all five Aman properties in Bhutan on tailor-made itineraries. Journeys may include treks to Buddhist temples, monastic villages, or lunch with monks.
  • Blackberry Farm in Tennessee: Travelers seeking an in-depth culinary and wellness experience should consider Blackberry Farm. New programs go beyond yoga, including “forest bathing” (think yoga and meditation in the woods) and obstacle courses.

Travel Advisor Spotlight: Elaine Smith, Cary, North Carolina

What travel trends are you seeing right now? 

“Culinary travel is huge – I have a family leaving for Barcelona soon and they’re doing a cooking class. Every family I’ve ever booked with a culinary experience has loved it. They’re fun and interactive. Wellness is bigger than ever – I loved learning about Carillon Miami Wellness Resort, Chablé in Mexico, and the Loma de Vida spa at San Antonio’s La Cantera Resort & Spa.”