Earlier this month, some 6,500 Virtuoso travel advisors and representatives from Virtuoso hotels, cruise lines, tour operators, tourism boards, and more met in Las Vegas for the 31st annual Virtuoso Travel Week – one of the world’s biggest and best luxury travel conferences. Unofficially known as the Fashion Week of Travel (more on that here), the networking extravaganza helps travel advisors learn about the latest and greatest luxury vacation ideas for their clients. It’s like sitting front row at next season’s best fashion shows, but instead of scouting designer dresses and avant-garde accessories, advisors collect hotel suites, culinary tours, and new cruise itineraries.
Virtuoso’s content team was in Las Vegas as well – several hundred appointments (and a few glasses of Champagne) later, we left with tons of great insight on where travelers are heading next and how luxury hotels and cruise lines are rethinking the way guests vacation. Here, a few of our favorite travel trends and vacation ideas from the week.
The next great hotel amenity? A resident dog.
A few of us would gladly take our dogs with us everywhere, but when that’s not possible, an adorable pup greeting us at check-in is a solid consolation prize. “A staff member’s three-year-old French bulldog, Wrench, has become the unofficial mascot at The Douglas in Vancouver, B.C., and we need to be friends ASAP,” says assistant editor Rebecca Ratterman. A Bernese mountain dog named Kitty calls The St. Regis Aspen Resort home, and at Maine’s Inn by the Sea, more than 150 dogs have found new best friends through the hotel’s adopt-a-dog rescue program.
Culinary travel is getting adventurous.
From using real ants to garnish craft cocktails (find them at The Langham, Sydney) to street-food tours in lesser-explored corners of Vietnam (offered through the new Anantara Quy Nhon Villas), travelers are craving hyperlocal experiences over standard white-tableclothed dinners. In Ecuador, travel providers Luxury Gold and ME to WE have partnered on a new experience that takes guests behind the scenes at a local chocolate operation; and at Portugal’s Vila Monte Farm House, guests can harvest their own oysters with local fisherfolk before dinner.
We found Tanzania’s best-kept secret.
Abercrombie & Kent Southern Africa gave us a ringing endorsement of Tanzania’s largest national park, Ruaha. Lesser known – and hence less touristed – than the Serengeti, the 5,000-square-mile expanse is home to what’s likely Eastern Africa’s largest elephant concentration, plus leopards, giraffes, zebras, hippos, and some 571 bird species. Your travel advisor can work with the on-site tour connection to create a custom safari that includes a stop in the park.
Croatia is still hot.
The Eastern European country has been on everyone and their Game of Thrones-obsessed cousin’s radars for years, but travel providers are still debuting new ways to explore this Balkans gem – especially by sea. Leonidas Travel can set travelers up with a private charter down the Croatian coast on its six-person vessel; and luxury cruise line Ponant is teaming up with tour operator Backroads on a new itinerary from Venice that combines cruising and biking along the Croatian coast.
Paris is always a good idea.
One highlight of Virtuoso Travel Week is the Best of the Best Awards, an Oscars-like ceremony honoring the world’s top luxury hotels and resorts. This year, Virtuoso advisors voted the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris the Hotel of the Year, proof that a property doesn’t have to be brand new to be at the top of its game. (See all of the other winners here.)
Elsewhere in the City of Light, LVMH group is restoring the behemoth art deco/art nouveau landmark La Samaritaine department store. When complete, the 753,000-square-foot space will house a new Cheval Blanc hotel (opening next spring), a department store, office space, 93 public housing units, and a nursery school. Behind the hotel’s design: architects Édouard François – known for his sustainably sexy vertical gardena – and fashion-world go-to Peter Marino (of various Chanel and Louis Vuitton flagships).
Butlers are really branching out these days.
“Guests of the recently opened Raffles Maldives Meradhoo can explore the area’s underwater realms on guided diving and snorkeling excursions with the resort’s resident Marine Butler – yes, that’s a thing,” says senior editor Joel Centano. In Texas, the Four Seasons Hotel Austin’s bath butler helps guests make custom bath bombs, and the tartan butler at Edinburgh’s Balmoral hotel will help guests trace their Scottish lineage and create custom kilts.
It’s the year of the pangolin.
Sustainability is more than just a buzzword, evident by the amount of travel companies making it a priority in their offerings. In South Africa, for example, wildlife lovers can help researchers monitor endangered pangolins (the scaly anteaters are the world’s most trafficked mammal) at the Tswalu Kalahar Reserve, thanks to a partnership with the African Pangolin Working Group. AFPW also partners with andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, where visitors can help protect and tag pangolins that have been released from illegal trade.
Goat yoga? That’s so 2017.
It’s all about flamingo yoga in the Bahamas, where you’ll work all the right muscles without sacrificing your olfactory senses. We’re heading to the Rosewood Baha Mar to challenge ourselves to a tree pose face-off with the pros themselves.
Overtourism can’t be ignored.
File this one under traveling for good: Panelists at a roundtable discussion on overtourism during Virtuoso Week shared a few essential strategies for mitigating its effects, including allowing for the self-determination of locals, creating codes of conduct for visitors (read: no more sitting on Rome’s Spanish Steps), and promoting travel during off-peak times and beyond a destination’s most-visited sites.
Pop-ups are all the rage.
Restaurants, boutiques, and bars are moving into temporary homes in hotels. Havana’s famed La Bodeguita del Medio (Hemingway drank there!) will come to the Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona in November. Also notable: NYC’s Baccarat Hotel will host pop-up fashion shows and designer boutiques as a nod to Fashion Week this fall.
Top Photo: Croatia (Leszek Czerwonka/Getty Images)