Virtuoso, the prestigious global network specializing in luxury and experiential travel, has identified when, where and why the affluent will be venturing in 2022.
To find the most compelling trends, Virtuoso gathered insights from its travel advisors, partners and high net worth/ultra-high net worth clientele, conducted ongoing surveys, and tapped into its data warehouse of more than $49.5 billion in transactions. Top revelations for this year include delayed celebrations as a driving motivator for travel, people increasingly eyeing international destinations — and while the pandemic continues to impact mobility, the optimism and appetite for travel remain strong.
What was a deterrent for travel only weeks ago is now a motivating factor. People who have contracted and recovered from the virus are viewing their “antibody window” as the ideal time to get away. Virtuoso advisors are reporting that clients have contacted them to plan their next vacation while they are still in quarantine. This aligns with a January 2022 poll by Virtuoso, where 85 percent of travelers said they are in a ‘ready to travel’ mindset. The intent to travel is strong, with 86 percent of travelers polled saying they plan to travel internationally this year, and Virtuoso anticipates bookings will continue to trend upwards at the end of the first quarter and into the second quarter as the omicron wave subsides.
As Misty Belles, Vice President of Global Public Relations for Virtuoso, told me, in a phone interview, “We are still seeing that interest in travel and intent to travel is incredibly strong…and there is without question a lot of pent-up demand….and the appetite for international travel is huge right now. The only fear about the virus is the fear of getting stuck – if travelers have already had Omicron, they view now as the optimum time to travel. It alleviates a lot of the concern about being stuck in a destination.”
Where to Next? Hint: Globetrotters are Going Big and Spending Big
Virtuoso experts say 2022 will be the year of once-in-a-lifetime trips. Tapping into their advisors specializing in exclusive excursions, Virtuoso found that 76 percent have seen a recent increase in ultraluxe travel with African safaris, Caribbean islands, international city destinations, and ocean cruises as the top preferred experiences.
The uptick in high-end travel is the result of pent-up demand and expanded financial means. The ability to spend more is a plus since travel inflation means costs are on the rise. Virtuoso bookings show future hotel rates are up 54 percent internationally and as much as 80 percent within the U.S., while airfares for this spring are up 19 percent over 2019.
Where are some of these Wanderlust trips? (Actually, Virtuoso calls it the “Wanderlist” and it’s trademarked.) Adds Ms. Belles, “Africa is in high, high demand – people were putting off going on safari for the past few years. There are four “A” destinations: Africa, Alaska, Antarctica – it’s the ultimate final frontier – and Australia, for the same reason. It’s been closed to visitors for the past two years and is opening back up. These destinations are the ones to watch.”
Travel Advisors vs. Do-It-Yourself: No Contest
Peace of mind is hard to come by in the midst of a global pandemic, but travel advisors continue to prove their value to both their clients and the overall travel industry. Even during ‘normal’ times, planning travel isn’t always straightforward. With international travel rules in flux, it has never been more important to turn to an advisor to plan, book and, most importantly, ensure there is a backup plan in the event of travel disruptions. Advisors continue to show their worth, driving demand for professional planning as Virtuoso reports that requests from people seeking an advisor grew 50 percent last year compared to 2020.
“There are too many unknowns to be fully comfortable in planning your own travel –it is a much more complicated travel environment than it was two years ago. Without question. When you use an advisor, you use a person who does this day in and day out –they have the relationships on the ground to get real-time information.”
Celebration Travel: Grab the Gang
Making up for the lost year (or two) of missed milestones has become a priority for those seeking to reconnect with loved ones. Seventy-eight percent of Virtuoso advisors have seen an uptick in celebration travel, with anniversaries and notable birthdays being the primary motivators. Multi-generational travel continues to drive family gatherings with Mexico and Caribbean islands holding the top spots for preferred destinations. When asked, 95 percent of advisors also believed celebration travel will continue to be a top trend through 2022.
“Celebration travel is a huge motivator for people,” adds Ms. Belles. “For the past two years milestone anniversaries and birthdays have been on the back-burner. Multigenerational travel has come back really strong – families were separated during the pandemic – but the ability to travel is now coming forward again. Grandparents really cherish that time with their grandkids, and having those shared experiences and making memories, is what people are after.”
The Conscious Comeback
The pandemic is leading people to be more cognizant of their impact on the world, and this has led to what Virtuoso calls “the conscious comeback.” In a recent Virtuoso survey, 82 percent of travelers said the pandemic has made them want to travel more responsibly in the future and 78 percent said it’s important to choose travel companies that have a strong sustainability policy, moving them to seek out companies committed to what Virtuoso calls the three pillars of sustainability: Protecting the planet, supporting local economies and celebrating cultures. And 70 percent agreed that traveling sustainably enhances their vacation experience.
That is another result of the pandemic – a silver lining – 82% of the travelers we polled said the pandemic makes them want to travel more responsibly in the future. People are much more aware and tourism cycles aren’t following the same seasonality that they followed two years ago. “People are looking to travel companies that have a sustainability policy. People look to support their local economies, and those local cultures.”
2022 Hotel Openings to Watch
Virtuoso’s 2021 hotel bookings were up 87 percent over 2020, and the momentum continued with January 2022 bookings up 119 percent compared to the same time last year. City hotels led the way, with January 2022 bookings soaring 240 percent over January 2021. Tracking the hottest hotels opening around the globe, Virtuoso has named these as the ones to watch:
· The Madrid EDITION – Opening 2022: Set near Puerta de Sol in the heart of the Spanish capital and within walking distance to The Golden Triangle of Art – one of the most highly regarded art museums in Madrid – the hotel will offer 200 guest rooms and suites.
· The Fifth Avenue Hotel – Opening Spring 2022: Housed in one of New York City’s architectural masterpieces from 1907, the Martin Brudinski-designed hotel masterfully mixes the old and the new. Two contrasting yet complementary structures comprise the hotels: “The Mansion” which houses 24 guestrooms and The Tower with 129.
· Waldorf Astoria Cancun – Opening July 1, 2022: Spanning 100-acres of secluded palm-fringed coastline, the resort will offer a blend of traditional Mexican heritage and modern elegance. The 178 guestrooms and suites will feature private swim-up pools, while the spa will offer treatments that harness the healing power of local ingredients.
· Atlantis The Royal Dubai – Opening 2022: The city’s newest icon will be home to 795 rooms and suites – including some with their own private pool – plus a Michelin-worthy selection of dining venues and a 300-foot-high infinity edge sky pool.
Virtuoso is the leading global travel agency network specializing in luxury and experiential travel. This by-invitation-only organization comprises more than 1,200 travel agency locations with 20,000 travel advisors in 50 countries throughout North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.
Now, make sure your passport hasn’t expired!
For more about My Wanderlust Travels, please Follow me on Insta at @DebbiKickham.