At first glance, the results from Virtuoso’s new survey revealing this fall’s top-of-mind destinations don’t seem all that revolutionary. The international network of high-end travel advisors, drawing from transactional data, says the top ten must-go places for luxury travelers this fall and holiday season are Italy, the United Kingdom, France, South Africa, Spain, Mexico, Australia, The Netherlands, Germany, and China.
Most of the agents Skift interviewed agreed, however, that these findings are a bit broad. Drilling down, according to Victoria R. Boomgarden, president of Direct Travel Luxe, the reason countries like Italy and France are perennially on these lists is because they “offer an embarrassment of riches.” Her customers have “love affairs with certain countries and they go back again and again to go deeper” in search of more authentic experiences. So, for example, in Italy, luxury travelers have been heading to places like Puglia and Umbria, and more recently have been discovering Piemonte.
JoAnn Kurtz-Ahlers, president of Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates, a high-end consulting and marketing company, agrees. “Americans are going farther afield into new areas of these countries. In China, she mentions areas like Lijiang and Chengdu, while in Mexico, Merida and Puebla are gaining traction. The latter destination, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a recent addition to the luxury map due, in large part, to the spring opening of a new Rosewood property.
In fact, says Boomgarden, it is often the case that the arrival of a luxury hotel drives a surfeit of new business to a destination, whether a previously-unexplored place or a perennial favorite.
Those tried and true destinations in Europe can be particularly popular during autumn, when temperatures are moderate, crowds are smaller and prices are lower, Yes, even the rich are value-driven, according to Boomgarden. In fact, some luxury travelers prefer to wait to rent villas in Italy or France until the fall shoulder season arrives.
The Virtuoso survey analysis notes that “The Netherlands and Germany are particularly popular options for river cruisers wanting to visit the celebrated Christmas markets.” Meanwhile, “other travelers are focusing on warm-weather spots as the weather turns, such as South Africa, Mexico and Australia. In particular, South Africa continues to attract upscale explorers due to its wide array of adventure experiences.”