In the wake of a violent hurricane season, luxury travelers are starting to re-book their long-planned winter trips.
A new survey by Virtuoso, a network of top-tier travel agencies, notes that as of late September, 28 percent of advisors are reporting an uptick in bookings to unaffected Caribbean islands such as St. Lucia, Aruba, Barbados, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman. However, 25 percent report that clients are not requesting Caribbean nor Florida for the next one to six months.
Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder and CEO of New York-based Indagare, says “We have definitely seen a big impact from the hurricane on our members’ winter travel plans. The devastation on certain islands like Puerto Rico and St. Barth’s has caused many travelers who had booked there to seek alternatives. These have ranged from nearby resorts on islands like St. Lucia, Antigua, Nevis, and the Dominican Republic, which had limited damage, and to ones with none at all ,like Barbados, Canouan and Mustique.” Bradley’s clients are also looking to beach locations in Mexico and Hawaii or Central America, such as Nicaragua and Belize.
That said, Bradley says, “we have also had conversations with members who are weighing whether to return to favorite islands like Anguilla and St. Barth’s, traditionally Indagare’s top Caribbean destination. She says that while top hotels on these islands, “have had significant damage, many house rentals are fine. [Clients] understand that the mood and offerings will be impacted, but they also want to support the locals and their economies.”
Island nations that are much farther afield may also see an increase in American visitors this winter. Victoria Boomgarden, owner of Direct Travel Luxe in Naperville, Illinois, notes that several of her clients, despite the travel time needed, are looking as far away as Seychelles and Mauritius. Judy Stein, president of Ovation Vacations-The Stein Collection, says some of her clients are asking about the Maldives.
More frequently, however, Stein reports that “ the usual suspects such as Hawaii and Mexico have come into play. That said, we are opening up our client’s eyes to alternate destinations that are different than what they would normally consider — not only warm weather and resort-oriented. This is the perfect winter to think about heading up north to experience the Northern Lights in one of the Nordic countries, If warm weather is a must, we are redirecting clients to Central and South America including Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Cartagena, Colombia, and Uruguay.”
Biggs Bradley also has clients thinking outside the box. “We have seen families switch their thinking altogether and decide to use the time to do something more adventurous than just escaping to a beach vacation. They are going instead to New Zealand, South Africa, or Southeast Asia or deciding to swap their yearly traditions and going skiing in December and then planning to head to the Caribbean in March.”