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Travel Roars Back

Where to Be in 2023 and Beyond

By Carolyn O’Neil

There’s a lot to see in 2023 as international travel restrictions relax and pent-up demand for exploring the world returns.

According to insight surveys conducted by Virtuoso, a global luxury travel network, travel sales in 2023 are already pacing 47 percent higher than in 2019. This bright news was unveiled at the Virtuoso Travel Week, which attracted five thousand Virtuoso member travel advisors, destination representatives, and travel companies from over one hundred countries. The annual mega-event held at MGM Resorts in Las Vegas is recognized as the “fashion week of travel,” where the latest trends are shared to help industry professionals plan for what clients want next.

Maroma, a Belmond Hotel in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, was recently renovated and is now ready to welcome travelers for the coming year. | Photos courtesy of Belmond

For many travelers, that means choosing a new experience, such as hiking in Bhutan or marveling at Malta’s seven thousand years of history. “I’m sending friend groups on exciting trips to Egypt and newly reopened Japan,” says Jennifer Falk Weiss, an Atlanta-based luxury travel advisor.

For others, it’s an opportunity to revisit a favorite destination but see things differently. In Rome, why not skip the lines at the Colosseum to join an archeological jogging tour? “We can also plan a tour of Roman street food or the best gelato shops, where you’ll learn behind-the-scenes techniques,” says Edoardo Giuntoli, general manager of the Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese. The seventy-room boutique hotel features contemporary Roman cuisine and a rooftop bar overlooking the Eternal City.

Have you been to Sydney but have yet to explore other parts of the Australian continent? Perth and beyond beckon: “Why not travel even further?” asks Carolyn Turnbull of Tourism Western Australia. “We’re the next Africa!”

The iconic Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro celebrates one hundred years in 2023. | Photos courtesy of Belmond

Attention stargazers! On April 20, 2023, Western Australia will be the best place to witness the Ningaloo Solar Eclipse, the longest solar eclipse until 2172.

We Knew You Were Coming Back!

Global jet setters pretty much everywhere will happily also find a refreshed selection of accommodations, cruise itineraries, and destination activities because so many companies used the downtime of slow travel during the pandemic to renovate existing properties and build new brands focused on the way we travel now.

Take in some of the world’s most romantic views from the Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese rooftop. | Photo courtesy of Sofitel

The landmark White Elephant resort on Nantucket will celebrate its hundredth anniversary in May 2023 with a top-to-bottom restoration and renovation. Also that month, Mexico’s Caribbean coastline welcomes the reopening of the beach retreat Maroma, a Belmond Hotel on Riviera Maya, and the long-awaited debut of the Mayan Train project connecting Cancun to other hotspots in the Yucatán Peninsula.

In New York, a city reemerging with a welcoming newness, the art-filled Hotel Gansevoort’s renovation follows the Meatpacking District’s evolution from edgy to luxury. “It’s a grown-up version of what it once was,” the hotel’s general manager, Anton Moore, says of the neighborhood. “The trees along the nearby High Line grew up, and so did we.”

In addition to Bhutan, check out &Beyond’s website for other exotic escapes—but book fast, as 2023 promises to be one of the busiest travel years in recent memory. | Photo courtesy of &Beyond
Global jet setters pretty much everywhere will happily also find a refreshed selection of accommodations, cruise itineraries, and destination activities because so many companies used the downtime of slow travel during the pandemic to renovate existing properties and build new brands focused on the way we travel now.

Virtuoso surveys predict travelers will spend 34 percent more on average in 2023. “It’s a lifestyle approach to travel for our clients. They’re saying now more than ever that they’ve only got one life to live, and they’ll spend money on travel rather than other purchases,” says travel advisor Beth Washington of Washington DC-based Getaway Guild.

The iconic Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro celebrates one hundred years in 2023. | Photos courtesy of Belmond

Know Before You Go:

Still, there’s an accompanying reality check to consider. This is also a world where booking ahead is vital again, hotel rates are often higher, and cancellation fees have returned. The pandemic travel party—when crowds were thin and refund policies were flexible—is over because demand is outpacing supply.

“Africa is booking out three years in advance,” cautions Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso. He adds, “And look out because in 2024, the youngest baby boomers turn sixty, so we’ll have even more mature travelers hitting the road.”

Speaking of hotel rooftop views, these stunners are brought to you courtesy of the Park Hyatt Tokyo

That also means an uptick in valuing the professional guidance of travel advisors who can help people navigate the ups and downs of booking vacations and the increasingly popular “work from wherever” getaways. “I think travelers simply want to make up for lost time and appreciate more than ever the enormous benefit of working with a knowledgeable advisor who can put together a seamless trip full of fabulous experiences,” says Falk Weiss.

Understanding personal motivations to travel remains the most crucial part of planning. “Travel with the grandkids is really big now since many hadn’t seen them during the lockdown, and they’ve missed two birthdays,” says Australian travel advisor Anthony Goldman of the Goldman Group.

Speaking of hotel rooftop views, these stunners are brought to you courtesy of the Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC

Travel Plans Are Shifting.

The pandemic travel party—when crowds were thin and refund policies were flexible—is over because demand is outpacing supply.

The hottest destinations in 2022 were the US, Italy, France, Canada, and Greece, followed by the United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, Ireland, and Switzerland. The US dollar’s parity with the euro certainly plays a factor, but there’s a change afoot in 2023 as the focus on Europe shifts to the rest of the world.

“Demand for exotic destinations is coming back strong in Asia, South America, and Africa,” notes Washington.

Speaking of hotel rooftop views, these stunners are brought to you courtesy of the Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC

Ready to welcome returning guests, the historic art deco icon Copacabana Palace in Rio De Janeiro, the first luxury hotel in South America, is preparing for its centennial year in 2023.

In the Kingdom of Bhutan, &Beyond will unveil its first luxury tent property in Asia in September 2023. Punakha River Lodge is billed as an adventure playground and base for outdoor activities such as rafting, fishing, and hiking through verdant landscapes.

Attitudes about what to do once you get to where you’re going are changing too. Purpose-driven travel is paramount, especially with Gen Z and Millennials. For example, enthusiasm for adventure escapes is morphing into a craving for wellness and mental health retreats.

Culinary adventures are becoming more inclusive of cultural immersion. Turkey’s Tourism Board has launched a new campaign called “Delicious Turkiye” to highlight the nation’s diverse culinary cultures. Tour operator Collette specializes in culinary experiences such as truffle hunting. “It’s so much more than a meal,” says Jeff Woods of Collette.

The Copacabana Palace pool is calling! | Photo courtesy of Belmond

And while travelers might not specifically ask about sustainability policies, they’re paying attention. “Guests may notice a large bottle of shampoo in the bath instead of single-use plastics and appreciate that the chef has a kitchen garden where their kids can visit,” says Washington.

Traveling Solo? You’re Not Alone!

While the most popular way to travel is still with a significant other, the second most common category is traveling with friends, followed by family trips with kids under eighteen. “During the pandemic, we saw travel pods, a group of friends traveling together. But solo travel is on the rise,” says Virtuoso’s Misty Belles. “More recently, we’ve seen a shift from travel with friends to solo travel, which is especially pronounced in the sixty-five-plus age group, increasing from 4 percent in 2019 to 18 percent in 2022.”

Read more about the White Elephant Nantucket in VIE’s September 2022 issue. | Photo courtesy of White Elephant

Whether alone or with a group of friends, travelers will also find increased support at Virtuoso member properties, where the staff are well aware that things from delayed flights to misplaced baggage can easily get “lost in translation.” The concierge team at Park Hyatt Tokyo—perhaps the best example, as this is where Sofia Coppola’s movie Lost in Translation was filmed—knows Tokyo can be an intimidating city to navigate. They help guests find restaurants and bars, of course, but add important local advice such as the best times to visit popular shrines and when to check out—or perhaps avoid—the throngs of up to three thousand people at Shibuya, the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing.

Wherever 2023 takes you, Virtuoso’s Upchurch reminds us, “Meaningful travel delivers a higher return on life, and travel is a force for good, opening up borders and connecting the peoples of the world.”

Bon voyage!

— V —


Of Virtuoso travelers, 74 percent say, “Creating a travel experience that best fits my expectations is more important than price.” Visit Virtuoso.com to learn more.



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