The South American adventure destination of Uruguay has by far topped the list of countries with the largest increases in year-over-year bookings among US travellers.

Known as a respected trend forecaster, Virtuoso reviewed figures from its warehouse of more than $49.5 billion in transactions to compile the most in-demand locales for the coming fall and holiday season.

The results were revealed at luxury travel’s largest and most acclaimed event, the 31st annual Virtuoso Travel Week. Running from August 10-16 at Las Vegas’ Bellagio Resort & Casino, ARIA Resort & Casino and Vdara Hotel & Spa, the event is recognised as the Fashion Week of travel, where the latest news and trends affecting the industry are unveiled.

The Virtuoso Luxe Report determined the prevailing travel motivator for 2019 is exploring new destinations, and US travellers are seeking fresh adventures amidst the fairytale castles of Romania, historic sites of Malta and fjords of Norway. Uruguay’s award-winning wineries, pleasant climate, and adventure opportunities make it a sought-after destination for the season. The Middle East remains popular, with Egypt and Qatar enticing visitors with less-explored cuisines, bustling markets, and desert excursions, while Puerto Rico and the Maldives provide beach retreats for relaxation-focused travellers.

  1. Uruguay (+286%)
  2. Maldives (+171%)
  3. Malta (+140%)
  4. Romania (+135%)
  5. Egypt (+122%)
  6. Puerto Rico (+120%)
  7. Rwanda (+114%)
  8. Qatar (+101%)
  9. South Korea (+98%)
  10. Norway (+96%)

Data is drawn from Virtuoso’s US agency members and reflects travel bookings for September through December 2019.

Meanwhile, Italy remained the most popular overall foreign destination for upmarket US travellers. The most popular Q3 and holiday destinations for Americans according to future bookings:

  1. United States
  2. Italy
  3. United Kingdom
  4. France
  5. South Africa
  6. Israel
  7. Australia
  8. Germany
  9. Japan
  10. Spain

Indeed, with such a diversity of destinations and experiences at home, Americans increasingly choose to travel domestically for the holidays. Europe’s appeal as a summer destination extends into fall, with five countries on the list. Italy, France and Germany repeat from last year; the latter is especially popular with river cruisers for its celebrated Christmas markets. Japan, the “it” country that topped the list of emerging destination in the 2019 Virtuoso Luxe Report, appeals to travellers from adventurers to culinary enthusiasts. Two other Q3 and holiday favourites, South Africa and Israel, repeat from last year’s list, beckoning families seeking trips of a lifetime at the festive season.

A crazy, crazy week!

During Virtuoso Travel Week, the network’s advisors and partners attended a total of 278,392 one-on-one meetings. They attend some 853 separate events during the week, ensuring plenty of opportunities for networking as well as socialising and relationship building.

Advisor Tools and New Programs

  • The first class of Virtuoso Wanderlist specialists has just graduated, opening up the network’s innovative new long-term planning program to more travellers. Wanderlist offers clients a process to create a customised travel wish list. They rate their interests, preferred experiences and dream destinations online, then receive access to a personalised portal with information such as articles, videos, books and even music playlists. The Wanderlist advisor reviews the online results and creates a plan for future travels that takes into account the desires of all travel companions. Details such as optimal times to visit are included, as are dates when it’s most economical to travel.
  • Virtuoso’s online hotel booking tool now includes more than 1,100 hotels. Enhancing its utility, it now displays all available rates including promotions and those with network-specific amenities.
  • Virtuoso MyMarketing, in its first year of usage, is helping advisors improve productivity. The comprehensive self-service platform centralises marketing communications to provide deeper insights into the success of campaigns and enhance efficiencies. It offers tools such as libraries of images, flyers, brochures and ads; email marketing campaigns; and social media automation.
  • Virtuoso Voyages, the network’s longtime cruise enhancement program, now offers complimentary benefits for clients on more than 650 hosted departures. Twenty-one cruise lines provide Virtuoso-exclusive advantages with savings up to (U.S.) $3,000 on 4,500 sailings, and 21,000 passengers have enjoyed those benefits this past year.

Technology and Innovation

  • Virtuoso Incubator has graduated two new companies to preferred partner status: Approach Guides and Zoom And Go. Next year’s Incubator program will focus on products that assist with two key member challenges: commission tracking and CRM.
  • The network’s first Technology Innovation Summit was held August 10 at Virtuoso Travel Week, exploring how new technology can impact the travel industry and positively affect the advising profession today and tomorrow.
  • Virtuoso Innovation Teams are a group of advisors who tackle a complicated topic within the industry, offering recommendations for best practices and new programs. Three new generational Innovation Teams are currently in the works: Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers.
  • Furthering Virtuoso’s heritage of innovation, the network is introducing Innovation Days. Small groups of members will gather for just six hours to share ideas, hear from experts and provide insights to Virtuoso. Each global region will host at least one Innovation Day in 2020.
  • Next year, Virtuoso will also recognise members in each global region with Innovation Awards in two categories: telling the story of why to use an advisor and providing the human touch through processes and tools that help advisors emphasise personal connections. Regional winners will be announced at Forums, with the overall global winner to be unveiled at Virtuoso Travel Week 2020.

Photo – top of page – Virtuoso Chairman & CEO Matthew Upchurch at VTW Opening Ceremony