Luxury travelers today are seeking personalized itineraries in out-of-the-ordinary destinations that offer them exclusiveness and all of the VIP amenities of the more iconic, top-visited destinations. As a result, travel advisors, such as the luxury travel specialists at Travel Leaders Network, are catering to their requests, uncovering experiences and locations not yet at the top of the average tourist’s radar.
“I had a client who wanted to rent a private island for his wife’s 40th birthday,” said Rey Alton, a Travel Leaders advisor in Houston, Texas. “He wanted space for a total of five couples, so they could include their friends, and he wanted a private chef capable of unique culinary options. We found them the perfect island – Cayo Espanto in Belize. It has only seven villas – the ultimate in privacy and an on-site massage therapist. At $25,000 a night, it is also the ultimate in luxury.”
Not all luxury travel is as pricey or as remote. “Luxury travel is trending toward unique vacation locations such as Greenland, which is only a 90-minute flight from Iceland,” said Valerie Lederle, a Travel Leaders advisor in Colleyville, Texas. “A unique hotel with a small spa, a hot springs experience, a private champagne lunch overlooking the fjords or staying in a deluxe safari-style camp on the edge of the Greenland Ice sheet is a very unique and appealing experience.”
“Luxury travel has evolved from being more than just five-star accommodations. It is also five-star itineraries,” stated Allegra Lynch, a Santa Rosa, California-based Travel Leaders advisor. “For example, consumers don’t necessarily think of traveling to the Arctic Circle, but they are open to the idea if they are able to join a luxury winter safari, complete with traditional igloo stays,” she said.
Luxury travelers are most interested in exclusive access, including VIP tours, private cars and drivers, and customized culinary experiences, according to results from the most recent Travel Leaders Group travel trends survey. However, sometimes their customized experience is through community service in a foreign land.
“Some want to help with a community project or spend time, for example, in an orphanage in Africa for an extended period of time, not just for an hour or two,” said Tom Mieczynski, a luxury Travel Leaders advisor in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. “They fulfill deeper connections with themselves by stepping out of their comfort zones and finding real meaning in their experiences.”
Here are several suggested destinations for luxury travelers looking to avoid the crowds and experience travel from a new perspective:
- Ischia. Set in the Tyrrhenian Sea, about an hour off the coast of Naples, Italy, is a small mountainous island called Ischia that is a dream for any traveler looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby Amalfi Coast, said Atlanta Travel Leaders advisor Marybeth Green, who just returned from Italy. “The major cities of Western Europe are wonderful, but Ischia offers the views, charm and experiences without the crushing crowds.” Ischia offers stunning views of the Bay of Naples and some of the best beaches in Italy. Ischia Pointe is home to most of the hotels, charming shops and cafes. Adventurous outdoor enthusiasts will want to head to the town of Fontana, where they can journey to the top of Mount Epomeo, which rises more than 2,500 feet above sea level and offers stunning 360-degree views of Capri and the Sorrentina Peninsula.
- Tallinn. While virtually all European cities provide charm and culture, the port cities lining the Baltic shores – from St. Petersburg, Russia to Helsinki, Finland, are worth the trip. One stop in particular is Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia with its beautiful beaches and all the trappings of a modern metropolis. It’s one of the ports of call on the Crystal Cruises Serenity Baltic Treasures cruise that sails from Denmark to Sweden. “Tallinn is really a Baltic gem wrapped up in an easily walkable package,” said Ted Blank, a luxury advisor with Travel Leaders in Stillwater, Minnesota. “As overtourism becomes a fact of life in many destinations, travelers are seeking a stress-free alternative that still allows authentic cultural experiences. Less crowded destinations can offer tremendous historical, cultural, and culinary highlights in a serene environment, where the locals still welcome travelers with open arms,” he added. For example. Tallinn’s Old Town neighborhood, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with cobblestone streets, is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Northern Europe.
- Tuamotu Islands. A cruise in the southern Pacific Ocean is one way travelers can uncover the hidden gem of the Tuamotu Islands, a French Polynesian chain of almost 80 islands and low-lying atolls near the eastern part of Tahiti. Whether one arrives on a Silversea Cruises World Cruise or a 10-day Windstar Cruises sailing, it’s awe-inspiring to realize that The Tuamotus cover 16 regions in an archipelago that stretches across an area roughly the size of Western Europe. Manihi, built on a coral reef, is the farthest north of Tuamotu Archipelago and is less than a two-hour flight from Tahiti. This obscure getaway, known as the Island of Pearls, has the perfect lagoon for scuba diving, especially for people interested in searching for black pearls. “Traveling to destinations that are less crowded can be a great way for clients to really immerse themselves in the local culture,” said Lynch. Manihi is less inhabited than its largest sister, Rangiroa, and is a great location for connecting with the local fishermen.
- Canadian Rockies. “The view of the Canadian Rockies onboard the luxurious Rocky Mountaineer train allows unparalleled views in a comfortable, relaxed setting, with all of the details taken care of,” said Blank, adding that there are opportunities to stop and visit the quaint mountain towns and parks. For one, Banff National Park is a bucket list destination that thrills millions of visitors a year, with certain areas in the Alberta park, such as Lake Louise, being extremely popular for hiking trails, skiing, and turquoise lakes. For a less crowded experience, but all the joys and natural wonders of the Canadian Rockies, venture across the border into British Columbia to visit Yoho National Park, which sits along the western slope of the Continental Divide of the Americas. Although Yoho is the smallest of the country’s national parks, within its borders is The Takakkaw Falls, the second largest waterfall in Canada and a sight to behold.