Luxury Hotels


Matthew Upchurch miraculously manages to keep calm, cool and collected  through the entire Virtuoso Travel week VTW, which finished last Friday. 18th August. This year, over 5,000 delegates were, as always, 50-50 suppliers (airlines, cruises, destinations, hotels) and buyers (travel advisors).

(Actually ‘week’ is misnomer. Virtuoso staffers started arriving in Vegas as early as Monday 7th August. There is just so much to DO, all MGMs, ARIA, BELLAGIO and VDARA, all of which are MGM managed and currently evolving into the mega-Marriott system.)

Sustainability was the keyword to the entire VTW. It came up continuously, in relation to everything. Of over 3,000 wide-ranging Virtuoso initiatives, 50% are involved with protecting the planet, and Virtuoso has led the way in boosting carbon offset to the tune of over 200,000 metric tonnes. It is known, in addition, that 59% of luxury travellers want to interact with communities and local crafts. How suppliers make consumers feel will make all the difference to the perceived value of a product, for which read ‘a hotel stay’.

Matthew Upchurch, above, is not unduly worried about VTWs expanding girth. He likens it to a village which becomes a town and thence a city which offers numerous areas highlighting different travel requirements, adventure, cruise, culinary, family travel. VTW now takes over much of Aria, Bellagio and Vdara, which does require time-consuming intra-properties commutes. Overall it will expand, especially internationally. Virtuoso COO Brad Borland says the next overseas office to open will be in south-east Asia.

Showing how Virtuoso looks ahead, keynote speaker at Sunday’s opening forum was Botswana-born half-Nigerian entrepreneur Brit Stephen Bartlett, 30, a university dropout who is now a billionaire thanks to 10 years of building such highly successful companies as Thirdweb, Flight Story. and The Diary Of A CEO podcast.

Thereafter, Monday-Thursday, came 185,000 computer-generated appointments. It was noticeable that this year more significant owners and company CEOs ‘worked the tracks’, at least some of the time. Big bosses from Highgate, Montage, Raffles/Orient-Express, Singita and Virgin were among the high-profiles.

The finale, as always, was the Gala Dinner. See tomorrow..

What, overall, are the trends? Luxury travel is growing by 34% in all markets: travel generally is 9.2% of world GDP, forecast to rise to 11.6% by 2033.  57% of luxury travellers say experience is more important than price. There is general call for more mental and physical wellness offerings, a third was sleep programmes, and 70% of advisors noted demand for culinary travel.

On the destination front, it is Italy Italy Italy – at least one Amsterdam hotelier admitted additional future bookings are strengthened by inability to get into Italy. Other hot spots for later this year include London, Paris and Tokyo, with Dubai now seen as a destination rather than a transit stop. End-of-year festive season desirables are the USA, Mexico, Costa Rica and Thailand, plus Anguilla, though in general the Caribbean is slowing. In general, there seem, sadly, to be more customer complaints on hotels’ service.