“People admire brands that live out their values,” said Excelsior, Minnesota-based advisor Erin Green. “The most important thing to me right now is educating people that it doesn’t matter where you’re going – sustainability is important.” The movement is proving its staying power as more travel companies make sustainable practices the norm, from cultivating on-site organic farms and directing animal-rescue efforts to forgoing single-use plastics (hello, bamboo and papaya-stem straws) and supporting local communities.
The Caribbean’s recovery from the destructive one-two punch of hurricanes Maria and Irma last year is well underway – and 70 percent of the region was never affected at all. Travel agency executive Jack Ezon cautioned deal seekers and procrastinators that, thanks to rebounding bookings, discounts are very unlikely and hotels are filling up fast for high season. For travelers who want to aid in the area’s recovery, Tiago Sarmento, general manager of Anguilla’s Belmond Cap Juluca (reopening in November), said, “The best help is to come back.”
Today’s travelers are actively trying to disconnect in order to be present while on vacation. They crave more-authentic experiences and are increasingly in need of breaks (whether physical or mental) from their electronically dominated daily lives. “We’re noticing a rise in escapism and getting off the grid, as well as an interest in self-discovery programs,” says London-based agency executive Jenny Graham. Travel companies are also taking notice. For example, Canyon Ranch Lenox in Massachusetts offers a digital detox itinerary with multiple ways to help guests center themselves, including aerial yoga, meditation, and relationship-building advice. As more jet-setters leave phones behind and log out of social media accounts, they choose to focus on what’s actually in front of them – a destination, its people, and the local culture are what matter, not the number of likes.
While millennials may currently dominate the influencer sphere on social media, Generation Z is becoming increasingly powerful when it comes to travel. Born after the year 2000, these “digital natives” are coming of age, and, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, they currently affect $600 billion in family spending. About 90 percent of Virtuoso advisors polled earlier this year also agree that Gen Zers are influential when it comes to household travel plans. More than 2 billion strong, the group is slated to surpass millennials in size in 2019, and, generally speaking, they prefer active experiences, seek out unusual places, and choose destinations that help hone their personal brands.
Turkey garnered the No. 1 spot with more than 300 percent growth on the Virtuoso Hot 10, a list of countries that have seen the largest growth in year-over-year bookings among U.S. travelers and are trending for fall and holiday travel. Egypt and Morocco took spots two and three, respectively. Another one to watch: We heard lots of buzz about Ischia, the southern Italian island that’s a setting in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, which are coming to HBO as an adapted miniseries in November.