January 2020 How Two Decades Transformed the Way We Travel and a Look at What’s to Come

How Two Decades Transformed the Way We Travel and a Look at What’s to Come

20 FOR 2020: As we ring in a new decade, we’re taking a walk down memory lane and a look at the road ahead. 
Who remembers the days before luggage makers discovered the wheel? Many of our first recollections of travel involve our dads manhandling brown plastic Skyways off the carousel and onto a trolley, hoping the metal clasps held. Then came the advent of wheelie bags, which lightened the schlep and transformed baggage claims into a bleak but efficient parade of black, two-wheeled look-alikes. But now, friends, the glory days of luggage are upon us! We can have style and substance. We’re all gliding through terminals with four-wheeled lookers in a monogrammed millennial pink or anodized aluminum or marble- effect polycarbonate. Charging our phones with our carry-ons. Monitoring our bags with Bluetooth trackers. Upstarts like Away, stalwarts such as Rimowa and Tumi, and a host of better-mousetrap luggage companies are making it a great time to get packing.
Arlo Skye Zipper Carry-On: Comes in sturdy polycarbonate with an antimicrobial lining and superfast built-in charger. <em>From $350.</em>
Arlo Skye Zipper Carry-On: Comes in sturdy polycarbonate with an antimicrobial lining and superfast built-in charger. From $350.
Virtuoso Life on Style 
“Your clothes become part of your travel story. Don’t forget that you’ll be wearing these clothes in front of the Eiffel Tower, in the pictures you’ll share and look at forever. It’s worth it to take the extra time with packing!” – Christina Burns, stylist, September 2016
Virtuoso Life on Smart Shopping
“At the end of the day, we all figure out, ‘If I would have just spent a little more money, I would have gotten a much better quality suitcase that would last for a much longer time.’ ” – Sven Lepschy, vice president of electronic tag, Rimowa, July 2017
“I don’t think anyone could have predicted how travel would be so affected by social media posts and ‘Instagram destinations,’ ” says Virtuoso agency owner Grace DeVita, “or the stress caused by being expected to stay connected to work while we’re away.” While travel sites and apps have freed our carry-ons of guidebooks, foldout maps, and more, they’ve also exponentially increased our choices, sometimes to paralysis-inducing levels. “Everyone has access to the same information these days,” says DeVita, who credits the Internet for better collaboration with her clients too. The more travelers know, the more they appreciate the personal connections advisors like DeVita have around the world – and their help cutting through the digital clutter.
Virtuoso Life on Unplugging 
“We feel like nothing is real unless it’s recorded, but there’s a different experience from face-to-face interaction than through a lens. There’s something to be said for having a mental picture rather than an actual one for Instagram.” – Jess Davis, founder, digital-wellness brand Folk Rebellion, September 2015
Air Travel 
Humor those who pine for TWA’s style and Pan Am’s elegance – a quick taxi through the past two decades proves there’s never been a better time to fly. Take the Concorde, says Jack Ezon, a Virtuoso travel agency founder. “It certainly got you there in a jiffy, but, truth be told, it was a claustrophobic cabin with upgraded premium economy seats.” During the Concorde’s final years, he notes, British Airways rolled out lie-flat seats, and the battle for the front of the plane was on. Celebrity-chef-planned menus, Wi-Fi, flat-screens, designer amenity kits, in-flight showers, Emirates’ in-flight suites – the sky is no longer the limit.

With today’s lighter, more-fuel-efficient aircraft, distance proves less of a barrier as well. Singapore Airlines’ new 18.5- hour NYC-to-Singapore flight currently holds the ultra-long-haul record. But last October, Qantas tested a nearly 10,000-mile, 19.5-hour New York-to-Sydney route that it’s looking to launch in 2022. And with Boom Supersonic’s announcement of Virgin Group and Japan Airlines’ orders for its 55- to 75-passenger jet, Mach-2 is even back in the wings, shrinking a New York-to-London hop to a proposed three hours and 15 minutes.

“Just going to the airport was a traumatic experience,” Ezon says, recalling the post-9/11 security lines before Global Entry, PreCheck, and Clear. Now, with new lounge terminals such as The Private Suite at LAX, travelers can skip the departures area (and paparazzi), relaxing with a meal before a private security screening and chauffeured drive to the jetway. Wheels up, please.
In the wings: Boom Supersonic’s Mach-2.2 jet.
In the wings: Boom Supersonic’s Mach-2.2 jet.
Virtuoso Life on Flying
“Conventional wisdom says hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I say: Don’t ignore the wine list!” – Keely Crowder, Virtuoso travel advisor, July 2017
The Internet may have brought the world to our fingertips, but it was the iPhone that placed it in our well-edited social media feeds (#nobaddays). “The iPhone’s impact on travel photography was remarkable,” says Virtuoso Life contributing photographer Kevin J. Miyazaki. “The only time I’m not thrilled about everyone having a wonderful camera in their hand is at places like the Taj Mahal or the Grand Canyon, where you look out at this powerfully moving site and see everyone just staring into their screens.”

While the digital revolution increased cameras’ versatility, allowed instant image editing, and freed us from rationing Kodak rolls – and the worry of losing or damaging them in transit – it also made for overwhelming and often unviewed photo libraries. “People weren’t printing many digital photos or really looking at them on their computers,” Miyazaki says. “With the iPhone, we can view them all the time and instantly post or share with friends, no matter where in the world we – or they – are.”

GoPro stepped in to let anyone video their awesome (or misguided) adventures. And more and more people are traveling with drones. Next up: the rise of 360-degree and 8K cameras. In ten years? Wearables – tiny sensors that frame and focus what we look at and shoot by voice command or the blink of an eye – and virtual-reality vacation “slideshows” in every home.
Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki
Virtuoso Life on Focus 
“A common mistake is to try to capture a great family portrait and a dramatic setting in the same photo. Let your pictures of coastlines and castles be just that and simplify the setting for your loved ones.” – Kevin J. Miyazaki, photographer, September 2013
Virtuoso Life on Sustainable Travel 
“Three questions to ask: What are your company’s environmentally friendly practices? Can you give me an example of how your trips help protect wildlife and cultural heritage? Do you employ local people and directly support the local economy?” – Costas Christ, Virtuoso senior sustainability advisor, September 2013
Expeditions of Epic Proportions 
“The most remote places in the world can only be accessed by sea, and new ships will bring true luxury to expedition cruising,” Payntar Harris says. In the 2020 Virtuoso Luxe Report, a travel trends survey of 1,300 Virtuoso advisors and agencies worldwide, Antarctica leads the adventure-travel category, and with good reason: New builds will make reaching the White Continent easier than ever. Quark Expeditions’ Ultramarine, which is set to sail for the 2020-2021 season, will take 199 passengers to distant areas of the continent, joining new ships in development from Silversea, Lindblad, Crystal, Hurtigruten, and Ponant. The Luxe Report also shows an uptick in desire to get closer to nature and connect with cultures. To that end: Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley’s monthly ten-person ultra-trail-running event, which kicks off with an Aboriginal smoking ceremony.
Forks in the Road 
Another Virtuoso Luxe Report finding: Some travelers make restaurant reservations even before booking flights. Local food experiences are on the rise too. (At Maine’s White Barn Inn, guests can spend a day on a lobster boat and visit a market with a chef before a six-course lobster-themed meal.) And kids are making macarons in Paris and topping pizzas in Italy, says Lindsey Prumers, a travel advisor: “Cooking shows, particularly those involving junior chefs, have stirred up a trend.”
Holistic Journeys 
Treatments such as crystal facials, once the purview of new-age boutique spas, have spread to more-mainstream venues, such as the Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui. On the other end of the fitness spectrum, there’s the seven-day intensive at The Ranch Malibu. Participants receive diagnostic testing, join arduous daily hikes, and sweat during group classes, while nutritionists take the decision-work out of dinner with meal plans that center around nutrient density. And in Alicante, Spain, SHA Wellness Clinic emphasizes mindfulness, natural therapies, meditation, and nutrition.
Inward bound: Hiking at The Ranch Malibu. 
Inward bound: Hiking at The Ranch Malibu. 
On the Heritage Trail 
“I’ve seen a huge spike in clients requesting to visit small villages and towns overseas to trace their ancestors,” Lindsey Prumers says. “Ancestry-tracking websites inspire people to walk in the steps of their great-grandfathers.” One search revealed that her clients were related to the mayor of Bucciano, Italy. “The community threw a huge party in the streets outside the town hall,” Prumers says. She also sees a huge demand for heritage tours in Ireland, where Dublin-based Virtuoso tour connection Adams & Butler’s in-house genealogist sleuths out family trees. “The wave of television programs on celebrities’ roots has caused tremendous interest,” says founder Siobhan Byrne Learat.
Global Citizens in Training 
Once upon a time, a week at Disney or a fly-and- flop to Hawaii topped family-travel lists. “People willing to take their kids farther afield were the outliers. Now, it’s the exact opposite,” says Amie O’Shaughnessy, a Virtuoso agency owner. More parents are looking for hands-on experiences to engage the whole group – and trips centered around raising globally focused kids. One step toward global citizenship: a private safari in Tanzania. Tour operator Artisans of Leisure builds eight-day trips with families in mind, down to nap-adjusted timelines. Along with spotting animals they know best from the Babar books, kids can make new friends while volunteering at local schools.
Virtuoso Life on Opening Your Eyes
“Take a kid along, if possible; you’ll see the world differently through their eyes. Wherever you go, do everything you can to learn about what’s there in the natural sense. Our lives depend on maintaining the good health of the natural world.” – Sylvia Earle, marine biologist, January 2001
With each year comes a slew of ever more extravagant cruise-ship features and diversions. Back in 2000, millennials were competing at Mario Kart 64 in their living rooms. Today, they can race IRL on Norwegian Cruise Line’s onboard go-kart tracks. Expect more cantilevered bars with glass floors (Princess Cruises), 800-foot- long waterslides (Royal Caribbean International), and planetariums at sea (now on Cunard’s 2,691-passenger Queen Mary 2 and Viking’s 930-passenger Viking Orion). According to a recent Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) study, for Generation Z and millennial cruisers, experiences take priority over material things, meaning more music festivals at sea and other on-the-water events. The big-ship boom – and the immense diversions it brings – doesn’t show any signs of letting up.

The little guys are getting in on the one-upping action too. “In 2020, we have an explosion of small ships designed for true expedition cruising, such as to the Arctic and Antarctica,” says agency owner Ruth Turpin. As the CLIA report puts it, “Access is the new luxury.” Cruise lines aim for harder-to-reach locations to sate cruisers’ appetites for the undiscovered.

“One strong emerging trend is conscious travel,” says Beth Butzlaff, Virtuoso’s vice president of cruise sales. According to a recent study Virtuoso conducted with market-research firm YouGov, 47 percent of travelers said that preserving natural and cultural heritage affects their travel decisions, and 48 percent said sustainability influences their trip plans. Cruise companies take sustainability into account, with hybrid ships, dynamic positioning to help preserve sea floors, and renewable materials used for energy, including Hurtigruten’s new biogas fuel, created from organic waste. “Cruise lines are also getting better at supporting women in the workplace,” Butzlaff adds. Three female captains already helm Celebrity Cruises’ ships, and last year Virgin Voyages started a program to support women’s careers in its fleet, which launches in April.
Hurtigruten’s new hybrid ship, the Roald Amundsen.
Hurtigruten’s new hybrid ship, the Roald Amundsen.
Virtuoso Life on Cruising 
“Go out on deck when everyone else is sleeping and listen to the stillness.”
–The editors, July 2008
Travelers today look for intimate, tailored experiences at hotels, according to the 2020 Virtuoso Luxe Report. Arlene C. Thompson-Brantley, a Virtuoso advisor, agrees: “Residences, villas, and homes are gaining popularity, as travelers want to enjoy hotel perks such as room service, spa and restaurant access, and a concierge desk with independent accommodations.”

As hotels feel more like home, their lobbies are getting an upgraded-living-room vibe. Take the La Libreria sitting room in the Hotel Eden in Rome: Bartenders roll drink carts right up to the velvet couches, and backlit shelves of vintage books give hotel guests and other visitors reasons to linger. Aman Tokyo encourages meditation in the Zen garden of its 33rd-floor lobby. For wandering minds, The Lounge bar, tucked away on the same floor, serves afternoon tea and evening cocktails.

Whether in the room or outside it, customization makes the hotel, Thompson-Brantley says: “Travel advisors used to just book a hotel. Now, we book experiences within a stay – transfers, restaurant reservations, spa treatments, etcetera – and enhance it with details such as preferred music, bed linens, pillows, bath products, and a personal welcome amenity with a note.”
Virtuoso Life on Indulgence
“Splurge on some aspect of your trip. We try to book the best hotel at the end of an itinerary, so you’ll go home on a high note.” – Damian McCabe, Virtuoso agency owner, September 2013

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