For the past 30 years, Virtuoso Travel Week, aka the Fashion Week of travel, has brought thousands of travel industry experts together. This year, the conference welcomed over 6,000 attendees from 100 different countries to the Bellagio, Vdara and Aria in Las Vegas. Among them were hotel CEOs from around the world, international and regional tourism board representatives, travel advisors, and every other expert you could think of.
At the opening ceremony—which kicked off with a rendition of Gotta Have Faith, released in the same year Virtuoso was founded—Virtuoso’s CEO Matthew D. Upchurch awarded the Best of the Best of 2018. Among the top 10 hotels and hoteliers recognized were BodyHoliday Saint Lucia for Best Wellness Program, The Restaurant at Meadowood Napa Valley for Best Dining Experience, and The Silo Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa for Best Achievement in Design.
During the opening ceremony, Upchurch also had a tête-à-tête with longtime friend, Simon Sinek. With more than 70 events at the weeklong conference, attendees were immersed in travel speed-dating. Imagine colorful, seemingly endless rows of tables where hotel representatives had four minutes to pitch their property to agents before moving to the next table. More than 330,000 individual appointments took place between Virtuoso advisors and preferred partners.
Other activations included a breakfast discussing a Caribbean comeback following the devastating hurricanes. The islands are now at the ready to welcome visitors. A press conference and panel discussion on travel trends including the top destinations Americans will visit this fall and during the holidays based on future bookings. Countries leading the list are Italy, France, South Africa, Israel, Germany and Japan.
What better place than Virtuoso Travel Week to ask travel executives and hoteliers what’s been their favorite destination? Get ready to add seven countries to your bucket list.
“This is a difficult question, because I love every single place I’ve been in the world,” says Valentina De Santis, Owner and CEO of Grand Hotel Tremezzo, which is one of our favorite places in the world. The property features a pool inside of Lake Como and a boat and dock basically designed for James Bond. “I’m a big fan of Italy,” she continues. “Because of my little son I have to stay closer. My favorite place in Italy is the Amalfi Coast.”
“My single place that transforms me better than anyplace in the world is Africa,” says Virtuoso’s CEO Matthew D. Upchurch who admits he no longer takes a PC approach to answering this question. “I’ve always said, ‘you leave Africa, but Africa never leaves you.’”
“Visiting Saint Petersburg [Russia] blew my mind,” says Regent Seven Seas Cruises, President & CEO, Jason Montague who enjoyed learning about the culture and taking a high-speed train from Saint Petersburg to Red Square in Moscow.
“Nubra Valley in Ladakh in Northenrn India,” says Patrick Richards, President and CEO at Cox & Kings. “You fly up to 16,000 feet, and then you go even higher and you pass up over Khardung La, which is the world’s highest drivable mountain pass and then you plunge down into the Nubra Valley on the other side with the most dramatic scenery you’ll ever see. It’s got desert on one side. It’s got mountains with snow on the other side.” Richards adds that it’s also geopolitically interesting and is the best food his 16-year-old has ever had. “We ate in a farmer’s house, where his wife produced the most beautiful vegetables.”
“That’s a great [question] for people who travel as much as we do,” says Ben Trodd, Senior Vice President, Global Sales at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “Recently my favorite destination I’ve been to is our Bali resort in Sayan. Architecturally it’s spectacular. The building is beautiful. They’re stunning villas set into the side of the mountain down into the rice and paddy fields.”
“Patagonia,” shares Explora’s CEO Gonzalo Undurraga. The father of five recommends Patagonia as a place to disconnect and spend quality time with family.
On his favorite destination in the world, Jean-Luc Naret, CEO of La Réserve, says “this is not an easy [question] for me because I live in the Bahamas, I live in Barbados. I run hotels in Mauritius, in Seychelles, in Maldives and for 10 years I was the president of the Michelin Guide so I traveled around the world, everywhere. My favorite destination, right now, as we speak, is Ramatuelle [St. Tropez] with La Réserve, because it’s unique and different than anything else.