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Ten top trends in luxury travel

Luxury is back, but with a difference. Ultra-high-net-worth travellers are spending again, although this year, says Matthew Upchurch, CEO of global luxury travel network Virtuoso, "their travel decisions are more value driven rather than price driven." It would appear that the ego has gone out of the market and travellers are no longer taking extravagant, showy vacations, writes Margie Goldsmith.

With this in mind, here are the top global travel trends for 2010-11: 

1 Value. "Everybody, regardless of money, wants value for their dollars," says Martin Rapp senior vice president leisure of ALTOUR. "It used to be, 'just book it', but now travellers want the mini-bar included or the 4th night free." Good news for travellers is that hotels will negotiate. Some have started to throw in extras: the Villa Feltrinelli in Italy offers complimentary laundry and mini bar. Hotel Le Toiny in St Barts offers complimentary breakfast and laundry. The newly opened Elysian Hotel in Chicago includes tipping. 

2 Multi-generational and family vacations have also become an important trend, though families are travelling differently than before. "Many clients who would ordinarily travel with their families over Christmas and New Years' are travelling over other random weekends when rates are much lower both for resorts and plane tickets," says Jack S Ezon, president of Ovation Vacations. Families and multigenerational groups are not only travelling together more often, but now, they're not just going for sun, sand or snow. "They are increasingly interested in the culture and history of international destinations," says Brian Morgan, CEO of Adventure Life.

3 Volunteerism. While popular luxury destinations such as Thailand, Kenya, South Africa and New Zealand have not changed, travellers now want to interact in a meaningful way with the local people. Tour operators such as Hands Up Holidays have incorporated a volunteering/philanthropic component into all their tailor-made luxury trips. "The experience may include 'pure philanthropy' where clients visit a project and see the impact of their giving, or it may be more hands-on, such as helping as a reading partner in an impoverished school, restoring an orphanage or building a house," says Christopher Hill of Hands Up.

4 Enriching experiences. Even on an exclusive cruise, travellers now want to be surrounded by seals and dolphins or on an African safari, to sleep in surreal luxury tree houses with incredible views. "After awhile, places can kind of feel the same, but experiences are long lasting," says Andy Hayes, managing editor of Sharing Travel Experiences, "especially those that tug on the senses."

5 Private villa experience. Affluent consumers are requesting private villas, which offer affluent travellers the service and amenities of a hotel with the privacy and intimacy of a home. New offerings such as the Algodon Mansion in Buenos Aires and the Amanyara Villas in Turks and Caicos (pictured) are prime examples of over-the-top private villas for the elite traveller.

6 Private island resorts and products. High-net-worth individuals are booking private island resorts such as recently opened Scrub Island in the British Virgin Islands and Laucala Island in Fiji. They are also chartering luxury products such as the Orient Express Royal Scotsman train (which carries just 36 guests) or taking over a property such as the six-bedroom "Guest House" on Russia's most prestigious salmon river.

7 Human powered vacations. No longer content to sip cocktails and lounge by the pool all day, travellers want to move, sweat and do something life-enriching that benefits both body and mind. These travellers are trekking, cycling, kayaking and going on fly-fishing trips. With physical activity and eco-awareness on the rise, travellers are now combining bicycling or trekking trips to distant lands with first-rate accommodations and gourmet meals. 


8 Spiritual travel has become very popular, especially among women, who will spend tens of thousands of dollars to do yoga in Hawaii or India or to take a luxury Nile Cruise. In anticipation of the American movie based on bestseller Eat Pray & Love, Spirit Quest Tours offers a spiritual Bali trip, and others will soon follow suite. 

9 Fantasy trips are hot, especially fantasy sports trips such as to the Masters, the British Open or Super Bowl. Experiential trips are also in demand, such as golfing in Scotland, wine and olive oil tasting in Tuscany, gaming in Las Vegas and cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu or Ritz Escoffier. These days, every fantasy is possible -- even an Air Combat experience (flying a military aircraft with a pilot) and engaging in dogfights in Florida.

10 The next hot place. Seasoned travellers are always looking for new emerging travel destinations, which this year are India, Vietnam, Cuba, Dubai, Bhutan and Lebanon. Still hot are Africa, Egypt, Italy, Mexico, Australia, France, the Galapagos and Couchevelle, which Ezon of Ovation calls the new St. Moritz.

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