Virtuoso®, the leading network of luxury-focused travel advisors, proves that the affluent have no intention of sticking close to home when it comes to their travel aspirations. Today Virtuoso reveals findings from its fifth annual “Travel Dreams” survey, a poll made available earlier this year through the network’s award-winning magazine, VIRTUOSO LIFE®. Responses came from the magazine’s readers who are among the world’s most sophisticated travelers, in part because they rely on the expertise, knowledge and connections of Virtuoso travel advisors. Full survey results appear below.
Spending time on the high seas emerged as a common theme. Taking a world cruise and sailing the Mediterranean by private yacht were the top two “Trips of a Lifetime,” while cruising was selected as the “Most Desired Travel Experience.” Australia, Italy, South Africa, New Zealand and Greece appear as the top five “Dream Destinations,” respectively, indicating a desire to venture farther from home. The Greek Isles also emerged as the “Top Island Escape,” especially with women, single travelers older than 50 years of age and travelers hailing from the southern U.S.
Former favorites such as the Galápagos Islands slipped from the “Trips of a Lifetime” category to make room for experiences like chartering a private jet. The Caribbean, a previous favorite in the “Dream Destinations” category, was replaced by newcomers like China and Ireland. The rising popularity of historical journeys and cultural experiences, both of which rank high as “Most Appealing Travel Experiences,” may account for the shift in destination preferences.
“Virtuoso clients are some of the most sought-after travelers because of their strong desire for authentic experiences and their propensity to vacation longer and more frequently, and spend more,” says Elaine Srnka, editorial director for VIRTUOSO LIFE. “How and where they want to travel is as vast and varied as the world itself. The ‘Travel Dreams’ results allowed us to determine distinct ‘Virtuoso Traveler’ profiles based on common likes and dislikes, which is the key to understanding the motivation behind selecting certain travel products and destinations.”
Virtuoso identified five individual traveler profiles. ‘Adventurers’ like communing with nature in destinations such as Kenya, but forego Western Europe and organized outdoor activities. ‘Beachgoers’ share a love of water, whether in Australia, French Polynesia or Italy, but avoid expedition cruises and group tours. While ‘Cruisers’ favor long vacations, their destinations vary based on age: the Mediterranean appeals to those under 35 years; Alaska for travelers 35-49 years; and world voyages for travelers over 50 years. ‘Culture Seekers’ aim to visit all seven continents and like to soak in their surroundings and the local language, but you will not find them beachside. ‘Families’ are drawn to beach resorts, national parks and European villas over theme parks. While the Hawaiian Islands are the clear family favorite, other desired destinations vary based on children’s ages: families with children under 17 years venture to the Caribbean, while families with children over 18 years opt for Italy.
Virtuoso identifies its readers as married (73 percent), female (61 percent) with children age 18 or older (47 percent). Sixty-two percent of readers are between the ages of 35 and 65, and 46 percent have household incomes in excess of U.S. $150,000. Sixty percent plan to take three or more short vacations this year (defined as four nights or less), while 63 percent will take an additional one-to-two longer vacations and 33 percent will take more than three longer vacations this year (defined as five nights or longer).
The "Travel Dreams" survey, conducted between January 1 and March 31, 2011, yielded nearly 14,000 responses.
Top Trips of a Lifetime:
1. Setting sail on a world cruise
2. Sailing the Mediterranean on a private yacht
3. Calling on all seven continents
4. Renting a European villa
5. Visiting all seven New Wonders of the World
6. Photographing the "Big five" on African Safari
7. Renting a private island
8. Blasting off on a Virgin Galactic flight
9. Chartering a private jet
10. Dining through Paris' best restaurants
Top 10 Dream Destinations:
3. South Africa
4. New Zealand
8. French Polynesia
Most Appealing Types of Travel Experiences
3. Historical Journeys
4. Cultural experiences
5. Adventure/Nature exploration
7. Romantic getaways
9. Family/multi-generational travel
The most alluring island escapes, according to the survey, are the Greek Isles, Hawaiian Islands, Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia, Bali, Fiji, the Caribbean, Bay of Islands (New Zealand), Seychelles and Capri.
The greatest outdoor adventures include an African safari, exploring a national park, expedition cruising, hiking/walking tours and whale-watching. The most ideal family destinations are the Hawaiian Islands, Italy, the Caribbean, Alaska, South Africa.
The most romantic cities are Paris, Venice, Santorini (Greece), Rome and Florence, The most desired enriching experiences are cooking schools, archaeological explorations, historical pilgrimages, photography instruction and foreign language.
Most Ideal Family Destinations are the Hawaiian Islands, Italy, the Caribbean, Alaska and South Africa.
Most Desired Enriching Experiences
1. Cooking School
2. Archaeological exploration
3. Historical pilgrimage
4. Historical pilgrimage
5. Foreign language immersion
Top Seagoing Cruise Itineraries
2. World cruise
3. Australia/New Zealand
5. South Pacific
The top river cruise itineraries are a French wine country canal cruise, a Danube River cruise, an Amazon River cruise, a Rhine River cruise and a Nile River cruise. The top seagoing cruise itineraries are the Mediterranean, world cruise, Australia/New Zealand, Alaska and South Pacific.
The most craved dining destinations are Paris, Rome, Florence, New Orleans and New York City. The most toasted wine regions are Tuscany, Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Champaign and the Loire Valley. For more information, visit
Photo: Seabourn Pride II