Wellness, Wining and Dining Leading Motivators for Travel: Virtuoso

Regardless of where people are traveling, it’s all about the experiences. According to research shared at the recent Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas, travelers are seeking out activities that require more mental and physical exertion, while another swath of high-net-worth travelers are doing so for cultural reasons.

It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that food and wine as well as wellness are primary motivators for travel.

Seven in 10 Virtuoso advisors have seen an increase in culinary travel by their clients, with one-fifth of clients booking trips with food and wine specifically as the focus. Even better: They are willing to pay for it. Nearly half of these clients (47 percent) spend between $10,000 and $25,000 per trip. (Thirty-five percent spend $5,000 to $10,000 and 15 percent spend between $25,000 and $50,000 per trip.)

Most of these travelers are couples (87 percent) but can also be groups of friends (57 percent) or small groups (37 percent). Older generations are more likely to favor these types of trips, with 70 percent of Baby Boomers rating food and wine travel highly, followed by 64 percent of Gen Xers. Millennials, at 46 percent, and Gen Z, at 17 percent, trailed.

Interestingly, however, the most popular culinary experience is visiting a brewery or distillery (88 percent). Other top picks include trying street food, culinary-themed tours and celebrations with family and friends. Hyper-local dining (“Not just farm-to-table, but neighborhood-to-table,” says Misty Belles, vice president, global public relations, Virtuoso) is an emerging culinary experience, which ties into travelers’ desires for authenticity and cultural immersion. Michelin-starred dining, for contrast, was only a motivator for 38 percent of people.

The top destinations for food and wine travel, Virtuoso reports, are Italy, France and Mexico. Both ocean and river cruising were also listed among the top places to dine (ranking No. 2 overall). “That just highlights how the cruise lines have really stepped up their culinary game with consulting chefs, new restaurants and making [culinary experiences] a central focal point,” adds Belles.

On the wellness front, it’s still very important for travelers. Nearly all (94 percent) of Virtuoso clients are incorporating wellness or self-care into their travels. And, like those interested in food and wine travel, clients are willing to pay for it. Forty-seven percent and 44 percent, respectively, are willing to pay between $5,000 to $10,000 and $10,000 to $25,000 per wellness trip.

Most often, these are couples (65 percent) but are also often solo travelers (59 percent) or small groups of friends (56 percent). Gen Xers (66 percent) and Baby Boomers (63 percent), perhaps surprisingly lead the charge, with Millennials (47 percent) and Gen Z (9 percent) following.

Nearly all wellness travelers (97 percent) want to separate from the daily stresses of life but many are still looking for traditional spa treatments (81 percent), outdoor or nature-focuses retreats (63 percent) or yoga and fitness retreats (56 percent). Experiences growing in popularity include creative and performance art, sleep programs and sustainable wellness, according to Virtuoso.

The top wellness destinations include Mexico, the U.S. and Europe, but Thailand, Bali, Fiji, Iceland and select African wellness safaris are emerging destinations.

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