Exactly one year ago, I was writing about Omicron-related travel cancellations, so I’m going to lead this story with: a lot can happen in a year, and how glorious it feels to be writing about fun, frothy travel and flying from A to B without extra paperwork.
But the joy of luxury travel right now and into 2023 is intertwined with managing uncertainty. Even the Eiffel Tower now goes dark at 11:45 p.m. instead of 1:00 a.m. to save on energy this year. But it still shines brightly until then. All is not lost, and travel reminds us there is incredible beauty in the darkness, trips to plan and people to meet.
Many of us are what Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley calls trailblazers—those who are first out there and first in new destinations. In 2023, Melissa will introduce Insider Journeys to three countries she hasn’t yet visited—Tunisia, Guatemala and Senegal. “All are countries with rich histories, traditional craft cultures that still thrive and stunning natural beauty: volcanoes in Guatemala, desert in Tunisia and seaside in Senegal,” she says. “These trips will be for trailblazers who like getting off the beaten path and can handle some bumps while exploring.”
I also consider myself a trailblazer. But in order to feel excited about the new and unfamiliar, I must also return to places and hotels I love, like to Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como to hug owner extraordinaire Valentina de Santis—she opened showstopper Passalacqua on Lake Como this year.
One of the trends we are seeing is what’s old is new again; what’s classic feels fresh. I have planned new trips to visit almond farms in Sicily and the fjords of Norway; I will return to the Swiss Alps and the Cotswolds.
Where will you go and where will you return?
Melissa will be hosting many trips this year including inaugural Insider Journeys to Maastricht, Malta, Sicily and the Camino de Santiago, but she is also returning to Mexico and Morocco for trips in partnership with Architectural Digest, where they will go into amazing houses and meet local designers. In June, she’ll return to Zimbabwe where members of a sold-out Indagare Impact Journey will take part in the largest translocation of wild animals in Africa spearheaded by the Great Plains Conservation Foundation. The group will spend time with scientists as well as one of the first all-female ranger units in Africa.
Indagare representatives, including myself, just returned from the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) in Cannes, France, to meet with the world’s top hotels and destinations—and to stock up at French pharmacies.
At ILTM, hotel companies are always eager to announce new openings—and there are many we are excited about—but 2023 just may be about ultimately seeking out the simple pleasures.
“In a world where we’re surrounded by a glut of product that often sounds the same, it is about emotional connection and happy things that bring joy. Travel brings joy,” says Jules Perowne, owner of Perowne International, a PR firm headquartered in London. “Lost luxuries and simple pleasures, this is the zeitgeist. It’s about stripping it back.”
Travelers are also committed more than ever to sustainable travel and preserving the places we love. At Indagare, our tagline is How You Travel Matters and we have long focused on responsible travel and supporting cultural, community and environmental sustainability. We have big goals, but this year, in addition to committing one percent of total revenue to conservation efforts, we have offset 58 percent of the carbon footprint of our members’ travels. We are committed to more in 2023 as we get closer to our goal of being 100 percent carbon neutral in 2024.
Here’s what else we’re finding for 2023.
Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to start planning a future trip. Our team can match you with the accommodations and activities that are right for you around the world.
Last-minute trips have been the norm the last couple of years, but travelers are now booking travel much farther in advance, particularly for big-ticket trips. It’s a necessity to secure the best hotels and rooms, plus guides, drivers and tours.
Aside from the destinations below, Indagare is also seeing renewed interest in Egypt with the Grand Egyptian Museum (finally) opening in 2023, Chile, New Zealand and Bhutan, with the opening of the Trans Bhutan Trail, a 250-mile sacred hiking trail that reopened this year for the first time in 60 years.
As with Outlander filmed in Scotland and Frozen inspired by Norway; if you’re watching White Lotus season two, you might be experiencing the Sicily effect—Travel Weekly reported that U.S. Google searches for Sicily roughly doubled between late October and December. White Lotus premiered on October 30.
But Sicily doesn’t need a TV show to encourage visits. “The island has all of the things that people love about mainland Italy—great charm, history, art, food—plus some traditions of its own and dramatic seaside options,” Melissa reported after a recent visit. “It is great for people who love Italy but want to go deeper and off-the-beaten-path.”
White Lotus was filmed at San Domenico Palace in Taormina, which reopened as a Four Seasons Hotel in 2021. Sicily’s luxury hotel scene has improved in the last few years. We love the classic Belmond properties, Grand Hotel Timeo and Villa Sant’Andrea, as well as the newer Il San Corrado di Noto and Villa Igiea, a Rocco Forte Hotel. You could easily spend two weeks criss-crossing the island, visiting fish and produce markets, almond farms and wineries; exploring the long history of traditional salt making and the architecture of Palermo, Noto and Syracuse.
Related: Indagare’s Guide to Sicily
Costa Navarino, Peloponnese, Greece
When several Greek friends in London mentioned Costa Navarino as the place their friends in Athens go, I put it on my list to scout soon. This year, with the Mandarin Oriental, Costa Navarino opening in the spring, the destination is poised to welcome more international visitors. Costa Navarino is a 3.5-hour drive from Athens and located on the western side of the Peloponnese, a region well-known for its beaches and waterfalls (Polymnio as the most famous), archaeological sites like Ancient Olympia, where the games began, and small medieval towns. You can also fly into Kalamata airport, one of the best named airports in the world, if you love olives.
Related: Indagare’s Guide to Greece
London, Paris & Other European Cities
There has been a tremendous renewed interest in city destinations, especially in Europe. “Cities like London and Paris have been experiencing amazing occupancy and are able to charge high rates,” says Sarah Minges, Indagare’s Industry Partnerships Manager. “At our favorite Palace hotels like La Réserve and Hôtel Ritz Paris, rates can be $2,000-plus a night in December.”
These capitals are always evolving and in the midst of change—many want to see Paris before the Olympics madness of 2024 and to see London as it evolves post-Brexit and post-Queen Elizabeth. There is also a sense of wanting to stay much longer in these beloved cities to really immerse in the destination.
Travelers should be booking big city hotels far in advance–and also considering “second-tier” options like Lyon, France; Hamburg, Germany; Salzburg, Austria; Valletta, Malta; or Turin, Italy for an alternative experience.
With Japan’s recent reopening, “the demand for Japan is through the roof,” says Sarah Minges. “We are thrilled to hear business is coming back for some of our favorite properties like Aman Tokyo and the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto.”
Indagare’s Grace Park traveled to Japan just as it reopened two months ago and reported that service standards are incredibly high—the market held up well during COVID because of domestic visitors, and the top properties took time to train staff before the border reopening. The 2023 cherry blossom (sakura) season has extremely limited availability, so if you haven’t booked yet, plan on traveling later in the year. Travelers no longer have to be accompanied, and while there is no legal mask requirement, most are still wearing them for now.
Looking ahead, one of our favorite ryokans, Gora Kadan, is building a second property near Mount Fuji to open in 2024; their property in Kyoto is set to open in 2026.
Related: Indagare’s Guide to Japan
Anywhere in Africa
“Unlike many other tourism-reliant countries whose hospitality businesses received government assistance during the pandemic, those in Africa did not, with devastating consequences for many,” says Melissa.
“However, for those of us who were lucky enough to travel to Africa in 2020 and 2021 and to support their tourism recovery, we discovered not only the supreme beauty of its areas with lower tourism numbers than ever—from Morocco and Egypt to Rwanda—but one of the silver linings was a growth in domestic travelers, which meant that we were on game drives or gorilla treks with locals who were seeing these parts of their countries for the first time, which enriched the experience. I will always love going on safari for the beauty of the wilderness and the multiplicity of experiences available now from cultural deep dives, impact trips with a focus on community engagement to elephant- or lion-focused safaris allows us to really tailor experiences.”
To that end, Indagare is launching Indagare Safaris in 2023, dedicated to perfecting our members’ safari experience from the initial itinerary match-making to suggesting the ultimate legacy and purpose of the trip. Rose Allen, Indagare’s Senior Director of Travel Product, African Safaris, says that while many visited during the pandemic, many more are set on returning next year, so it’s important to plan as soon as possible.
For first-timers, she says South Africa is ideal to combine safari with an amazing city experience in Cape Town and a few nights in the Winelands an hour away. But “for more tenured safari-goers, consider Botswana for one of the newer, most pampering safari lodges in the delta, Xigera,” Rose says. “Or Zimbabwe, where we’d suggest a combination of East African-like plains landscape and prolific wildlife in Hwange National Park, a walking safari in the Mana Pools region and a stay at Singita Pamushana for an unforgettable bush finale. You can easily incorporate [the magnificent] UNESCO World Heritage Site of Victoria Falls here, too.” For conservation enthusiasts, she recommends a stay at Tembo Plains, where the Great Plains Foundation will help move 3,000 animals to the Sapi Reserve, one of history’s largest wildlife relocations. (This is part of the sold-out Insider Impact Journey that Melissa will host.)
Melissa’s book, Safari Style: Exceptional African Camps and Lodges, is also a great resource for dreaming and planning. Start your Indagare Africa journey here.
Related: Just Back from: A Safari with Impact in Zimbabwe
Indagare COO Eliza Scott Harris just returned from a trip to White Desert Camp, an expedition camp started in 2005 by polar explorers Patrick and Robyn Woodhead. There are many cruises around the peninsula, but this is the only way to experience the interior of the continent. White Desert just launched its third camp, Echo, which has a futuristic vibe, with six guest pods with picture windows.
“Being away from civilization for a week was spirit cleansing,” Eliza wrote after her trip. “Antarctica demands everything you have physically, mentally and spiritually. In return, you have access to a holy place that few have gone or will ever go to, a beauty and grandeur that are unsurpassed, a deeper understanding of yourself and your place in the world, and moment after moment, sight after sight that will be with you forever. Adventure is inadequate to describe it. It’s also incredibly fun and we laughed pretty much all day.”
There are more ways than ever before to experience the White Continent, and Indagare staffers have been there. We have in-house expertise on everything from crossing the Drake’s Passage by expedition ship (Melissa just led our first Insider Journey on Quark); luxury ship (Trip Designer Caroline Hansen was on the inaugural sailing of Silver Endeavour from Silversea); flying from South America to meet a ship; and flying to the interior to camp, as Eliza just did. Like any true adventure, it requires a lot of preparation and matchmaking, so you’ll want to work with expert advisors.
Related: Just Back From Antarctica with White Desert Camp
SEISMIC SERVICE SHIFT
“The places that can retain people are the places that value them as human beings.”
Across all destinations, ensuring seamless, intuitive service has been a struggle for hotels and restaurants around the world. But Shannon Knapp, CEO at Leading Hotels of the World explains that this trend was exacerbated by COVID, not caused by COVID. There has been an aging of the hospitality worker, accelerated by people leaving the industry during the pandemic and younger workers prioritizing a work/life balance.
In a conversation with Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley on the Passport to Everywhere podcast, Shannon talks about needing to make a career in hospitality more attractive to younger workers, and the need for more flexibility. “We have to challenge ourselves to think differently about attracting and retaining talent to this beautiful, amazing, spectacular industry of ours,” she said. “The luxury segment especially is 100 percent reliant on the individuals who work in the hotels. The hotel is the body, but the people are the heart and soul of the experience.”
When you’re greeted at a hotel, “you want to be greeted with genuine warmth and happiness,” said Melissa. “It’s hard to do that if you hate your job. The places that can retain people are the places that value them as human beings.”
One real-life example of great leadership in retaining staff? Hotel Santa Caterina—and owner Crescenzo Gambardella—on the Amalfi Coast retained more than 90 percent of its staff over the course of the pandemic.
THE CLASSICS FEELS FRESH
Travel expert Michaela Guzy says it’s about what’s old is new again this year. “It’s all about vintage and bringing things back–clothes, cocktails, cars and hotels. I love vintage shopping in places like India, France and Scotland, I buy locally handwoven textiles in Guatemala, I indulge in traditional Mayan well-being practices, I love old-school cocktails with a modern twist like the Negroni Anfora at the American Bar at the The Stafford in London,” she says. And this is a trend that many hotels are appealing to with retro touches, including vinyl collections like those at Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin; antique cars at places like the Peninsula in Paris and Cala di Volpe in Sardinia and back-in-time jazz clubs such as those at The Ned NoMad and Aman New York.
At The Place in Florence, general manager Claudio Meli has spearheaded the launch of a program called The Place of Wonders, experiences to give guests access to forgotten gems around Florence and to learn about Florentine craftsmanship—think pottery, hand-weaving, fine cashmere. Through this program, the hotel helps raise funds for young Italians to help preserve the artisan culture—they have already given out three scholarships. What’s old is new again—heritage craftsmanship learned by the next generation.
Related: Hotel News & Notes: Indagare Members Return to Europe
SUITES AND VILLAS ARE UP
“The luxury traveler is continuing to trade up,” says Shannon Knapp, CEO of Leading Hotels of the World. At more than 400 of the group’s hotels, suite and villa bookings are 36 percent above where they were in 2019. “This started during the pandemic with a desire for space and privacy, but we’re seeing that trading up to villas and suites continues, despite negative macroeconomic headwinds.” The average daily rate for a hotel room across the Leading Hotels portfolio is 40 percent above 2019, as well.
In the end, “luxury hoteliers are not worried that an economic recession will affect the top luxury travel segment,” says Indagare’s Sarah Minges.
For additional villa options, at Indagare, we have seen members purchase third and fourth houses during the pandemic, and now have access to a special rental portfolio of these private houses that are not available anywhere else. Our trip designers can share these options directly with qualified renters.
Related: Our Favorite U.S. Hotels with Private Cottages or Villas and What to Know Before Renting a Villa (And How to Avoid a Travel Nightmare)
TOGETHERNESS = WELLNESS
Born out of online fatigue and forced isolation, top hotels and spas have recognized a need for togetherness and in-person community and are prioritizing connection in beautiful places as the path to better mental health and wellness.
“Participating in a wellness program is wonderful, but when you do it together with like-minded people, magic happens on a different level,” says Anna Bjurstam, Wellness Pioneer at Six Senses, which puts on festivals for guests including Harvest Kaplankaya at Six Senses Kaplankaya in Bodrum, Turkey and the Alma Festival at Six Senses Ibiza.
“We are living in a loneliness epidemic, and retreats, festivals, and other community-based events offer invitations to belong, connect, participate in something greater than oneself, and be part of a tribe,” she says. “What’s more, you often meet friends for life.”
Indagare has seen proof of this craving for connection through unprecedented demand for Insider Journeys this year and into 2023, with more journeys already sold out than ever before.
Other trends focus on the latest science for healthy aging and fitness. I personally love the move away from “anti-aging” to phrases like “aging gently” and “better aging.” I’m pro-aging, but anti- feeling and yes (partly), looking like I’m aging.
Lily of the Valley, a wellness hotel in France specializes in weight loss with its Shape Club, but talks about how to “love losing weight” instead of making it feel painful and restrictive; Marbella Club in Spain is offering bespoke retreats focusing on a number of issues from exhaustion and anxiety to fitness and nutrition; Le Sirenuse in Positano has launched challenging hiking retreats through the steep hills of the Amalfi Coast. Newer to the wellness scene, Palazzo Fiuggi outside of Rome offers a slate of programs, including one on “Aging Naturally,” which prioritizes care during menopause.
Every January, Melissa Biggs Bradley hosts Indagare members in Sedona at Mii Amo, one of our favorite destination spas. This year, the sold-out trip will visit the spa after it unveils a complete renovation.
Related: Best Wellness Retreats in the World
NO MORE SHOULDER SEASONS
All over the world but especially in Europe’s most popular places, “shoulder seasons are no longer shoulder,” says Sasha Feldman, Bookings Director at Indagare.
On a recent trip to Milan in November, I couldn’t get into its most famous department store La Rinascente without feeling crushed; Rome in October was the same story (Read Simone Girner’s favorite finds from a recent trip to Rome.). But walking for miles in November felt a lot better than at peak summer heat, and many travelers agree.
Hotels that would have typically closed earlier are remaining open to meet consumer demand, says Chris Walker, SVP and chief commercial officer at Leading Hotels of the World. “Places are running full through November, when they are usually closed by the end of September. You have to get creative around how to talk about the different seasons—the beauty of a fall hike or if it’s rainy, head to the amazing hotel spa.”
Two of Lake Como’s best hotels will stay open until January 3: the aforementioned Passalacqua, one of this year’s most celebrated openings, and the classic Villa d’Este. Travelers can experience the festive season in the town of Como, and retreat back to their luxury cocoon at Passalacqua, just 10 minutes away. And after a short closure, Passalacqua will reopen on March 10, 2023.
Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to start planning a future trip. Our team can match you with the accommodations and activities that are right for you around the world.