Misty Belles, Virtuoso – Managing Director, Global Public Relations

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INTERVIEW: Misty Belles, Virtuoso – how women are shaping luxury travel

Misty Belles, Virtuoso – Managing Director, Global Public Relations talks about how women (the decision-makers) are shaping luxury travel, what women’s needs are when travelling and how luxury hotels and resorts are responding.

MB: Women may make up about half the global population, but they account for 80 percent of the spend on travel. They make the travel decisions for their immediate families, determining when and where they go, for how long and how much they’re going to spend. They also have a large sphere of influence over friends and extended family members. 

Women’s needs vary depending on who their travel companions are … or aren’t. Women travelling with their families are looking for hotels and resorts that will cater to their children. Make their kids happy, and they will return again and again. 

I say this as someone with first-hand experience, as I prepare to make my fourth spring break trip to Acqualina Resort in Florida. My kids are superstars there, and the staff bend over backwards to make sure of it. I can relax with my husband, knowing our children are having a great time doing things that interest them, and then come back together as a family without the constant demands of life tugging at us. Plus, this resort, like many others, has ensured the accommodations are family-sized: villas, suites, connecting rooms. That’s a trend we’re seeing throughout the world – more villas and larger accommodations to handle families of all sizes, especially multi-generational stays.

Travelling solo is a different matter. More than 42 percent of Virtuoso travel advisors report seeing a rise in women-only travel. Europe seems to be the biggest draw, with the majority heading to Italy, France and Spain; however, Mexico, India and Australia are also appealing to women looking for someplace farther flung. Cultural excursions are the biggest draw for female travellers and as such, hotels that are close to attractions and that provide a strong sense of place are the most sought-after by this group. Hotels are stepping up, realizing that their spas may be a draw, but they’re not the sole attraction. They’re offering educational components, like shopping at local markets with the chef and then coming back to the hotel to prepare a traditional meal, or they’re providing tours that highlight hidden gems within the area. Travel is transformational and the best hotels are finding ways to provide those experiences that leave travellers changed for the better.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention security, especially for solo travel. Hotels, especially those in the luxury space, take safety very seriously and it’s one of the best reasons to stay in a hotel vs. a homestay. Hotels offer another level of assurance that someone is looking out for you. When I stayed by myself in Rome, the front desk knew and gave me the option of checking in my key as I left each day. That would help them know when I had returned. Some might find that intrusive; I found it reassuring. The reason they knew I was travelling alone is that my own travel advisor had alerted them. My advisor checked in with me throughout the stay, arranged female guides who matched my pace and personality, and generally made sure I felt like someone had my back (and my itinerary) as I explored a new destination.  

Hamilton Island