The World’s 25 Best Travel Experiences: New Ratings Just Announced – Forbes

Palazzo Avino

The “Sea of Love” private dinner at the famed Palazzo Avino resort on Italy’s Amalfi Coast was one of the winners in the just announced World’s Top 25 Travel Experiences.

What did you have for lunch today?

If you were staying at Minaret Station, a luxury New Zealand lodge so remote you can only get to it by helicopter, your lunch might have begun with helicopter flightseeing over jaw dropping fjords before landing on a private beach. Then your hosts would head off into the surf and return with hand caught lobsters while you watched and sipped champagne. Then you’d load everything up and fly over some glaciers to a stunning alpine plateau for a picnic campfire feast of lobster and the nation’s famous lamb, washed down with the best Kiwi wines.

As lunches go, it’s pretty epic. That’s why it was just named one of the world’s 25 best travel experiences.

“Everyone we deal with has anything that money can buy. But, what they crave from all of us in the luxury travel business is incredible travel experiences and to make the most out of their time,” said Chad Clark, one of the nation’s leading luxury travel advisors. “You have the Forbes Travel Guide for hotel star ratings and Michelin for restaurants and Golf Magazine for the Top 100 courses, but there is nothing like that for experiences and that’s what everyone is looking for today. The Certified 25 is the first of its kind in the travel industry, and this initiative will consist of an annual list of the 25 best travel experiences to be had throughout the world.”

Nomadic Expeditions

How about a front row seat to the Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia with Nomadic Expeditions, another Top 25 Winner?

For the past several years “experiential travel” has been the big buzzword in the industry, with interest in cooking classes supplanting spa treatments and cycling or hiking trips pushing out the notion of lazing on the beach. Increasingly travelers want to actually do, see, or learn something, not just rest and relax on vacation, and those in the business often call this “making memories.” That’s why sectors of travel such as wildlife safaris, arctic cruises, active travel, and trips with learning components from cooking to photography to surfing have all been growing fast.

This trend has especially manifest itself in the higher end of the travel market, in large part because the world is now glutted with luxury hotels and resorts, and picking a place with great rooms and service is no longer enough. I wrote previously about this phenomenon and how best in class hotels like the Four Seasons George V in Paris and the Four Seasons Florence have rolled out all kinds of VIP or insider special experiences, from sunset cocktails on a one-of-a-kind private balcony atop the Ponte Vecchio bridge to concierge guided morning jogs past the Eiffel Tower, to differentiate themselves from their growing luxury competition. Peninsula does this through its global “Peninsula Academy” series of language, art and local experience classes, while Thailand based luxury brand Anantara was the first to brand a chainwide cooking school program, the way other hotel companies have done with gyms.

But despite all this growth and interest, it is really hard for the luxury traveler to find these best in class experiences – there is no 5-star scale for helicopter/lobster catching lunches. Most tours and activities are covered only by crowdsourced voting on sites like TripAdvisor, which can be very valuable, but skew downscale and are especially weak when experiences are specific to a particular hotel or resort – like Minaret Station – rather than a third-party tour company.

That’s why today’s big announcement at the annual Virtuoso Travel Symposium in Las Vegas is so notable. Virtuoso is the world’s leading consortium of luxury and specialist travel advisors (aka travel agents), who pool resources and use their combined clout to get special perks and access for clients. I recently wrote here at Forbes about how travelers can use Virtuoso’s hotel site to book rooms at the same prices as competing travel sites but get the special extra “Virtuoso amenities” they have negotiated, which always include things like free breakfast, late check out and room upgrades at many of the world’s finest 5-star hotels (Free breakfast for two at the Peninsula Hong Kong or one delivered by outrigger canoe to your overwater bungalow at the Four Seasons Bora Bora is not like the included breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express, and if you book your stay through a different site you might be throwing away hundreds of dollars, so read more here).

The World’s 25 Best Travel Experiences: New Ratings Just Announced – Forbes