Week in Review: Holiday and Wellness Travel Trends

Azamara’s incoming CEO, Dondra Ritzenthaler, is expected to bring a bit of razzle-dazzle to the cruise line, if you ask advisors. Appointed this month as Azamara’s new CEO and starting in May 2024, Ritzenthaler will likely ratchet up Azamara’s public persona; their hope is that she can both lead the already-strong Azamara team and enhance the brand's presence from the very top.

Many advisors love Ritzenthaler's talent, energy, enthusiasm and creativity. “Dondra will bring it all to life in a very big way,” said Dan Hanrahan, Azamara’s chair, noting that he can’t wait to see her take a good brand and ratchet it up even further to make it great. “There is no better person to put Azamara on the map."

Holiday Travel Approaches

This Thanksgiving was likely one of the busiest since 2000, according to recent AAA research. Looking forward, however, to the winter season and it appears Americans remain set on traveling.

Vacasa unveiled the findings of a survey that found nearly half of Americans are planning to travel for a vacation or getaway during the 2023 winter season—with 64 percent of these travelers planning on traveling more frequently than they did last winter.  Americans will be taking five trips throughout this winter, with quick weekend trips (71 percent) and long weekend trips (64 percent) being the most common. In terms of how the travelers are getting to their destinations, more than two-thirds are driving to their winter destination(s) (67 percent), with 51 percent planning on flying.

London in winter
London is the most popular European destination for holiday travel, according to Allianz Partners USA. (Photo by SHansche/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Where are Americans visiting? According to Allianz Partners USA, that would be Europe. The number of Americans heading to Europe for the holidays is up significantly compared to last year, according to new data from Allianz’s "2023 European Holiday Destination Index." The travel insurance and assistance company found that American travel to Europe this holiday season is up by 21 percent compared to 2022, and destinations such as Barcelona are seeing increases up to 61 percent. London and Paris, however, are the two most popular destinations.

When it comes to holiday travel, Upgraded Points looked at which airports and airlines and worst when it comes to delays. El Paso International Airport ranked worst for departure delays and Chicago Midway International Airport was worst for arrival delays. Among all U.S.-based airlines, Frontier had the highest percentage of delayed departures during holiday travel.

Lihue Airport in Kauai, HI, Charlotte Douglas Airport and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport were the three best-performing airports in terms of most on-time departures.

If you’re in New York City and looking for a way to enjoy some holiday festivities, sightseeing boat tour company Circle Line launches its annual “Holiday Harbor Lights Cruise” on December 4 (running through January 1). With the ship decked out in lights, garland, Christmas trees and ornaments, guests can enjoy a full New York City tour from the comfort of the indoor decks. Expect a menu of holiday drinks and the chance to decorate a mini holiday stocking.

Tip: Nearby, the 295-room Romer Hell’s Kitchen has just opened. Guests can expect to find items from local small business owners, artisans and entrepreneurs without brick-and-mortar stores at its Corner Store, while the Neighborhood Café serves breakfast and lunch daily through a series of rotating residences with local bakers and regional coffee roasters. In early 2024, Romer Hell’s Kitchen will open a speakeasy-inspired piano bar.

The Wellness Trend Continues

Terme Romane Palazzo Fiuggi
The Roman Therme is the Palazzo’s 7,535 square feet facility, which reproduces the experience of ancient Roman baths. (TysonSadlo / herdrepresented via Palazzo Fiuggi )

Wellness travel was gaining popularity before the pandemic and has since become even more popular among travelers. Our sister publication, Luxury Travel Advisor, is just back from Italy where it visited Palazzo Fiuggi, a completely renovated 1913 villa hotel, offering 65,000 square feet of spa and wellness facilities.

Just 40 minutes from Rome, lab coat-wearing technicians whisper their way through long halls lined with 39 treatment rooms and a dozen medical offices. All guests receive a consultation and, then, curated planning begins for their stay at the resort. Each program is all-inclusive, covering wellness regimens, personalized meals, consultations and assessments, and the hotel stay.

In Mexico, wellness brand SHA will be opening its second hotel outpost. Now accepting reservations, SHA Mexico in Costa Mujeres will open in January 2024 with 35 residences and 100 oceanfront rooms and suites. Guests can choose from four personalized health programs, which will mirror those in SHA’s Spanish outpost and range from four to 21 days. They will be led by professionals and experts in four areas of health and well-being: Rebalance & Reenergize, Detox & Optimal Weight, Well-Aging & Prevention and Leader’s Performance.

In addition, Shou Sugi Ban House in New York’s Hamptons, announced its partnership with Lydia Fenet, business leader, auctioneer and author of “The Most Powerful Woman in the Room Is You” and “Claim Your Confidence.” The destination wellness retreat and spa will host Fenet’s first annual inspirational retreat, taking place January 18-21, 2024. The four-day retreat will be a mix of intimate talks and interactive workshops ranging from a fast-paced networking auctioneering game, a workshop on building one’s personal brand, and a public speaking master class, as well as sessions on negotiations, embracing transition, scaling your skills, and one-on-one sessions with Fenet.

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