Week in Review: Hurricane Hilary, Maui Wildfires, Virtuoso Travel Week

Hurricane Hilary has strengthened into a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph. Parts of the Baja California peninsula have hurricane watches in effect, while others have tropical storm warnings or watches. The storm is expected to reach the southwest United States by early next week and could become the first tropical storm to make landfall in California since 1939.

United, American, JetBlue and Southwest have issued travel waivers for people who are traveling to, from or through Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) this weekend.

Elsewhere, according to the latest update from the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (August 16), travel outside of west Maui—including other portions of the island and all other Hawaiian islands—remain open and safe for visitors.

“In alignment with Governor [Josh] Green, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority urges visitors to refrain from going to West Maui (including Lāhainā, Nāpili, Kāʻanapali and Kapalua) as a means of respect to the people and places that have been lost in Lāhainā during this devastating tragedy,” it said.

The August 13 emergency proclamation remains in place, with all nonessential travel to West Maui being strongly discouraged through the month of August. The impacted area of Lāhainā remains off limits to the public as the search and recovery efforts continue.

Destinations in Maui that you can still visit include: Kahului, Wailuku, Kīhei, Wailea, Mākena, Pāʻia and Hāna.

Note: Hotels in west Maui have temporarily stopped accepting bookings and are housing employees and families, evacuees and first responders working on disaster recovery.

From Virtuoso Travel Week

At Virtuoso Travel Week, which took place this week in Las Vegas, the luxury travel agency network shared insight with attendees and media regarding top travel trends. Among them: global sales have surpassed those of 2022 for the same January-to-June timeframe by 37 percent and are up 56 percent over the “high-water mark” set in 2019. When only considering U.S.-based agencies, 2023's first half numbers top 2022 and 2019 by 36 and 69 percent, respectively. Looking forward, 2024-25 sales already up more than 107 percent over 2019 and 39 percent over 2022.

Seeing those numbers, it should be no surprise that 87 percent of Virtuoso agencies remain very optimistic about their own businesses and 79 percent are somewhat or extremely fulfilled (in regard to their work-life balance).

Stephanie Itule Accepting Sustainable Practice Award
Avenue Two Travel's chief commercial officer Stephanie Itule, flanked by Virtuoso's Jessica Hall Upchurch and Matthew D. Upchurch. (Photo by Avenue Two Travel)

The network also honored its top members and partners for their sustainability efforts at its “Under One Sky” lunch. Avenue Two Travel was honored with the Sustainable Practice Award, which goes to a member agency that intentionally integrates sustainability into its business practices and goals, while Primetour Viagens & Experiências in São Paulo, Brazil won the Sustainability Ambassador Award, which acknowledges a member agency that advocates for sustainability and vocally supports sustainable tourism in their words, actions and marketing.

Singita, Micato Safaris and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau won the three supplier awards for “Protecting the Planet,” “Supporting Local Economies” and “Celebrating Culture,” respectively.

In addition, travel agency Fora has unveiled the alpha release of its integrated booking platform. Advisors can now seamlessly research and book trips from their computer or on-the-go with their smartphone. On the booking platform, advisors can search by specific hotel or browse by destination, comparing preferred partner hotels in real-time, besides learning about Fora’s preferred rates and perks. The platform is connected to Fora’s Vault, a secure tool for payment card storage and collection.

Separately, Largay Travel debuted its “industry-first” content portal of pre-built, white-labeled content experiences that can be instantly co-branded and shared with its luxury traveler clients. Using Approach Guides’ solution to design multimedia content experiences that offer insights into destinations, on-location experiences and luxury travel tips, the tool allows advisors to create a custom message via artificial intelligence, which is automatically co-branded and ready to share via email, social or elsewhere—all with a single click.

River Cruise News

Amadeus Nova
Amadeus Nova will accommodate 158 passengers and will have a futuristic design. (Photo by Amadeus River Cruises)

AmaWaterways is accepting bookings for its 2025 river cruise itineraries.

A quick peak at what’s on tap: AmaWaterways will take guests along the Magdalena River in Colombia with the launch of the 60-passenger AmaMagadalena in November 2024; in June 2025, AmaMelodia will join its sister ship offering 32 twin-balcony staterooms. AmaSintra will join AmaDouro and AmaVida for journeys along the Douro River to discover Portugal, offering two seven-night itineraries. In 2025, AmaWaterways will launch “Imperial Danube,” a new seven-night itinerary sailing roundtrip from Budapest on the Danube River. It has also announced the return of its 14-night “Magnificent Europe” itinerary in 2025.

In South America, Aqua Expeditions has added four seven-night Amazonia departures in February 2024 on the 20-suite Aqua Nera due to popular demand. There are also options for three- and four-night sailings. While onboard, guests can enjoy cuisine curated by Peruvian chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet, a river-facing gym, outdoor plunge pool and more.

Lastly, Brand G Vacations, an operator of luxury all-LGBTQ+ cruises and land tours, will charter Amadeus River Cruises' upcoming Amadeus Nova for its annual summer Prague and Danube cruise in 2024. Debuting in spring 2024, the 158-passenger ship will offer hybrid and solar panel technology to power the vessel and will sport a futuristic design modeled after super yachts. Guests can expect a heated pool on the sundeck, as well as the new café for sweet treats and top deck bar.

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