Travelers exploring the U.S. are seeking lesser-known spots near popular tourist destinations. Start thinking outside-the-box when booking your clients across the U.S. and seek out those charming towns and less-populated spots that offer plenty to explore.
We reached out to Noel Peterson, director of Bespoke USA, a luxury DMC to the U.S. who works with both local and foreign travelers, to discuss trending destinations and where you should be booking your clients, what they’re looking for, and what tips travel advisors can use when booking trips across the U.S.
Michelle Marie Arean (MMA): In your opinion, why do you think luxury travelers are seeking destinations beyond the popular travel cities?
Noel Peterson (NP): I think that most luxury travelers coming to the USA have already seen so many of popular travel cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, so they’re looking for destinations they haven’t yet seen or experienced. We’re finding that a lot of the trips we’re putting together that include these popular cities also include excursions to other destinations nearby. For instance, many trips we’ve put together this year for clients going to San Francisco also include excursions to Sausalito, Carmel and Monterey.
MMA: Where do you see travelers going to the most?
NP: We’ve seen a lot of clients this year wanting to go to Yellowstone and Yosemite. These destinations are very popular right now for international travelers coming to the USA. Another popular trip, which we’ve done numerous times this year for clients, has been San Francisco to Monterey to Carmel to Santa Barbara to Los Angeles.
MMA: What do you think attracts them here?
NP: People want to see the West Coast. It’s a beautiful travel experience.
MMA: What are luxury travelers looking for when traveling in the U.S.?
NP: Aside from a five-star experience that includes the top hotels, the best tour guides, the hottest restaurants and the best modes of transportation, luxury travelers are also looking for an experience that is tailored to their preferences. For instance, having their favorite bottle of wine waiting for them in their hotel room when they arrive, or sitting at the best table in a restaurant with an amazing view. Travelers are looking to work with a DMC that truly gets it and has a clear understanding of the high level of service they want to experience when coming to the USA that is similar to the level of service they receive when traveling to other parts of the world.
MMA: What types of experiences are they mostly booking?
NP: Private guided tours are very popular right now. Since a lot of trips we put together also include Broadway shows and concerts, we’ve had a lot of requests for meet-and-greets with the artists and casts of Broadway shows.
MMA: Is there any particular segment mostly heading to these destinations—such as multi-gen, couples, millennials, families, etc?
NP: Not necessarily. We’ve put together many trips this year so far for all types of groups.
MMA: What would you say are the hot destinations for 2019 and why?
NP: Travelers are wanting to see places they haven’t already traveled to and where a lot of new luxury hotels are popping up. Aside from the typical popular destinations like New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, other popular places this year for travelers have been Santa Fe, Orlando, Austin, Seattle, Wyoming, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Palm Springs, to name a few.
MMA: Which destinations do you see becoming the hot spot for 2020? Why?
NP: We think that cities like Chattanooga, TN, Greenville, SC, Oklahoma City, OK and Nashville, TN are emerging cities looking forward in the new year. Travelers can enjoy the small town feel of a city that has strongly invested in their art, culinary and cultural offerings—not to mention technology—Chattanooga in particular. Travelers are overwhelmed enough by the obvious huge cities in America—the usual suspects. But to find a gem that they have never thought of before, like Greenville, SC, is a new way to explore old roots. There is an aesthetic that cities are embracing and the ones that are most exciting to us are those that come into their own instead of trying to be the next New York or San Francisco. Travel is about discovery, and there are endless small towns that are discovering themselves so that visitors one day can too.
MMA: What tips or advice do you have for travel agents selling trips to the U.S.?
NP: Learn as much as you can about your client’s expectations and preferences, and work with a DMC who has the ability to incorporate these expectations and preferences into a trip proposal so that your client has a truly unique and extraordinary experience that has been designed specifically for them.