- Summer travel can be done on a budget, but for the world’s wealthiest people, no expense is spared.
- Top travel agents shared the hottest spots they’re seeing this year, from Paros to the Côte d’Azur.
- Luxurious trips to the destinations on yachts or in secluded villas can cost up to $290,000 a week.
If you want to know where the richest 1% is traveling this summer, forget Instagram — they’re too smart to tag freely and give away their go-to getaways (well, not until they’ve gotten home, at least). Instead, look to the elite group of agents who help wrangle those jaunts and cater to the wealthiest, most demanding vacationers.
Jules Maury, who runs Scott Dunn Private, the firm within global travel agency Scott Dunn, is available to clients willing to spend at least $100,000 with her every year — but most spend far more.
John Clifford in San Diego runs International Travel Management and has expertise with LGBTQ+ travel. His client base spends around 10,000 euros a day, or about $11,180, on the trip’s basics, before bolting on private experiences — such as a tour of the Vatican without crowds — that cost between 10,000 euros and 15,000 euros each.
Edward Granville runs Red Savannah, a London firm that works with wealthy travelers worldwide. The average trip he books costs around £35,000, or about $45,000, though many cost more than double that amount, and he’s regularly booking million-dollar jaunts.
Insider asked these travel professionals to share the secrets of where and how the richest 1% are vacationing in summer 2023.
The newest trend is ‘surf-and-turf travel’
Boat sales boomed earlier in the pandemic, and wealthy people’s love for chartering sailboats hasn’t ebbed in COVID-19’s wake.
“We’re doing so many more yachts than we did before the pandemic, and they’re bigger and better as well — the budget has changed from, perhaps, $25,000 per week to up to $90,000,” Granville told Insider, citing the new Galapagos-based Aqua Mare as a prime example.
Guests aren’t seeking flashy, oligarch-style superyachts but comfy sailing vessels that come well furnished, filled with space, and packed with sundecks, aqua foils, and other water toys.
Maury agreed. Call it “surf-and-turf travel”: Many of her clients now often tack on a week aboard a sleek vessel after seven days at a luxury hotel on land, or vice versa.
“I’ve just spent £140,000 on a yacht with six suites — they want to go and stay on a Greek island, then do something totally bespoke at the end,” she said. “It’s the element of getting away from people: having amazing accommodation and food, every toy you’d want, and you don’t have to share it with anyone.”
Clifford said he’s regularly booking charters this summer in Europe for 75,000 euros a day.
“Clients just want to do the whole thing,” he said of the Mediterranean voyages he’d organized. “We do an extended itinerary and have everything preplanned.”
The much-repeated 1% mantra is wanting to get away during a getaway
The ultrawealthy’s urge to get away is twofold: Firstly, they’re keen to escape everyday life, like any vacationer. Second, they want to escape holidaymaking hoi polloi. Private islands and hotel buyouts have become the default decision for the summer as a result.
Properties such as the brand-new Le Grand Jardin, a villa on its own private island just off the Cannes coast on the Côte d’Azur in France, which rents for around $290,000 a week, are in high demand, Granville said.
“It has cachet because it’s new to the market and it’s on its own island, but you really have an entire hotel to yourself, and you’re not on the mainland surrounded by other people’s villas and traffic,” he said.
Rather, should you wish to spend an evening dancing at a beach club until dawn, you can take the island’s speedboat over for a quick visit.
“There’s a one-upmanship to it, looking back at all the mess but diving into it whenever you like. That’s probably what really gives it that X factor,” Granville said.
Maury said the words “avoid the crowds” were coming up more and more. She’s seen a rise in clients seeking camp buyouts in Africa, where a single group of travelers opts to rent every room in a hotel, effectively turning it into their own private property for the duration of the stay.
“We’ve got seven 1 percenters in Botswana this summer and another three in Namibia, and every booking is over £150,000,” she said, adding that three of these bookings were at the new 12-room high-design lodge Xigera in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
Botswana is a favorite, she added, because the camps are smaller than in somewhere like Kenya, making buyouts more viable, and the bush teems with life.
“At Mombo, you’re blown away — turn the corner, and there are 15 leopards, 15 cheetahs, 300 elephants. In Botswana, you pay for the game,” Maury said.
The ultimate secluded vacation, though, is renting a property that isn’t even publicly available, Granville said. Take one property in Porto Heli in Greece, which is more like its own village: a seven-house complex complete with taverna and a town square. It costs $185,000 to rent for one week from the shipping magnate who built it for himself.
“He doesn’t want it advertised or promoted,” Granville said, adding that it’s not listed on the firm’s website. “You have to be slightly vetted to even be accepted to book it,” he said.
Greece stands out as a clear favorite for 2023
The Med remains a superrich playground for summer. One country, though, is outpacing its rivals for bookings with these agents: Greece.
“If I had to put Italy, Spain, Greece, and France in a league table this year, Greece would be winning — Italy has forever been No. 1, but it’s probably No. 2 now,” Granville said.
Greek travel remains island-centric, but he said that longtime mainstays, especially Mykonos, had fallen from favor, displaced by a set of up-and-comers.
Granville listed Paros as the most mentioned new destination.
“In the last year or so, when people say they want to go to Greece, it’s Paros they mention. Everyone knows Mykonos is full and a rip-off, but Paros is back to a Greece that existed before it got taken over by the party animals and beach clubs,” Granville said.
It’s a startling makeover for Paros, which, in recent years, effectively acted as a stopover for ferries sailing from Athens to other islands.
Hotels such as Cosme, Parilio, and the Nobu-endorsed Avant Mar, which debuted this summer, have upgraded the accommodation options to be worthy of the richest people — another obstacle it long faced.
Maury said she’s seeing the same interest in her clients.
“Nobody really wants to go to Mykonos,” she said, adding that she’d been working on a sailing itinerary that hit Paros and Milos instead. “People want to go to uninhabited beaches, somewhere off the grid, and the only way you can do that is by yacht,” she said.
The ‘White Lotus’ effect has caused a backlash among travel’s elite
Don’t count Italy out, entirely, though: Maury, for example, was juggling 11 simultaneous bookings in early June, all of them on the Amalfi Coast and costing at least £100,000 each.
Clifford called his bookings to Rome “balls-to-the-wall crazy,” driven mostly by the opening of a slew of attractive five-star hotels, including the new Bulgari, a homecoming for the Rome-born jewelry brand, and Six Senses Rome, which imports the brand’s signature spa-driven hospitality to the center of the old city.
One place that the superrich are likely to skip, though? Sicily. That island is experiencing a tourism boom, driven in huge part by the latest season of the megahit “The White Lotus” — not just the Four Seasons-operated San Domenico Palace, where the show was based, but also the entire island. For that very reason, its appeal to the true upscale traveler is tarnished, Clifford said.
“The Four Seasons is happy as a clam, as they’re now booked all through next year,” he said. “But for real luxury travelers, especially the top 1% — they don’t want to be stuck anywhere with selfie-snapping children.”