Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Takeaways and Photos from our 4th WOW Travel Summit

by Brook Wilkinson | December 19, 2023

Our mission is to keep raising the bar on travel experiences, so that WOW trips just keep getting better.  One way we do this is by gathering together every few years with the Trusted Travel Experts on The WOW List for brainstorming, problem solving, and innovating. That’s what our WOW Travel Summits are all about.

Our 4th WOW Travel Summit happened earlier this month, when Wendy, Kristine, Florie, Hannah, and I gathered with our WOW Listers in Oslo, Norway. These experts carved out time in their busy calendars and flew to our chilly but beautiful Summit headquarters, the Scandic Holmenkollen Park hotel, from as far away as Thailand, New Zealand, and Mauritius.

The sunset outside the summit conference room.

During a Summit break, WOW Listers captured the sunset outside the Scandic Holmenkollen Park hotel.

The unique brain trust in our meeting room combined expertise in travel across all seven continents with a collective mission to continue making WOW trips more and more wow—“pushing the limits of extraordinary,” in Wendy’s words.

This year’s Summit was a particularly special one, as our last gathering took place just on the cusp of Covid, in January 2020. The trip planners in the room this time around were the ones who had survived—and thrived—in spite of a worldwide pandemic, the subsequent head-spinning return to travel, and the inflation and conflicts that have since affected many parts of the globe. So there was time for celebration, from our opening-night cocktail party to toasts of aquavit after a festive dinner of reindeer with beets and root vegetables—and even a lucky glimpse of the northern lights, a rarity in Oslo.

Jennifer Virgilio, Wendy Perrin, and Maria Landers at Summit cocktail party.
Wendy with WOW Listers Jennifer Virgilio and Maria Gabriella Landers.
Florie Korani, Brook Wilkinson, and Sarah Farag at Summit cocktail party.
Florie, Brook, and WOW Lister Sarah Farag.
Zach Rabinor, Irene Edwards, and Rachael Wilson before dinner.
WOW Listers Zach Rabinor, Irene Edwards, and Rachael Wilson.
Stuart Rigg, Cherri Briggs, Sarah Farag, and Stefano Sancassani
WOW Listers Stuart Rigg, Cherri Briggs, and Sarah Farag, and WOW List deputy Stefano Sancassani.
Sheri Doyle, Greg Tepper, Gwen Kozlowski, and Melissa Ladvala before dinner.
WOW Listers Sheri Doyle, Greg Tepper, and Gwen Kozlowski, and WOW List candidate Melissa Ladvala.
A table shot at dinner.
Talking travel over dinner at the Scandic Holmenkollen Park hotel.
Reindeer and root vegetables for dinner.
The main course—reindeer with roasted root vegetables.
Wendy is served a Scandinavian specialty, aquavit.
Jennifer Virgilio and her team at dinner.
Jennifer Virgilio and her team of deputies have helped many of you design trips to Italy, France, and England.
Northern Lights glimpsed from outside the hotel.
A rare sighting of the northern lights over Oslo.

 

During the Summit, the WendyPerrin.com team shared recent trends we’ve discerned from the trip requests we receive every day. A sampling:

  • New Zealand and Australia are the top two countries so far for 2024 trips, followed by Egypt. Morocco also made the top 10, showing that our savvy travelers trust our network of local fixers to keep them safe amid disasters both natural and human-made.
  • October, June, and May are our travelers’ favorite months to travel. They wisely opt for “shoulder-season” periods over the peak pricing and crowds of summer.
  • More and more, our travelers are seeking out active experiences that help them engage directly with locals. They often travel to celebrate a milestone, such as a special birthday or anniversary, or a high-school or college graduation.
Daniel Fraser at the WOW Travel Summit
WOW Lister Dan Fraser.
Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui at the WOW Travel Summit.
WOW Lister Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui.
Irene Edwards, Patricia Johnson, and Allie Almario at the WOW Travel Summit.
WOW Listers Irene Edwards, Patricia Johnson, and Allie Almario.
Goncalo Correia at the WOW Travel Summit
WOW Lister Gonçalo Correia.
Torunn Tronsvang at the WOW Travel Summit.
WOW Lister Torunn Tronsvang.

 

As a number of Trusted Travel Experts shared how they’ve continued to raise the bar for WOW trips, a theme crystallized: While A.I. and other technology can streamline certain simple tasks, nothing will replace the human touch essential to designing one-of-a-kind, custom-tailored trips:

  • Ecuador and Galapagos specialist Allie Almario talked about how the little details of a traveler’s hobbies and personal taste—a love of yellow roses, say—that she picks up during her first conversation with them spark inspiration when she’s crafting WOW Moments.
  • Morocco specialist Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui described how he empowers local guides to pivot, problem-solve, and enhance travel experiences on the spot.
  • Southeast Asia specialist Daniel Fraser has built connections with remote temples and schools that now host his travelers for memorable, off-the-beaten-path meals beside monks and students.
  • Sri Lanka specialist Miguel Cunat logged many miles on foot as he personally developed a new multi-day walking trail across the country, bringing new opportunities to underserved rural communities.
  • Portugal specialist Gonçalo Correia explained how he’s managed to buck the trend of rising prices in southern Europe by constantly uncovering new, more affordable hotels, unusual local guides, and off-limits-to-the-public experiences that deliver top value.
The explorer Børge Ousland

Polar explorer Børge Ousland described his latest adventure: creating a travel destination in the middle of nowhere.

World-renowned explorer Børge Ousland regaled the group with stories of his impressive exploits: He’s the first person to have completed solo, unsupported journeys across Antarctica and to the North Pole, but his latest achievement is thoughtfully designing and building (sometimes as a one-man construction crew) Manshausen, a remarkable resort on a remote private island in northern Norway, with glass-fronted cabins that let in sweeping views of the sea—and sometimes the northern lights.

Kevin Roberts from Cranky Concierge

Kevin Roberts from Cranky Concierge talked airline trends for 2024.

Kevin Roberts, from flight-booking service Cranky Concierge, joined us to share a host of new routes; you’ll find these new nonstops to smaller European cities, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia in Nonstop Flights to Make Your Travels Easier.  He also shared his perspective on when to book flights—the upside in holding out for a lower price is usually smaller than the potential downside of higher fares and fewer seats—and a strategy to fend off the inevitable airline delays and cancellations these days: Get as close to your destination as you can, as quickly as you can. In other words, if you’re flying to Poland and have to connect somewhere, do it in Europe rather than in the U.S.

We are deeply grateful to WOW Lister Torunn Tronsvang, who tirelessly worked her connections in Norway to make this Summit happen. I lost count of the number of WOW List trip-planning experts who told me how energized they were by the knowledge shared at the Summit, and how many new ideas they’d be bringing back to their offices. Here’s to even more extraordinary trips in 2024 and beyond!

The wendyperrin.com team at the Christmas Market in Oslo.

After the Summit, the WendyPerrin.com team unwound at Oslo’s Christmas market.

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