Mississippi executives love renting villas in Italy.
“That’s definitely the hot spot this summer,” said Vickie Greenlee, president of For Travelers Only in Jackson. “We’ve got three doctors and their wives going back to Catona to stay in a marvelous chateau. I’d love to spend a few weeks there myself. That’s my big fantasy wish.”
A three-bedroom villa in Tuscany with a swimming pool and staff could easily cost $10,000 for a week’s worth of luxury. Add another $1,000 or more for airfare during the summer months.
“Some executives stay at inexpensive three-star hotels, which are nearly as nice as some five-star hotels that cost up to $800 a night,” said Greenlee. “We’ve sent a few people to Venice for $1,000 a night.”
Becky Arrington, corporate travel agent for Carlson Wagonlit in Madison, recently helped a group of 15 book an exotic retreat that will begin by flying to Tortola, the sailing center of the Caribbean’s favorite cruising grounds. For $2,000 to $3,000 per person, they’ll sail the Virgin Islands on a fully stocked yacht for a week. They’ll spend roughly $1,000 each on plane tickets.
“They could’ve gotten a whole crew of people to sail the boat, but this group plans to sail the boat themselves,” said Arrington.
Curtiss Brown, president of Avanti Travel in Jackson, said cruising overseas is all the rage for people with unlimited funds.
“I’m working on an 11-day trip from Copenhagen that stops in Poland, cruises the Baltic Sea for a day, and spends time in St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm,” she said. “We’ve also done a lot of Mediterranean cruises and Greek Island cruises, but most of them are using ships in Europe and that area. If you want a butler and other services, these cruises could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 for a penthouse.”
Executives curious about South America are touring it via cruise ships. “It’s really funny, people are getting adventuresome, but they don’t want to stay in the places that much,” said Brown. “I don’t know why.”
Greenlee has booked a couple of top executives on the Queen Mary II in one of the ship’s most luxurious suites. “Of course, you don’t have to report to call, it’s strictly relaxation where you’re treated like a king and queen,” she said. “The service on the ship is just incredible, particularly if you’re up in the top category.”
Group trips — extended families, neighbors, couples or single folks — remain a big-ticket item, said Arrington. “We’ve got a group of four or five families leaving Saturday to go skiing,” she said. “They’ll rent a condo and be up there most of the week. That’s pretty common.”
Not long ago, a construction company owner treated his top lieutenants to a deep sea fishing trip to Costa Rica, where they not only went deep sea fishing every day, but they also explored the rain forest by Land Cruiser. “They said it was an adventure they’d never forget,” reported Arrington.
Dead-serious golfers often repeat annual pilgrimages to Scotland, where they hit the links at St. Andrews Golf Club, home of one of the world’s oldest golf courses, or stay at Turnberry Resort, which many consider the finest golf destination in the world, or head to the Old Course at Royal Troon Golf Club in nearby Ayrshire, home of Crosbie Castle. The cost: $3,500 per person and up.
“Some are such serious golfers that their wives don’t go much anymore because they’ve seen the sights and there’s not a whole lot left for them to do,” said Brown.
Some executives head to Mt. Kilamanjaro, not because they’re interested in learning team-building activities or flexing their muscles, but because it’s not as difficult to climb as Mt. Everest, said Brown.
“They’ll normally add this on after a safari,” she said. “A lot of them will go to Tanzania anyway to see the migration and they’ll stay over for this.”
A small group might pay $3,500 for six nights on the mountain, which includes the cost of a guide, food and lodging before and after the climb.
“This is the upscale side of it all,” said Brown. “There are lots less expensive ways to travel. For example, it’s common for people going to Europe on business to add on a few days for themselves. Many of them stay someplace like The Ritz. It gives Americans a perception of safety when they stay in a better place.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.