Virtuoso has been very busy this last year and a half leading up to Virtuoso Travel Week, which took place last week in Las Vegas at Bellagio. The organization has been refining many of the tools and programs available to its agency members and partners, updated its logo, created new branding initiatives and put together a new sustainability white paper, “Conscious Comeback,” with the goal, says Matthew D. Upchurch, Virtuoso’s CEO, “to make sustainability a greater factor in consumer choice so that those that are doing good do well.”
Last week’s Virtuoso Travel Week, a hybrid experience that welcomed some 3,000 members and partners from around the globe, was more intimate in-person, but was, as many of the Virtuoso executives said, a hybrid experience like none other, with Virtuoso making sure that the “virtual audience felt included,” as Upchurch said during the trade press conference. He pointed out that they even had their own exclusive host. In fact, when asked if they thought the 2022 edition would be hybrid as well, the executives unanimously said, “hybrid is here to stay,” as it allows many agencies who don’t have the opportunity to travel to Las Vegas the chance to participate in Travel Week. “They are so grateful that they have the opportunity to do this,” said David Kolner, Virtuoso’s sr. v.p., global member partnerships.
And Virtuoso as a global community resonated throughout Travel Week, with Upchurch pointing out that he’s glad that the Virtuoso membership “is truly global because our members in different parts of the world have been able to support our partners in different parts of the world.” For example, he noted, “We’ve had a long relationship with Tourism Australia, but we have never worked with Tourism Australia to promote Australia to Australians because Virtuoso advisors in Australia sell Italy and other destinations,” but during the pandemic, Virtuoso advisors “helped support the high-end Australian product there,” selling to Australians who had to travel within their borders. And that “happened around the world,” he mentioned.
Among the array of new programs/tools/initiatives announced during Virtuoso Travel Week’s trade press conference were the various events Virtuoso has planned for 2022 such as Virtuoso Connections, which, said Kolner are “evening events for advisors to connect with partners in a smaller, more intimate setting.” Included in the various tools/programs available to Virtuoso members—when a member joins the invitation-only network, they receive a package of core inclusions, with 40 programs included in that core component, and they are allowed to do add-ons—is the BeWise Travel Guide. Virtuoso partnered with CIBT to create this tool, which allows agents and partners to go to virtuoso.com and learn about travel restrictions based on both the client’s passport origin and the destination. “This particular tool was vetted by our technology committee and rolled out earlier this spring when restrictions started becoming a real challenge for our members,” said Kolner.
And going back to that word community, Kolner noted that a “hallmark of working together as a network during the crisis has been the Virtuoso collaboration teams. The most important thing we can do during the pandemic is depend and learn from each other.” With that in mind, Virtuoso created 22 collaboration teams that are run worldwide. These are groups made up of members that are run online via Zoom, specific to either a geographic area or type of business. “It’s about ideas exchange,” said Kolner. “A little bit of emotional support and a little bit of business support. It’s been one of our top-rated things that we’ve done in the pandemic and members have cited that it’s one of their most favorites.” With Upchurch adding, “There’s more to be gained by sharing than by doing it yourself. Our ethos is, ‘there’s plenty to go around—you help me, I help you.’”
Other notable announcements included Virtuoso’s Preview Partners, an exclusive program where Virtuoso members have the ability to offer more benefits to their clients when booking hotels that are recently renovated or have recently opened. “Six are participating for 2021/2022,” said Kolner, and for the first time ever we are working with a cruise line, Explora Journeys. They have joined a new program called Virtuoso Cruise Preview. We are delighted to work with them.”
And today, getting and retaining new talent is, said Kolner, more important than ever. On that front, Virtuoso offers the Advisor Travel Basics, which covers things like “what’s the difference between a connecting and an adjoining room.” Advisor Basics is an entirely online program–15 modules, two practice assessments and one final assessment. “The owner can assign and assess all the way through, and it was created by Virtuoso members,” said Kolner.
And going back to the redesign of the logo, Helen McCabe-Young, Virtuoso’s sr. v.p., marketing, described it as “more elegant, more subtle,” and said something quite eloquent: “It shows that we are moving forward in a new world.”