Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
NEW YORK — Last year was “one for the books” for Virtuoso and now the luxury travel agency network says it is entering 2018 bolstered by record 25% year over year growth in its global membership.
While Virtuoso had been steadily growing its membership base, in 2017 it soared to more than 1,000 agency locations in more than 45 countries, accounting for 17,500 travel advisors, a 15% increase.
Virtuoso says 64% of that growth came from existing agencies.
Virtuoso also reported a 12% increase in annual network production, bringing its total sales to US$23.7 billion for 2017.
Virtuoso says its website, Virtuoso.com, “played a significant role” in driving sales. The site gets more than 150,000 unique monthly consumer visitors, which led to over 150,000 leads for its advisors in 2017.
Virtuoso rolled out its hotel booking tool, available to consumers via Virtuoso.com, in April 2017.
Virtuoso says its sales success was also boosted by a focus on professional development. In 2017 more than 10,000 affiliated advisors participated in over 150,000 available courses, resulting in a 19% increase in completed courses and a 40% increase in advisor participation.
Virtuoso has also announced that to date, 230 new advisors from 98 Virtuoso agencies have gone through its Virtuoso Certified Travel Advisor (VCTA) accelerated training. After completing the course, these new entrants averaged 74% more in production than their peers.
For 2017 Virtuoso shared an 87% increase in partner overrides, a record high worldwide. More than 80% of Virtuoso’s members are small to medium agencies.
Virtuoso says it also developing communities “to bring together like-minded individuals for increased awareness, education and, ultimately, sales with certain travel niches”. One year after rolling out its Virtuoso Wellness community, participants are seeing a 32% increase in their sales, according to the network. Participants in the longer-established Virtuoso Adventure community saw a 15% increase in sales over their non-participant counterparts.
Last year also saw Virtuoso continue with its goal of establishing a complementary brand that leads to consumer preference. “Putting [our] member agencies front and center is always the top priority,” says the group, adding that its PR efforts yielded more than 12,000 stories worldwide for 2017 – an 83% increase over the previous year.