Competing cruise lines and hotels joined forces at Virtuoso’s 2018 Symposium
Matthew D. Upchurch

Competing cruise lines and hotels joined forces at Virtuoso’s 2018 Symposium

AMSTERDAM — There was no such thing as competition at Virtuoso’s 2018 Symposium where, in an industry first, seven cruise lines and six hotels banded together to showcase the differences between competing luxury river cruise ships and Amsterdam’s best properties.

Taking place March 17-22 in the Netherlands, the annual Symposium inspired collaboration between the ships and hotels, all of which were Virtuoso preferred partners. Host hotels included conservatorium Hotel Amsterdam, De L’Europe Amsterdam, InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam, Pulitzer Amsterdam, Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam, and Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam. River cruise vessels and experiences were provided by AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Crystal Cruises, Tauck, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, U by Uniworld, and Viking Cruises.

The Virtuoso network has a history of encouraging relationships between competitors as well as between the private and government sector to elevate a certain destination or product category. Nearly all partners commented that working together on this event had strengthened their collaboration.

Here are some of the key highlights of the Symposium:

  • During the event’s Opening Session, Matthew D. Upchurch, Chairman and CEO of Virtuoso, discussed the myth of the intermediary, pointing out that travel advisors are a valued extension of their preferred partner’s sales force. He added that Virtuoso-affiliated travel advisors provide the highest rates at the lowest distribution cost, a fact reinforced by many of Virtuoso’s partners. He also emphasized that the diversity of the network’s 17,500 global travel advisors mirrored the diversity of the affluent customer around the world.
  • Upchurch also spoke of the overwhelming effect of DIY travel. Quoting Kwik Learning CEO Kim Kwik, he said people are suffering from “digital dementia”, the negative effect of too much reliance on technology, as well as “decision fatigue”, noting that research shows consumers make an average 40,000 decisions per trip. “The reason they’re coming to a Virtuoso advisor is because they want someone to collaborate with…It’s an elevated experience that cannot be replicated any other way.”
  • ‘Virtuoso Orchestrator’ was introduced by Upchurch at the event. It’s a proprietary travel-planning platform that draws the customer into future journeys, and allows the advisor to manage an inventory of time and the travels that span that time rather than on a per-trip basis. By making it a fun and interactive game, the client ends up with their own Netflix-style personal portfolio that builds excitement for each new trip.
  • The six Amsterdam host hotels came together to develop and officially designate one of Holland’s famed tulips as the ‘Virtuoso’ tulip. A bouquet of white with red streak tulips was presented to Upchurch during the gala. Virtuoso’s members will be able to send this special floral arrangement to their clients who return from a trip to the Netherlands, and bulbs will be available to those who wish to grow their own Virtuoso tulip garden.

Following the networking event, attendees boarded their designated riverboats to explore Arnhem, Rotterdam, the windmills of Kinderdijk and Dordrecht.

Next year’s Symposium will take place in Melbourne from May 7-11, 2019, marking the second time Australia will host the event.

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