LAS VEGAS — Virtuoso is fielding more inquiries than ever from travel agents looking to join its network. At its annual Virtuoso Travel Week event here in Las Vegas this week, the luxury retail travel group reported an 11% increase in the number of advisor inquiries for affiliation, inquiries that in turn were shared with agency members who were looking to add more advisors to their rosters.
Attendance at the Las Vegas event was also up, by 9%. A record-breaking 5,257 travel professionals from 98 countries have gathered at Bellagio Resort & Casino, ARIA Resort & Casino and Vdara Hotel & Spa where they will conduct more than 320,000 one-to-one meetings, totaling more than 1.5 million minutes or the equivalent of 2.9 years.
During the event Virtuoso noted several updates on its network as well as its programs and initiatives:
- The network now includes 391 travel agency members with 743 offices throughout 40 countries, and 11,400 travel advisors.
- Virtuoso has received 191 advisor inquiries for affiliation – an 11 percent increase – which in turn were shared with agency members who were looking to add more advisors to their rosters.
- Virtuoso introduced this year a robust meeting and events schedule that reached more member agencies and frontline advisors:
- Virtuoso Travel Week saw a 9.3% increase in total member attendance and an 11.7% increase in attendance by frontline advisors.
- Virtuoso Forum, which focused on agency owners and managers, was the highest rated event of 2016, with 99.3% of attendees saying it met their business goals
- Virtuoso announced it will be rolling out ABC Auxiliary Hotel Rates, offering exclusive enhanced commissions on over 40,000 non-preferred hotels as of this November.
- Virtuoso Cruise Alerts, a new feature that tracks price changes on cruises and sends email notifications, will be rolled out to U.S. and Canadian members during the fourth quarter of this year.
- Virtuoso says it has seen a significant bump in its web traffic, reporting 100,000 unique visitors per month. Virtuoso says the leads generated by the site boast an average first sale of US$8,000 and have a 20% conversion rate.
- Virtuoso is now offering personalized versions of Virtuoso.com to its advisors on a complimentary basis.
- Virtuoso announced it has established the framework to create communities of like-minded advisors and preferred suppliers within its larger network. The concept originated with the group’s Virtuoso Voyages cruise program and VAST, its active and specialty community. This week it launched Virtuoso Wellness, the third in its lineup of niche communities.
- Virtuoso Incubator has led to exclusive partnerships for cruise availability and booking: Passport Online and Tandem. These will be available to advisors by end of year. Additionally, Virtuoso Virtual Reality will be an Incubator participant for 2017.
- Virtuoso partnered with Incubator graduate Engage, making it available for global advisor participation. Advisors are merchandised to Virtuoso.com visitors 24/7. Initial testing resulted in a 20-50 percent conversion rate and sales ranging from $1-$30,000.
- Virtuoso announced its new hotel booking tool for consumers, giving them the ability to shop the network’s robust selection of more than 1,100 hotels in over 100 countries at a time most convenient to them. Customers merely select, purchase and confirm. The booking is then turned over to the advisor of record or assigned to one for handling. While technology enabled, the advisor is always part of the overall process.
Virtuoso Travel Week continues through August 11.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of luxury travel’s premier network. During the event’s Opening Ceremony, Virtuoso Chairman and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch recalled his philosophy that led to the creation of Virtuoso: a belief that travel agencies and suppliers need each other to be successful and that Virtuoso’s function is to facilitate by creating tools and services that support each side. Virtuoso’s role is also about fostering human connections, he said.
“Thirty years ago I brought together Allied Travel and Percival Tours to create a vibrant, resilient global travel network focused not solely on transactions, but on catalyzing rich human experiences,” said Upchurch.
Drawing upon the message shared by the event’s keynote speaker, ‘Grit to Great’ author and head of one of the leading advertising agencies in America Linda Kaplan Thaler, Upchurch spoke about the scenario that is helping propel success for its travel agency members: the desire for authentic human connections in a world plagued with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA).
“In an exponentially changing environment, we don’t offer a rulebook. We believe in principles, not protocols. And we have four guiding principles we believe will anchor our future: ensure success for our agency members, make it personal for both our partners and their clients, pioneer and innovate, and tell the advisor story again and again.”