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NEW YORK — Virtuoso has hit a new record when it comes to network advisors, reaching 20,000 in 2018, a 14% increase.
About 81% of that growth came from existing member agencies looking to expand, with the remainder from newly added members.
Virtuoso now counts more than 1,000 agency locations in 50 countries, with US$26.4 billion in sales for 2018, an 11% increase in annual production.
The luxury retail network is also seeing double-digit growth in bookings of key partner segments for 2019, with tour bookings up 11%, cruises up 13%, on-sites up 18% and hotels up 26%.
The stats were coming fast and furious at Virtuoso’s 2019 U.S. & Canada Forum, held recently in Austin, TX. The event set a new high, says Virtuoso, with 510 attendees. Even that number is up, by 8% over 2018.
Agency attendees at the forum reported high levels of confidence for sales in 2019, with 92% of members predicting sales growth for this year. Half of the attendees were predicting growth of more than 10%.
Growth is good no matter what but especially since Virtuoso pays its members 100% of the overrides it receives from preferred partners. The network reports that 2018 was record-breaking, up 55% from 2017 in overrides paid out to U.S. and Canadian agencies as a reward for their strong sales.
To keep up momentum for 2019, the top member goals are improving advisor efficiency, developing talent, finding new advisor talent and maximizing marketing, and Virtuoso says it has created initiatives to strategically address each area of interest.
One innovation, The Virtuoso Travel Academy, the network’s advisor learning portal, provides members with live webinars, online training, video-based sessions and travel documentaries. A record 6,500 advisors completed more than 123,000 courses through the Academy in 2018, a 26% increase over 2017. More than 1,000 live webinars were offered, a 15% increase year over year.
Virtuoso also updated members on its intensive week-long program, the Virtuoso Certified Travel Advisor. In four years the program has been successful in quickly boosting the sales of more than 300 participating advisors, says the network, adding that after finishing the course, new entrants averaged 74% more in production than their peers.
Virtuoso also offered a look at some of its marketing metrics…
A new proprietary solution, MyMarketing, is expected to enhance advisor efficiency by increasing usage of Virtuoso’s suite of marketing offerings. Launched earlier this month, the self-service platform simplifies marketing by centralizing tools on Virtuoso.com to provide agencies with deeper insights into the success of campaigns and improve effectiveness. Agencies can view all past, present and future marketing activities, as well as access Virtuoso marketing assets such as flyers and brochures, edit them and send them directly to clients. For the first time, advisors now also have a tool that synchronizes agency client CRM lists and allows them to upload their own marketing lists.
This year also brings the addition of two new Communities – Ultraluxe and Culinary – to further Virtuoso’s initiative to encourage advisor specialization to better meet client demand for more personalized trips, ultimately enhancing sales. The six Virtuoso Communities also include adventure, cruise, family and wellness travel.
The network is launching its first Community Day March 30 with a focus on culinary and family travel to be held in conjunction with the Virtuoso Travel Week On Tour event in New Orleans.
Participating advisors sold 72% more in Community partner product than their peers in 2018. A survey of participating advisors found that 93% would rejoin a Community and 93% would recommend joining to friends.