Hi, I’m back! It’s me, Barbara King, for twitter followers it’s @travelingking1, and my regular blog is www.travelingking.net, or you can follow me on our website, www.greatgetaways.travel. Last year I blogged my way through the Virtuoso Chairman’s event in Kenya. This year I have the honor of sharing the Virtuoso Chairman’s Event 2011 in Beijing and Shanghai.
The prequel: Along with my guest, Ms. Sam Wehunt, I arrived in Beijing on Saturday afternoon after a 12 ½ hour flight from SFO. Greeted by an airport butler, we were taken to China World Summit Wing Hotel, and we enjoyed a lovely night’s sleep followed by a private and very tasty breakfast hosted by the hotel for Virtuoso event attendees. Next, Nancy Kim, managing partner of Imperial Tours, took 37 of us on a fast-paced shopping tour. First stop was the Pearl Market and we all appreciated Nancy’s expert assistance in bargaining. Imperial Tours takes no commission from shop vendors so the original asking price is significantly lower than the average tourist is quoted.
Next, we strolled through the Antique Market and our tired feet and burning credit cards enjoyed a wonderful respite at the Park Hyatt Beijing. A “OMG” (oh my God, for those not Facebook or texting inclined) lunch was followed by a site inspection of their “contemporary feel” rooms. Many of us were ready to be dropped off at Raffles, our home for 3 nights of the Chairman’s event, while the veteran shoppers continued on to the Silk Market.
Virtuoso Chairman’s Event: The opening – Last night, Raffles hosted us at the Opening Cocktail Reception. Signing the guest book in traditional Chinese inkstone, ink and brush, we were escorted inside by beautifully gowned hostesses. Food stations offered dim sum, Peking duck, succulent crispy pork, a variety of fresh, cold noodle salads, and passed hors d’ouevers of pate, shrimp, and ,and, and….It was so fun to see friends I had shared previous Chairman’s events as well as connect with “first timers”, those new to the event. I remember the first time I “qualified” for a Chairman’s event, 2008 in India, and how overwhelming it felt and yet totally wonderful. Now I feel like I am attending a family reunion with family members who all get along! While we see each other at Travel Mart every year, we are so busy interacting with vendors we don’t get to spend much time networking among ourselves.
This morning began with a complete breakfast buffet followed by a meeting for members and activities for guests. The theme was summed up by Guy Rubin, Managing Partner (along with Nancy Kim) of Imperial Tours and our Beijing host, “China-the lure of the past and the impact on our future.” Speakers included the Vice Chairman of the China Tourism Administration; Lijia Xhang, noted author; David Ben Kay, who cemented the relationship between China and Microsoft, now owner of a gallery and art incubator; and two college students, Shuai Yang-age 22 and an undergrad at Communications University, and Yan Wanqiu-a 27 year old grad student at Remnin University.
Focus on our industry came from Guy Rubin’s talk focused on the importance of China in the travel world as well as the great value offered in China. Patrick Macleod, Managing Director of A&K Hong Kong, focused on the new opportunities and new cities to visit in China. Virtuoso’s CEO, Matthew Upchurch, reminded us of the immense effect our industry, in total, has on the world GDP and David Kolner and Scott Ahlsmith, of 23 Touchpoints, showed how mining our data offered valuable insights into the profile of the Virtuoso traveler who visits China.
The takeaway message from this morning is that China is growing and changing. It is an exciting source of fresh ideas, possibilities and new solutions. What impressed me was the fact a person who visits China is likely to return at least twice more. This journey is my 4th visit to China and I already am mentally planning my next China itinerary!
I know this was a more “reporting of the facts” kind of blog post today-short on clever, long on details. That’s the price I pay for blogging while exhausted AND there are two more wonderful experiences to describe from today, lunch at Opposite House Hotel and Aman’s dinner at the Summer Palace. Alas, those will wait until tomorrow when, hopefully, I will be less prone to crashing my head onto the keyboard of my laptop. I’m so tired that almost every other word is misspelled, or is it Miss Spelled, or is it…oh who cares, that’s it for tonight!
Barbara S King l Co-President l www.greatgetaways.travel l 913.338.2244 l Virtuoso Member