At this week's Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas at Bellagio Resort & Casino, ARIA Resort & Casino and Vdara Hotel & Spa, Virtuoso announced several updates on its network growth plus agency and advisor programs. Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch and senior vice president, global member partnerships David Kolner spoke on the effects of the new programs as well as the reflection of the industry as a whole.
Virtuoso's network has reached a record with over 16,000 affiliated travel advisors and 800 agency locations in more than 45 countries. This growth extends across all regions, with more than 1,000 advisors added since January of this year – just over half of which is organic, stemming from existing member agencies.
Advisor sales exceeded $21.2 billion in the past year, an increase of 37 percent from the previous year, which mimics the 35 percent increase in advisors. As Kolner notes, the correlation between the numbers means that despite the addition of over 1,000 advisors in just over seven months, the product is not being diluted. Most of the growth came from the U.S. but that's simply because the most member agencies are based in the U.S. The ratio of growth among the U.S., U.K., Mexico, and Australia has been relatively even, Kolner said.
Regarding, Virtuoso’s professional development programs, Upchurch and Kolner discussed the growth in advisors using the platforms. A few notes include over 90,000 courses will be completed in 2017, representing a 25 percent increase over 2016 and nearly 1,000 live webinars will be offered this year, which will be attended by 60,000 participants. A new addition to the professional development offerings are the web15 sessions,15-minute prerecorded sessions that are available 24/7 for one year. Virtuoso currently offers more than 100 web15s, with a growing library.
The Virtuoso Certified Travel Advisor program provides an intensive week-long experience for those new to the profession or to Virtuoso. Celebrating its fourth year, the program has graduated more than 200 advisors.
Key Product Differences
Virtuoso is reporting increased numbers across several of its products, including Virtuoso Voyages, which added over 550 departures across 19 cruise lines, the Hotels and Resorts program, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year andadded 94 hotels this year and Virtuoso’s Air program, which added 11 new airlines, and has 10 percent more commissionable routes than last year and 20 percent growth in sales year over year.
Virtuoso’s hotel booking tool, launched last spring, currently stands at $1.6 million in sales. The tool is available only to Virtuoso advisors, current clients and new prospects, and allows them to select their choice of 900 network properties, with an average daily rate of more than $600. Advisor profiles, another feature of Virtuoso.com, are optimized to drive additional visitors to the site and often show up first in search results for the advisor’s name. Visits are up 108 percent year over year. One factor behind this growth is the private label sites the network offers to advisors, which display Virtuoso content with the advisor or agency’s branding and are mobile friendly.
Virtuoso also unveiled new research showcasing the growing importance of cultivating Millennials as luxury travel clients. An analysis of the network’s clients revealed that a greater percentage of Millennials earn more than $250,000 than any generation aside from Matures. Thirty-two percent of Virtuoso clients in the Millennial age range are in that high-income bracket, compared to 21 percent of Generation X, 25 percent of Baby Boomers and 42 percent of Matures.
Millennials and Generation Xers are growing as a portion of Virtuoso’s new client mix. Both have increased their share by four percentage points since 2012. Boomers have held steady while Matures have declined in share.