Virtuoso has announced a number of program updates at this year’s Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas. The 31st edition of the event takes place this year from August 10 to 16 at the Bellagio Resort & Casino, ARIA Resort & Casino and Vdara Hotel & Spa, drawing 6,515 travel professionals from 107 countries. Virtuoso notes that this year has seen record attendance for the event, and that 34 percent of the attendees are either new or have not attended within the last four years.
At the event Virtuoso released an update on its network growth and new programs. The network says it now encompasses over 1,000 agency locations with more than 20,000 advisors in 50 countries, accounting for over $26.4 billion in annual sales. Sales for 2019 are forecast to grow overall by 10.9 percent, or by 15.3 percent for hotels; 23.8 percent for air; 11.5 percent for cruise; 10.3 percent for insurance/car/specialty; 10.2 percent for on-site ground tour operator sales; and by 3.2 percent for tour sales.
Virtuoso noted that cruise sales, particularly, are up worldwide, particularly in the network’s newer markets:
- Latin America and Caribbean – 9 percent
- U.S. – 9 percent
- Canada – 21 percent
- Australia – 32 percent
- EMEA – 100+ percent
- Asia – 100+ percent
Virtuoso reports that it is continuing to hold both in-person and online Virtuoso Difference events for prospective advisors, which it says have high conversion rates. To support its global expansion, it has created regional Member Advisory Boards, which report to a Global Member Advisory Board, a move that the organization says gives more members the opportunity for involvement and allows it to tailor itself to the distinct needs of regions around the world.
Other Virtuoso events include the Virtuoso Forum, which allows agency owners and managers to take part in professional development and networking. The US & Canada Forum will be held in Las Vegas January 29-31, 2020. Four regional Forums, in Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Sydney and Vienna, will also take place throughout 2020.
Virtuoso Symposium, also for agency owners and managers, is the network’s global thought leadership and C-level networking event. It will return to Vienna March 17-21, 2020, for the first time since 2000, when the new Virtuoso brand was revealed there. Virtuoso says that attendees can expect a deeper look at three generations all traveling and working in our industry: Boomers, Xers and Millennials.
Finally, Virtuoso Travel Week on Tour, which brings networking and training opportunities for frontline advisors closer to home, will visit 26 cities in 11 countries on five continents in 2019 and 2020.
Virtuoso also provided an update on its Communities strategy, which now comprises six communities: Adventure, Voyages, Wellness, Family and this year’s newcomers, Culinary and Ultraluxe. Interest and participation continue to grow, with a 35 percent increase this year to 3,295 advisors and a 75 percent increase to 262 partners. New for 2020 will be Virtuoso Celebration Travel, covering everything from destination weddings and honeymoons to birthdays, anniversaries and other milestone events.
2019 saw the first Virtuoso Community Day on March 30 in New Orleans for culinary and family travel. The second Virtuoso Community Day, focused on adventure travel, will take place in May 2020. Virtuoso’s third Community Globetrotting took place August 10 at Virtuoso Travel Week, with 1,265 advisors and 172 partners (up 42 percent) in 12 pavilions (up 50 percent). The first Virtuoso Community Cruise will take place May 28-31, 2020, on board Seabourn from San Francisco to Vancouver. Over four days, 150 top participating advisors will enjoy a rare opportunity to network with 48 partners.
New Advisor Tools and Programs
The first class of Virtuoso Wanderlist specialists has just graduated, Virtuoso said, opening up the network’s new long-term planning program to more travelers. Wanderlist offers clients a process to create a customized travel wish list. They rate their interests, preferred experiences and dream destinations online, then receive access to a personalized portal with information such as articles, videos, books and even music playlists. The Wanderlist advisor reviews the online results and creates a plan for future travels that takes into account the desires of all travel companions. Details such as optimal times to visit are included, as are dates when it’s most economical to travel.
Virtuoso’s online hotel booking tool now includes more than 1,100 hotels. In a new feature, it now displays all available rates including promotions and those with network-specific amenities.
Virtuoso MyMarketing, in its first year of usage, is helping advisors improve productivity. The comprehensive self-service platform centralizes marketing communications to provide deeper insights into the success of campaigns and enhance efficiencies, Virtuoso said. It offers tools such as libraries of images, flyers, brochures and ads; email marketing campaigns; and social media automation.
Virtuoso Voyages, the network’s longtime cruise enhancement program, now offers complimentary benefits for clients on more than 650 hosted departures. Twenty-one cruise lines provide Virtuoso-exclusive advantages with savings up to $3,000 on 4,500 sailings, and 21,000 passengers have enjoyed those benefits this past year.
In technology news, the Virtuoso Incubator program has graduated two new companies to preferred partner status: Approach Guides and Zoom And Go. Next year’s Incubator program will focus on products that assist with two key member challenges: commission tracking and CRM.
The network’s first Technology Innovation Summit was held August 10 at Virtuoso Travel Week, exploring how new technology can impact the travel industry and positively affect the advising profession today and tomorrow.
Virtuoso Innovation Teams are a group of advisors who tackle a complicated topic within the industry, offering recommendations for best practices and new programs. Three new generational Innovation Teams are currently in the works: Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers, the network said.
The network is also introducing Innovation Days. Small groups of members will gather for just six hours to share ideas, hear from experts and provide insights to Virtuoso. Each global region will host at least one Innovation Day in 2020.
Next year, Virtuoso will also recognize members in each global region with Innovation Awards in two categories: telling the story of why to use an advisor and providing the human touch through processes and tools that help advisors emphasize personal connections. Regional winners will be announced at Forums, with the overall global winner to be unveiled at Virtuoso Travel Week 2020.
During Virtuoso Travel Week, the network’s advisors and partners will attend 278,392 one-on-one meetings, as well as 853 separate events. Virtuoso said that advisors who have gone to Virtuoso Travel Week once in the last three years sell 67 percent more than their peers, while those who have been at every event over the last three years sell 179 percent more.