Trip Length Increasing, Virtuoso Says at Symposium

Virtuoso has just concluded its 2021 Symposium in Vienna, an event originally scheduled to take place in March 2020 in recognition of what would have been the 20th anniversary of the company’s rebranding to “Virtuoso” (from API Travel Consultants). The event, held October 27-31, gathered 329 industry executives from 33 countries for networking, trendspotting and dialogue around the challenges, opportunities and future of luxury travel. 

The event was kickstarted in the Golden Hall of Vienna’s Musikverein. Guests were treated to performances from the Vienna Boys’ Choir as well as an improvisational piano piece from 16-year-old composer prodigy Alma Deutscher. Informative Opening Session presentations covered industry insights and trends. Presenters included Courtney Scharf, chief client officer of Trend Hunter, and Tiffany Misrahi, vice president of policy and research for the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), both of whom sat down with Virtuoso senior vice president, marketing Helen McCabe-Young for a conversation on trends and opportunities to impact the future of travel and tourism.

One trend, as discussed by Virtuoso senior vice president, network products and strategy David Kolner, is the increasing length of trips taken by Virtuoso clients. Comparing October, November and December of 2019 vs. 2021, lengths of stay increased, respectively, to 115 percent, 132 percent and 143 percent longer. January 2022 stays vs. 2020 are an impressive 163 percent longer, indicating we will continue to see this consumer behavior. City hotels are also on the rise, with bookings up 497 percent since January and 44 percent since June. In all, for the third quarter of 2021, the network’s U.S. sales are 66 percent of what they were in 2019, and leisure hotel bookings have surpassed the same time period in 2019 at 103 percent.

For the keynote, Virtuoso chairman and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch noted the importance of Vienna in the company’s history, as it was the location he selected 21 years ago to reveal the rebrand from API Travel Consultants to Virtuoso. Noting that the last 18 months have brought unprecedented challenges, he spoke of Virtuoso’s commitment to scaling up strategically to become “a truly global organization” by strengthening the value to the network’s members and partners, and growing its share of target travelers during this historic opportunity to do so.

Enhancing client engagement through digital innovation is also a key priority, Upchurch said. New tech from Virtuoso is designed to succeed in two ways: By enhancing its members’ engagement with their clients and vastly scaling Virtuoso’s ability to deliver new high-value travelers to the network. The launch of a more content-rich has grown traffic and time spent on both the Virtuoso brand site, as well as on member and advisor private label sites. Virtuoso’s “dreaming and planning platform,” Wanderlist, has had “explosive” growth since August, going from just over 3,000 participating travel advisors to more than 10,000 who are now actively using it. To date, Wanderlist has captured a pipeline of future travel worth $150 million and experiences from Virtuoso partners have been added to Wanderlists over 65,000 times. 

Attendees also participated in one-to-one networking sessions, as well as roundtable discussions that centered on three areas: Consumer engagement, network engagement and sustainability. Additional experiences included a traditional Viennese Ball at the famed Spanish Riding School, private use of the historic Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien/Museum of Fine Arts for the opening night welcome reception, and “design your day” activities that gave everyone an opportunity to explore the city and surrounding area. 

Throughout the event, the spotlight stayed on the host city and its highly desirable luxury offerings, with additional support coming from the following Virtuoso partners: Hotel Bristol, A Luxury Collection Hotel; Hotel Imperial, A Luxury Collection Hotel; The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna; Park Hyatt Vienna; Palais Hansen Kempinski; Hotel Sacher Wien; Palais Coburg Residenz; and Mondial Destination Management. Additional partners included the Austrian Tourist Office and the Vienna Tourist Board. 

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