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Virtuoso® Announces Latest Innovations in Response to Member Needs and Growing Global Presence

August 14, 2019 Business News No Comments Email Email
Driven by a culture of innovation and the need to serve member agencies in a growing global environment, luxury travel network Virtuoso is outlining enhancements to an array of programs and initiatives as well as its recent achievements.

The announcements took place during the 31st annual Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas, running this year August 10 to 16. Marking record attendance with seven percent growth, 6,515 travel professionals from 107 countries are meeting at Bellagio Resort & Casino, ARIA Resort & Casino and Vdara Hotel & Spa. Of the attendees, 34 percent are new to the event or have not been in the last four years.

During Virtuoso Travel Week, the network’s advisors and partners will attend a massive number of one-on-one meetings – 278,392, totalling more than 1.4 million minutes or 2.7 years. They will attend some 853 separate events during the week, ensuring plenty of opportunities for networking as well as socialising and relationship building. Virtuoso advisors and partners leave Las Vegas with stronger human connections that result in extraordinary experiences for travellers. Attending the event, which is responsible for (U.S.) $420 million in sales, enhances advisors’ profitability. Advisors who have gone to Virtuoso Travel Week once in the last three years sell 67 percent more than their peers, and advisors who have been at every event over the last three years sell a significant 179 percent more.

Network Growth
The network now encompasses over 1,000 agency locations with more than 20,000 advisors in 50 countries, accounting for over (U.S.) $26.4 billion in annual sales, making Virtuoso a powerhouse in global luxury travel.

2019 sales are forecasted to grow overall by 10.9 percent:

  • Hotel sales up 15.3 percent
  • Air sales up 13.8 percent
  • Cruise sales up 11.5 percent
  • Insurance/car/specialty sales up 10.3 percent
  • On-Site ground operator sales up 10.2 percent
  • Tour sales up 3.2 percent
In particular, cruise sales are up all over the world with strong growth in newer Virtuoso markets: 
  • Latin America and Caribbean – 9 percent
  • U.S. – 9 percent
  • Canada – 21 percent
  • Australia – 32 percent
  • EMEA – 100+ percent
  • Asia – 100+ percent
To spread the word about the advantages of Virtuoso membership, the network holds both in-person and online Virtuoso Difference events for prospective advisors. The immersive events spark a high membership conversion rate. This year’s event at Virtuoso Travel Week sold out with more than 50 participants.

As Virtuoso continues to expand globally, it has created regional Member Advisory Boards, which report to a Global Member Advisory Board. This gives more members the opportunity for involvement and allows Virtuoso to tailor itself to the distinct needs of regions around the world.

Events
Virtuoso Forum allows agency owners and managers to make the most of their membership through professional development and networking. It is the network’s highest-rated event with 99.5 percent of 2019 attendees saying it met their objectives. 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. Expect a deeper look at three generations all traveling and working in our industry: Boomers, Xers and Millennials.

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.

Communities
Virtuoso’s Communities strategy is flourishing, with 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: 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. Participants unanimously endorsed the event; 100 percent recommended it as worth attending. 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).

Advisors participating in Virtuoso Communities benefit through additional training, networking and marketing tools such as themed travel catalogs and Virtuoso.com profile enhancements. The strategy is boosting sales. Advisors who are engaged in Communities are outpacing their non-participating peers with a 19 percent increase in production compared to 12 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.

Professional Development 
Virtuoso’s award-winning and diverse professional development program continues to thrive via its Virtuoso Travel Academy portal. Available 24/7/365, a record 6,500 advisors completed more than 123,000 courses through the Academy last year, which represents a 26 percent increase over 2017.

New research highlights advisor demand for long-term development, with 33 percent of courses focused on career growth.

Never resting on its laurels, the network is retooling Academy offerings to focus on continuous learning, growth and career development over short-term knowledge boosts.

New Virtuoso Travel Academy courses map to long-term professional growth, including topics such as sales training, productivity, social media, and leadership.

The popular web15 trainings, which cover a topic in 15 minutes or less, will be more interactive, with new features such as clickable maps, videos and knowledge checks.

Advisors will now be able to download and view Virtuoso Travel Academy courses on a mobile device via an app, available for both iOS and Android.

Virtuoso and preferred partner Approach Guides have created destination-inspired playlists for trending travel destinations, including Australia, Italy and Japan. Playlists include information on everything from history to food to adventures in the destination, and offer videos, articles, websites and audio books. Advisors can view the content and share it with clients.

Live webinars featuring partners will engage participants directly, with multiple polling questions and Q&A breaks. Closer collaboration between Virtuoso and partners will include sharing of best practices, creation of learning objectives to promote sessions to advisors and providing partners with audience information before the event.

Also new is “Thanks for Asking with Helen Nodland”, a weekly podcast to provide hands-on ideas to advisors. In each 10- to 15-minute episode, Virtuoso’s director of training and professional development will pose one often-asked question to her guest, a Virtuoso advisor.

The Virtuoso Certified Travel Advisor (VCTA) program provides an intensive week-long immersion for those new to the profession or to the network. Celebrating its sixth year, the program has produced 350 graduates from 124 agencies, boosting their rapid transformation into million-dollar advisors. VCTA advisors average 74 percent more in production than their peers. As a testament to its success, the remaining sessions in 2019 are virtually sold out.

Through a strategic collaboration process with its US and Canadian members, Virtuoso discovered the top three priorities are improving advisor efficiency, talent development and finding new advisor talent.

Advisor Tools and New Programs
The first class of Virtuoso Wanderlist® specialists has just graduated, opening up the network’s innovative new long-term planning program to more travellers. Wanderlist offers clients a process to create a customised travel wish list. They rate their interests, preferred experiences and dream destinations online, then receive access to a personalised 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. Enhancing its utility, 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 centralises marketing communications to provide deeper insights into the success of campaigns and enhance efficiencies. 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 (U.S.) $3,000 on 4,500 sailings, and 21,000 passengers have enjoyed those benefits this past year.

Technology and Innovation
Virtuoso Incubator 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.

Furthering Virtuoso’s heritage of innovation, the network is 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 recognise 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 emphasise personal connections. Regional winners will be announced at Forums, with the overall global winner to be unveiled at Virtuoso Travel Week 2020.

New Research: U.S. Presidential Election Impact on Travel 
Virtuoso has examined data from its warehouse of (U.S.) $49.5 billion in transactions to gauge the impact of the last three American presidential elections on travel bookings.

On average, sales grew by 14.3 percent in the U.S. in the years before an election: 2007, 2011 and 2015. They grew by 2.9 percent on average in election years: 2008, 2012 and 2016.

In markets outside the U.S., sales increased by 36.1 percent the year before an American presidential election, and 18.4 percent the year of an election.

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