Archive for category In the News
Today is the deadline to join Virtuoso and over 200 travel industry professionals worldwide who have already signed a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary LaHood stating opposition to IATA Resolution 787. To add your signature, go to http://btcnews.co/YoB3yJ. It will be filed on the docket tomorrow, the DOT’s deadline for industry comment. If passed, this resolution would negatively impact airline competition, and increase airline prices for consumers. For more information, visit http://businesstravelcoalition.com.
In the 2013 Virtuoso Best of the Best directory, you’ll meet an impressive array of hotels and resorts.
Virtuoso Best of the Best, winner of the 2012 Maggie award for Best Consumer Guide, is the perfect tool to help you plan extraordinary experiences in dream destinations. These properties have been thoroughly evaluated to ensure your stay will be exceptional. And Virtuoso travel advisors have provided tips throughout the guide to help you plan your travel experiences.
When you book through a Virtuoso travel advisor, you’ll enjoy exclusive amenities including breakfast for two daily and value-added extras like guaranteed room upgrades, resort credits and complimentary meals.
Annual Best of the Best Award Winners
The hotels receiving special accolades from Virtuoso travel advisors for 2012
New hotels offering exclusive access to Virtuoso travelers
Virtuoso Villas & Private Retreats
Unique accommodations in remarkable destinations
Virtuoso Travel Advisor Tip: Renting a villa is a special experience for sophisticated travelers. You can immerse yourself in a destination, bond with companions and live like a local while still enjoying luxurious accommodations.
Africa & Middle East
Dine on a rooftop overlooking Jerusalem or enjoy butler service in a luxury tent in Kenya
Virtuoso Travel Advisor Tip: If you are visiting the wine country of Franschhoek, a “must do” is a visit to Haute Cabrière Estate. Learn to open a bottle of exquisite champagne the old-fashioned way . . . by sabre! A delightful afternoon of sampling great wines and snacking on wonderful hors d’oeuvres awaits.
Asia & Pacific
View Hong Kong from a rose petal bath or make an overwater bungalow your home in Tahiti
Virtuoso Travel Advisor Tip: Particularly in Asian countries, it is always best for travelers to wear slip-on shoes while touring, as it is very much the custom to remove shoes when entering shrines and buildings.
Canada & United States
Settle into a cliff-top Big Sur abode or view wildlife right outside your door in Alberta
Caribbean & Bermuda
Drift into reverie on Anguilla’s white sands or swim with dolphins in Bermuda
Virtuoso Travel Advisor Tip: Bermuda offers awe-inspiring pink sand beaches, world-famous golf courses and fabulous resorts with amenities to pamper you each day. A ferry or scooter is a great way to get around on this small, beautiful island.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Dine upon acclaimed cuisine in Monte Carlo or luxuriate in a beachside villa on Crete
Virtuoso Travel Advisor Tip: April is a great time to visit Italy. It is the heart of spring, but you can still get ‘shoulder season’ rates at most hotels. In general, rates increase at the beginning of May.
Mexico, Central & South America
Learn Spanish in Cozumel, sip premium coffee in Costa Rica or find eco-luxury in Peru
Virtuoso Travel Advisor Tip: You’ll find riding horseback in Peru to be very interesting and truly delightful, even if you’ve ridden countless times in other countries. The horses just seem to have a different mentality, which is especially noticeable when they canter. It’s something that must be experienced!
New York, New York
Index of Attributes & Amenities
Useful information including number of rooms and sought-after amenities
Presenting the Newest Best of the Best
Introducing the latest hotels and resorts to join the Virtuoso network
Find out more about using a Virtuoso Travel Advisor for your next trip.
Virtuoso recently revealed the top destinations for 2013 as determined by the network’s annual Virtuoso Luxe Report. Based on input received from a survey of the world’s best travel advisors, the report provides insight on where, when and how travelers will go next – whether on land or afloat – be it couples, families and adventure-seekers, alike.
With the debut of Myanmar, Bhutan and Chile to the “most popular emerging destinations” list, findings indicate that Virtuoso’s clients are eager to venture into new territory, no matter how far-flung or remote. In these instances, the opportunity to explore lesser developed destinations to gain a richer experience outweighs the desire for more traditional “luxury.” Meanwhile, Cuba and Vietnam maintained their respective places among the top five emerging locations in the world, garnering attention from travelers in the know.
As baby boomers continue to drive travel sales, and the desire to spend time with loved ones prominently factoring into decisions, it is no surprise that the top and recurring trend for the upcoming year is multigenerational family travel. Ocean cruising is predicted to have renewed strength in 2013, with the Baltic Region making a new appearance on the list aside perennial favorites like Alaska, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. River cruising continues its strong growth trajectory, especially on the European waterways, and the addition of new routes throughout Asia will only bolster its popularity in the coming year.
Italy continues its reign as the top destination for international travel in 2013, followed by South Africa, France and Australia. This year Latin America emerges with Argentina making a first-time appearance on the list.
The biggest change from 2012 to 2013 is within the U.S. travel market. Napa Valley/Sonoma claim the top spot as the most sought after U.S. destination, bumping both Maui and New York from their touted positions. While Las Vegas remains on the list, the city now shares an unlikely fourth place juxtaposed with the state of Alaska.
For families traveling in 2013, Italy will remain the chart-topper, with adventurous Costa Rica moving up in popularity to join England. New to the list this year is Mexico, breaking through to capture fourth place in the ranks of family travel. France, the Galapagos Islands and Turks & Caicos all tie for fifth place.
The most popular destinations for romantic travel continue to be Italy, French Polynesia, France, and Bali. This year Fiji joins the list of exotic locations, reconfirming that romance knows no boundaries.
As in past reports, the motivation behind high-end travel continues to be: seeking authentic experiences in new destinations; rest and relaxation; personal enrichment; seeking adventure; and spending time or reconnecting with loved ones – again, supporting the emerging destinations as well as emphasizing multigenerational travel as one of the biggest trends for 2013.
“This year’s Luxe Report has unveiled fascinating first-timers to the list. Myanmar, Bhutan and Chile are destinations growing in appeal to the savvy traveler and our 2013 report reflects this passion for exploring something new,” says Virtuoso Chairman and CEO, Matthew D. Upchurch , CTC. “The multi-faceted Virtuoso traveler wants to reconnect with loved ones, explore new destinations, and seek out opportunities for personal growth. These are all areas where collaborating with a Virtuoso travel advisor is essential, as their goal is to help travelers realize these dreams.”
The 2013 Luxe Report also predicts there will be a rise in longer trips (eight days and longer) to international destinations and suggests that when necessary, travelers are willing to book lower room categories in order to stay in nicer hotels. Travel advisors still continue to be the lead influencer in determining their clients’ travel decisions, followed closely by input from friends and family, which shows that crowd-sourcing will continue to factor into the travel planning process. Meanwhile, Business Class is still the preferred way to fly, with Economy Plus gaining popularity as more airlines introduce and expand this on-board product.
Find out more about the top destinations featured in the Luxe Report here.
For more information, go to www.virtuoso.com.
Eleanor Hardy’s clients had been saving for years to take their trip of a lifetime: a European tour on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express. “When they arrived at the station in Venice and saw that beautiful, deep blue train with the cream-colored roof, they burst into tears,” says Hardy, owner of The Society of International Railway Travelers in Louisville, Kentucky, a Virtuoso member. “It was their dream come true.”
Luxury trains top the bucket lists of many travelers who feel they’ve done everything else. “People into train travel tend to be older,” notes Julie Lemish, president of Virtuoso member Rex Travel in Chicago, Illinois. “Mostly couples, a few singles, not many families. The quarters on trains are pretty small.”
Because the classic trains are expensive to maintain and the service level is top-notch, a luxury rail trip can cause sticker shock for the uninitiated. For train buffs with deep pockets, the service and ambience are worth every penny. “It’s like a rolling, elegant cocktail party,” Lemish says.
Anna Skubiak, director of strategic partnerships for Virtuoso supplier Orient-Express, agrees: “Elegant bar cars where guests mingle with fellow travelers are so very indicative of the golden age of travel.”
In addition to the iconic Orient Express, luxury rail lines roll across multiple continents. “The Pride of Africa has a lovely, open-air deck,” says Hardy, “and I love the Royal Scotsman because it is so intimate.”
In western Canada, Virtuoso supplier Rocky Mountaineer offers a first-class tour. “Along our rail routes, our guests marvel at the ferocious rivers, still blue-green glacial lakes, waterfalls in the distance and the stunning Canadian Rockies,” says Karen Wiseman, Rocky Mountaineer’s director of sales, U.S.
For travelers who want more modern adventures, some rail lines are adding amenities. “Some trains have hair salons, libraries, video facilities, and wi-fi,” says Owen Hardy, CEO of The Society of International Railway Travelers. “One, in India, even has a spa car where you can get a massage or workout.” From the South African Blue Train’s safaris to the hiking and biking excursions from the Trans-Siberian Express, luxury rail can accommodate adventurous as well as lower-key passengers.
Virtuoso membership makes it easy for advisors to incorporate luxury rail into customized itineraries. Because trains are typically just one piece of a client’s trip, the transfers, hotel nights, and on-the-ground tours are important, too. “Virtuoso provides access,” says Linda Barber, partner at Virtuoso member Travelwizard.com in Nelson, B.C., Canada. “When I talk to Virtuoso On-Sites around the world, I can trust my network to provide a high class of service to my clients.”
For the been-there, done-that traveler, luxury rail offers a special experience. The Orient Express’ Paris-Istanbul journey stands out in Owen Hardy’s mind. “Everything about this trip is over the top. Since this trip is done just once a year, the train’s arrival in Budapest, Bucharest, Istanbul and other stops is a celebratory occasion for the local populace. Waving from your compartment, you feel like an international celebrity.”
For more information about booking your own rail travel vacation, call your Virtuoso travel advisor. Don’t have a travel advisor? Click here to learn more.
From world-class restaurants to local specialties, memorable meals can be a destination in and of themselves for travelers. Virtuoso suppliers have responded to the growth in culinary travel by transforming mealtime into an unforgettable experience. These three properties have created innovative programs to make delicious cuisine a true adventure.
Executive Chef Fabrice Guisset at Las Ventanas al Paraiso, a Rosewood Resort, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico found that many guests enjoyed cooking and sharing favorite recipes. He also noted the popularity of cooking competition shows such as “Top Chef.” Thus the “Challenge the Chef” game was born.
This light-hearted competition gives guests the opportunity to cook any dish they wish under the tutelage of a chef. Guests begin the game with a pre-meal consultation. Then on the evening of the event, the guest prepares the dish in an open kitchen on the property. “It is the perfect time for guests to prepare their famous dishes with help of equipment and ingredients that are generally not available in a home kitchen,” explains Guisset.
After tasting the results, Guisset gives pointers on ingredients, preparation and presentation so that guests can improve their culinary prowess. The most common mistake? Guisset says it’s an unbalanced dish, such as one that’s too sweet or salty.
Guest chefs receive a “Challenge the Chef” diploma and a shot at culinary stardom: winning dishes are added to the resort menu for a week with the guest’s name. Mouthwatering past winners include a double pork chop roasted with fettuccine cake and port-glazed onion, and fish with prosciutto and mango chutney. The service is $130 for set-up and $85 per person.
At the Virtuoso-exclusive property Four Seasons Resort Nevis, guests can go a step beyond preparation and catch their own meal. The “Dive and Dine” experience gives certified divers the opportunity to search for their own lobsters in the warm Caribbean waters.
Guests are taken by boat to hotspots for hunting the elusive lobsters, where the Nevisian crew helps divers capture their dinner using traditional methods. British author Dominic Midgley recently tried the experience and noted, “Lobsters may not look like the cheetahs of the sea but when someone tries to lasso them with twine on a stick they can move with lightning speed, when…it’s safely in the dive master’s net bag there’s a real sense of achievement.”
The day’s catch is prepared for a private beach dinner, where guests can take turns slathering on sauces and picking up tips at the grill. Meals feature in-season ingredients, such as fresh mango glaze. Created as an over-the-top luxury experience, the service costs $1,950 for the first two people and $500 for each additional one.
For guests looking for an easier route to delicious cuisine, the Hotel Arts Barcelona in Spain, another Virtuoso-exclusive property, offers a new Michelin dining program. “Many disciples of [famed Spanish chef] Ferran Adria have started their own restaurants, and increasing the popularity of the region amongst foodies,” explains hotel representative Lorriane Lacy. In response to this growing enthusiasm, the hotel gives guests VIP access to the region’s top restaurants by making lunch reservations and providing quick, luxurious transportation via helicopter.
The journey begins with a five-minute transfer from the hotel to a heliport, then a scenic flight of 45 minutes to an hour. It includes a bird’s eye tour of Barcelona with glimpses of famous sites such as Sagrada Familia and Montjuïc. The rest of the journey could include sweeping views of coastal Catalan towns and beaches or rocky inland landscapes.
Part of the program’s appeal is the guaranteed reservations at some of the most sought-after tables in the region, where access usually takes months to arrange. Guests may choose among the two and three-star rated restaurants El Celler, Miramar and Les Cols, enjoying avant-garde tasting menus and artistic creations such as fresh tomatoes and caviar drizzled with olive oil and quail egg tempura. All for $4,923 per couple.
These hotel stays, and other unique hotel experiences, are best when planned by your Virtuoso Travel Advisor. Don’t have an advisor? Click here to find out more.
In synch with the strategy to rebrand Travel Mart as Virtuoso Travel Week, consumers got an extended glimpse behind Virtuoso’s Vegas velvet ropes as mainstream media—including CBS, USA Today and Forbes.com―outnumbered trade media for the first time.
As of August 29, Virtuoso’s PR outreach for Virtuoso Week has generated more than 209 million impressions, which can be translated as the cumulative number of times coverage of the event has been in front of viewers and readers. The Virtuoso Week coverage brings Virtuoso’s year-to-date total to nearly 2.3 billion impressions.
The plan to attract more mass media—and ultimately reach exponentially more consumers―dovetails with Virtuoso’s Collaborative Commerce™ strategy, which features consumer engagement as a key element of a three-pronged focus. Network sales growth will be propelled by the introduction of new traveler-focused tools such as Virtuoso Travel Folio and the forthcoming relaunch of Virtuoso.com.
Press coverage was also driven by the first Virtuoso Week news conference in which suppliers and other affiliated organizations leveraged the assembled media to announce product launches and other developments. Participating in the inaugural presser were AmaWaterways; Ecuador Tourism Board; the governments of Mexico and Bhutan; Aqua Expeditions, which unveiled its expansion into Southeast Asia; and Abercrombie & Kent, which revealed the launch of a new brand.
A few highlights of the Virtuoso Week coverage:
To learn more about Virtuoso, visit www.virtuoso.com.
Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, announced that its passenger-carrying suborbital space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2), successfully completed its first glide flight test on June 26 since a recent integration period for rocket motor systems and maintenance. Also, on June 26, the spaceship’s engine, RocketMotorTwo (RM2), underwent another successful full duration test fire, marking the first time the company and its partners have undertaken test flight and test firing on the same day. Both milestones prime Virgin Galactic to reach powered flight by the end of the year.
“Since receiving an experimental launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration in May for SpaceShipTwo and its carrier vehicle, WhiteKnightTwo, there has been a rapid escalation of test activity,” said George Whitesides, CEO and president of Virgin Galactic. “In that timeframe, we’ve had seven successful test flights and three full-scale rocket motor tests. We are on track for powered flight by the end of 2012.”
The glide flight was performed by Scaled Composites, the prime contractor for the spaceflight system. To perform the flight, SS2 was air-released from WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) at an altitude of 51,000 feet. At the SS2 controls were Scaled pilots Pete Siebold and Mike Alsbury. In the carrier aircraft were Scaled test pilot Mark Stucky and David Mackay, Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot. Flying in the chase plane for the test were Mike Melvill, who piloted the first private flight to space, and Virgin Galactic pilot Keith Colmer.
The rocket motor firing was performed by Sierra Nevada Space Systems, the prime contractor for the RM2 system. The 55-second test was the thirteenth full-scale flight design RM2 hot fire. All objectives were completed. In addition to this test, on June 20 a full-scale RM2 test firing took place for the first time at Scaled Composites’ test site in Mojave, Calif., under full direction of the spaceship’s Rocket Motor Controller. This firing provided an end-to-end test of the rocket motor systems – a critical step in preparation for powered flight.
This intense period of activity comes just weeks before Virgin Galactic, along with its Mojave-based sister manufacturing organization, The Spaceship Company, will gather customers and VIPs at the Farnborough International Air Show 2012. Guests will attend a special briefing from company founder Sir Richard Branson and other company executives.
Virgin Galactic flights booked in the US are handled exclusively by Virtuoso travel advisors. Click here to learn more about the Virtuoso/Virgin Galactic partnership.
Virtuoso® recently unveiled the much anticipated 2012 Virtuoso Luxe Report to the media. Virtuoso’s elite travel agency membership provided input for the annual survey, which is recognized throughout the industry as a respected trend-predictor for luxury travel based on insight garnered from some of the most upscale travelers in the world.
Findings indicate that Virtuoso’s client base is a well-seasoned force, not easily dissuaded by rising fuel prices and hotel costs, as is evident by its continued support of Europe. Italy and France ranked as two of the most popular international destinations, with England joining the top five on this prestigious list for the first time. Similarly, Virtuoso’s clientele showed a strong desire to explore new, undiscovered destinations with Cuba, for the first time ever, topping the polls as the most popular emerging destination. Similarly, Cambodia and Belize made their debut as new additions to this category, marking a distinct trend towards more intrepid travel locations than in previous years.
This year’s report demonstrates that international travel continues to be the most popular type of trip in 2012, with high-end river cruises being named as the second of five biggest emerging travel trends, just behind family and multigenerational travel, which continues to sell strong among the upscale traveler and takes the number one spot in this category.
Unsurprisingly, following the boom in luxe hotels in Miami over the past 18 months, Miami and predominantly South Beach, joined the list of top five U.S. destinations, coming in at number five on the list after Maui, New York City, Napa Valley & Sonoma and Las Vegas.
For families traveling in 2012, joining Italy and England, which ranked highly in 2011, were Turks & Caicos and South Africa, both were first time arrivals to the family travel list replacing Alaska. Also included in this category were Hawaii and Costa Rica.
The most popular destinations for romantic travel continue to be Italy, French Polynesia and France; however, the 2012 report saw both Bali and the Seychelles join the top five, again demonstrating that long haul travel is not a problem for hopeless romantics seeking their piece of paradise.
Of those booking travel, top motives influencing travel choices were similar to those in the 2011 Luxe Report including: seeking authentic experiences in new destinations; rest and relaxation; and personal enrichment– further supporting the increase of family travel, which remained the biggest travel trend in the 2012 report.
The Luxe Report also affirms the value that high-end travelers place on working with a professional travel advisor. When booking vacations, Virtuoso found that the largest influences on consumers’ travel decisions are recommendations from friends and family combined with their travel consultant’s advice on the right destination, the offer of once-in-a-lifetime experiences and also value for money paid.
“The Virtuoso traveler continues to look for new resorts and destinations to visit, personal enrichment and tailored experiences from their travels,” says Virtuoso Chairman and CEO, Matthew D. Upchurch, CTC. “Whether it’s a desire to explore new lands, reconnect with loved ones or seek new adventures, Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to plan the ultimate travel experience. The Luxe Report is an extension of that relationship and those ongoing advisor-client conversations.”
Advisors from Virtuoso member travel agencies were invited to take the survey in December 2011 and January 2012. Results were tabulated from more than 420 responses from the United States and Canada. A digital version of the full survey results can be found here: http://www.virtuoso.com/thecompany/luxereport2012/
Ever since Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman traveled to the ends of the earth in the movie The Bucket List, the term bucket list has become synonymous with must-do life experiences. At a recent Virtuoso Regional Meeting, we posed the question to a few travel agency owners and suppliers – “What’s on your 2012 bucket list?
Click on the video below to see what these Virtuosos have to say about their bucket list destinations:
What’s on your travel bucket list? Tell us in the Comments section below.
To find out more about Virtuoso, click here.
Hot on the heels of a recent TODAY Show appearance by Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch, in which he espoused the importance of working with a travel advisor, two more media outlets have published articles on the value of using a travel advisor.
Last month, CNN.com asked the question: When a traveler can compare prices on half a dozen websites simultaneously, enter a credit card number and hit submit, why would he use a travel agent?
What follows is a description of many travelers’ worst nightmare – the Costa Concordia disaster that happened earlier this year. However, as CNN reports, one family that was on the ship was safe at home within 48 hours thanks to their Virtuoso travel advisor.
The article details how the advisor helped the family from the time they reached land to the moment when they boarded a plane for home. It also discusses the common misconception that working with an advisor will cost travelers a lot more than booking their own travel.
“One of the biggest values of a good travel advisor,” Upchurch told CNN.com, “is understanding what’s important to you and being able to provide options you hadn’t thought of.”
Click here to read the CNN.com article.
Also in February, Forbes.com ran an extensive, 3-part series praising travel advisors. Written by travel journalist Larry Olmsted, who used his Virtuoso travel advisor for a trip to Africa, this story explains why travel advisors are far from obsolete in this age of online travel resources and booking engines.
As the articles note, travel agents have the insider access, expertise and connections to find the best travel options for any needs and budget; arrange unique experiences; and obtain discounts, upgrades and special amenities unavailable to individual travelers. The articles also praised Virtuoso as the best place to find professional travel advisors.
Click on the links below to read the Forbes series:
To find out more about what a Virtuoso Travel Advisor can do for you, click here.