Archive for category In the News
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.
Virtuoso provides the perfect antidote to the winter doldrums by hosting its first-ever European Virtual Travel Show on Wednesday, February 1, from 1pm-9pm EST. Attendees have a rare opportunity to mingle online with 47 of the world’s best European travel companies and Virtuoso’s travel advisors – all one needs to plan the perfect European getaway. Highlighted destinations include scenic countries such as Austria and Norway, as well as vibrant cities like Barcelona and Madrid, all of which serve as sought-after locales for families, honeymooners, singles, baby boomers and business travelers alike. Exclusive travel incentives revealed during the show will include promotions for private guides, hotel upgrades, gift cards, prepaid shipboard gratuities and special savings. Additionally, Virtual Travel Show guests are eligible to win gift cards and vouchers valued up to $500 for select cruise sailings and from participating travel providers.
Virtuoso’s European Virtual Travel Show allows attendees to access invaluable travel information from the convenience of their own homes or anywhere they have Internet connectivity. Would-be travelers have the opportunity to visit online exhibits and engage in question-and-answer sessions with upscale cruise lines, hotels, tour operators, on-site ground operators, airlines, specialty travel providers and the tourism boards representing these prime locations.
“Whether new to the Virtuoso network or an established client, consumers will find value in the information exchange with some of Europe’s most renowned travel companies, as well as access to some of the best travel advisors in the industry,” says Kristi Jones, President and COO of Virtuoso. “What separates this experience from a typical web search is that it’s interactive rather than one-sided. Everything has been vetted by Virtuoso; there’s no clutter of unwanted material or concern that a product has been misrepresented. Participants will come away from it better informed and inspired to see the world.”
The specifics for Virtuoso’s European Virtual Travel Show:
- The show will take place on Wednesday, February 1, 2012, from 1:00 p.m. – 9:00p.m. EST / 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. PST.
- Attendees are asked to register in advance at www.virtuoso.com. Virtuoso is currently waiving the registration fee. Attendees will be eligible for cash cards, prizes, travel vouchers and exclusive offers.
- Exclusive offers and promotions for European travel are available via Virtuoso’s online Europe Destination Guide at www.virtuoso.com.
- Technical requirements include a computer with internet access. High-speed Internet (Cable, DSL, Network) and computers running Windows PC with Internet Explorer 6.0 minimum or Firefox x 3.6, or a Mac with Firefox 3.6 or Safari 4.x or higher, will provide the best quality. The basic functionality is similar to visiting any website and playing a video with sound. No need for a phone, as sound will play through the computer.
Although the live interaction portion of the show takes place on February 1 only, consumers can access all special promotions and information on any of the participating travel providers throughout the month of February. For more information, visit www.virtuoso.com.
The Virtuoso travel network received nationwide exposure today when CEO Matthew Upchurch appeared on NBC’s TODAY show, which averages more than 7 million viewers.
Matthew was interviewed by the TODAY show’s Ann Curry for a segment titled “When to Use a Travel Agent.” If you missed Matthew discussing the value of travel advisors, or want to see his interview again, you can watch the segment on NBC’s website:
Find out more about Virtuoso here.
What do Jordan, Laos, Ireland and the Republic of Congo have in common? They are just a few of Virtuoso’s picks for must-see spots in 2012.
Virtuoso Public Relations Director Misty Ewing promoted the destinations in a Jan. 3 interview on Fox News.
“Where should we be dreaming about?” Ewing asked viewers of the segment in promoting “unexpected and unusual destinations.” She promoted the following:
- Jordan for its stability and convenience, as it’s easy to travel around.
- Republic of Congo for its gorilla trekking, where visitors can get as close as 20 feet from 11 different species of primates
- European river cruising, because visitors can pay up front in their local currency to avoid fluctuations, and everything is included
- Ireland as a way to experience the UK during the Olympics year in London
- Thailand and Laos for their gorgeous sights and warm, welcoming people
Watch the complete interview:
To see more coverage of Virtuoso’s picks for must-visit destinations and suppliers who can provide luxury experiences in those locations, click here.
Virtuoso was recently named 2011 Consortia Partner of the Year by Norwegian Cruise Lines. Virtuoso was one of seven travel partners honored by NCL for their successful relationship this year.
“I was particularly delighted to accept this award recognizing Virtuoso’s close partnership with NCL,” commented Bill Smith, vice president, cruise sales and performance management at Virtuoso. The line really values the contributions that our professional travel advisors make to its sales. Our members respond to NCL’s evolving product and see the benefits of offering it as a vacation choice to their more discerning clients.”
In 2011, NCL introduced Partners First, a corporate philosophy that puts travel partners first. “The success of Norwegian Cruise Line relies on the support of our travel partners. We highly value our agency partners, recognize their achievements and appreciate their hard work and dedication to our brand,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s president and chief executive officer. “We continue to look for new ways to enhance this commitment in order to continuously strengthen Norwegian’s relationship with our travel partners.”
To learn more about the award-winning travel experiences that you can get with the help of a Virtuoso travel advisor, click here.