Archive for category Meetings & Events
As the Amacerto, AmaWaterways’ newest ship, slipped through a lock on the Main-Danube Canal connecting Europe’s Rhine and Danube rivers, passengers standing on the top deck watched the process in awe. Massive walls, mere inches from the boat, rose up around us as water drained from the chamber of the lock (used to manage water levels and make rivers navigable), slowly lowering us 20 feet or more so that the 82-cabin ship could pass through and continue its journey. Such a spectacular feat of engineering – both the canal locks and the ship’s precise design to sail them – would impress anyone.
We were onboard for Virtuoso’s annual Chairman’s Event, a trip recognizing 60 top agencies from the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, and Australia. More than 130 executives and their guests gathered in Budapest, Hungary, to set sail on a weeklong Danube river cruise that called on ports in Slovakia, Austria, and Germany. Ama Waterways, recently voted “Best Cruise Line” by Virtuoso advisors, hosted the sailing so that attendees could personally experience the biggest trend in luxury travel today: river cruising.
Many attendees had not sailed on a river cruise, and the response was overwhelmingly positive, from the new ship’s high-end décor and amenities to the quality of the food and service, to the excursions (all included) and the ease of being able to come and go as you wish. Here’s a sampling of our activities – and the special receptions honoring Virtuoso.
Budapest, Hungary: The cruise kicked off with an evening sail-away while the Pearl of the Danube glowed along its banks.
Bratislava, Slovakia: Some attendees followed a guide through this capital city, while others wandered into shops and pubs. Everyone gathered for a private reception with government dignitaries at the Primate’s Palace, the mayor’s home.
Vienna, Austria: Ama’s culinary excursion included a tour of a sparkling-wine cellar and a taste of the city’s famed Sacher torte. We also toured the Kunsthistorisches (fine arts) Museum (which can craft private visits for Virtuoso clients) and dined at the Hotel Imperial.
Dürnstein and Melk, Austria: Morning walking tours and wine tastings preceded an optional 20-mile bike ride to the next port stop. Who knew river cruising could be so active?
Linz and Salzburg, Austria, and Passau, Germany: The two-hour drive to Salzburg was worth the trip.
Regensburg, Germany: Choices, choices: a visit to the Audi factory, a sausage-and-beer culinary tour, walking, and biking were among the options.
Nuremberg, Germany: After crossing Europe’s Continental Divide, we visited Courtroom 600, where the Nuremberg Trials took place, and met with dignitaries at the Palace of Justice.
Look for a full report on the event – as well as river cruising tips from the advisors who attended – in the January/February issue of Virtuoso Life.
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.
You’ve heard of fashion week – the fashion industry event where designers present their latest collections to buyers and media. These buzzworthy shows set the stage for what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s not, and they impact what you’ll be seeing – and wearing – in the next season.
As you hold this issue in your hands, your travel advisor likely just returned from this industry’s equivalent of fashion week: Virtuoso Travel Week, the largest luxury travel trade show in the world. Every year, thousands of industry executives gather in Las Vegas for a jam-packed agenda of one-on-one meetings and events that showcase what’s new. From up-and-coming destinations to what’ happening with hotels, cruises, tours, and other offerings, your advisor finds information, ideas, and inspiration for where to go and what to do next.
Virtuoso Life editors attended the show to learn the latest news worth featuring in our pages. What’s happening in this issue? We hop in a suborbital flight simulator, head to Mexico for a long weekend, shop New York’s Soho, and find wardrobe suggestions for your next trip. Travel Style is more than just what to wear (though we do love that!) – it’s about art and culture, architecture and design, a state of mind. No matter where you go or what you wear there, travel never goes out of style – especially with a Virtuoso travel advisor as your personal shopper.
In Related News
When you travel, you help the economy – and at the recent G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, world leaders officially heralded the importance of tourism with this statement:
“We recognize the role of travel and tourism as a vehicle for job creation, economic growth, and development, and, while recognizing the sovereign right of States to control the entry of foreign nationals, we will work toward developing travel facilitation initiatives in support of job creation, quality work, poverty reduction, and global growth.”
So go ahead, book that next big trip or three. It’s a win-win for you – and the world.
The first-ever Virtuoso Week (formerly known as Travel Mart) shattered old records for attendance and relationship-building meetings, and drew the network together with a new focus on creating the ultimate client buying trip.
More than 3,900 people experienced the in-person benefits of being part of the network at Virtuoso Week August 11-17. The event was historic in several ways:
• The highest attendee total ever, breaking 2011’s previous high of more than 3,700
• The highest member advisor total – 1,859 – was up 11.5% from last year’s attendance, and every member region sent more attendees than last year
• The highest number of suppliers – 1,695 – up 6% from 2011
Advisors represented 427 agencies and suppliers were from 988 companies. Overall, 85 different countries were represented.
The number of advisor-supplier meetings also hit a new record high: an estimated 312,000 4-minute appointments, up from last year’s 265,000. The 10-minute sales meetings, in their second year, also proved popular, with an estimated 13,000 10-minute sales meetings taking place. The total estimated relationship-building that took place by attendees this year is an impressive 4,200,000 minutes – which equals eight years.
Additionally, Virtuoso Week made the national news when Peter Greenberg reported live from the Bellagio in Las Vegas for a report that appeared on CBS This Morning:
To find out more about Virtuoso, check out www.virtuoso.com.
Virtuoso’s biggest annual event – Travel Mart – has been changed this year to Virtuoso Travel Week. Click on the video below and watch Virtuoso Chairman and CEO Matthew Upchurch explain the significance of the new name for the future growth of the network.
Find out more about Virtuoso here.
As the ship sailed out of port, the prosecco flowed and the celebratory blare of horns heralded the start of Virtuoso’s 2012 Symposium, the annual international meeting for Virtuoso member agency owners and managers and our preferred travel supplier partners.
Just under 500 attendees boarded Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner for a four-night Mediterranean cruise from Rome to Monte Carlo. The voyage marks only the second time Symposium has been held on a ship (the first was with Crystal Cruises in 2005).
While onboard, attendees heard from industry leaders on how to reach luxury consumers with today’s ever-changing distribution channels, from social media ROI to investing in more robust websites. Featured speaker Stephen Kraus, from Ipsos Mendelsohn’s research firm, shared his findings on affluent consumers’ travel interests; 23Touchpoints’s Scott Ahlsmith introduced the well-received “Compare and Share” function on Composer; and Matthew Upchurch announced the end of Travel Mart (the name, not the event. It will now be known as Virtuoso Travel Week; look for more about this monumental change – and what it means for the travel consumer – in the weeks and months ahead).
Training and networking sessions rounded out the business agenda, but it wasn’t all work. The all-suite ship – every cabin has a balcony, walk-in closet, and spacious bathroom – impressed, as did Regent’s all-inclusive structure. The ship called on Naples (weather conditions forced a last-minute change from Sorrento), where excursions included Pompeii, Positano, Sorrento, and more. And while the pool didn’t get a lot of use, the restaurants, spa, casino, and disco certainly did.
VIRTUOSO LIFE conducted a photo shoot onboard for its upcoming July/August Travel Dreams issue, affording a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of a cover. Italy and Mediterranean cruising both top clients’ list of dream trips, so the resulting photos – one of which will appear on the next cover of VIRTUOSO LIFE – will definitely appeal to clients.
On the last night, Nancy Strong of Strong Travel was awarded this year’s Ruby of Siam (the photo collage of her grandchildren congratulating her brought the house down) and a fireworks display off the coast of Monaco made a sparkling finish to another successful event.
For more information on Virtuoso, visit the website at www.virtuoso.com.
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.
By Elaine Srnka
Editorial Director, Virtuoso Life
Some climbed a few steps, others took in the view from their seats, and an ambitious few even laced up their sneakers for the ultimate run. Regardless of their vantage, all attendees at Virtuoso’s annual Chairman’s Event, held in China last week, will agree: Lunch on the Great Wall ranks as one of the top travel experiences of a lifetime.
Actually, the entire week, which began in Beijing and ended in Shanghai, was punctuated with many “wow” moments, with stunning hotels, decadent meals, entertaining cultural performances, and incredible venues.
The event was Virtuoso’s seventh annual recognition trip, honoring its top travel agency owners and managers from 65 agencies and their guests.
Virtuoso on-sites Imperial Tours and Abercrombie & Kent Asia collaborated with numerous Virtuoso preferred hotels to create an itinerary that showcased luxury tourism in China. Attendees stayed at the historic Raffles Hotel Beijing and the glittering Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong. Other host hotels that sponsored events included Aman at Summer Palace, Grand Hyatt Shanghai, The Opposite House, the Park Hyatt hotels in Beijing and Shanghai, The Peninsula Shanghai, Shangri-La’s China World Summit Wing, and St. Regis Beijing.
After a brief business meeting, at which attendees heard from a tourism official, an author, and university students in China, the whirlwind trip began. In Beijing, highlights included exclusive, expert-led tours of the Forbidden City, hutong visits, bargain-shopping at the Pearl and Silk markets, tai-chi in the Temple of Heaven, and exploring the contemporary art scene in 798 District. Dinner and dancing at the National Aquatic Center (the “Water Cube” where Michael Phelps won eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics) capped off the Beijing stay. In cosmopolitan Shanghai, which dazzled with its eye-popping skyline and high-end shopping, the agenda included museum tours, Bund river cruises, and an excursion to an ancient water village.
Tourism is a top priority for China (it welcomed 184 million tourists in 2010), and these advisors enjoyed first-hand, exclusive access to this fascinating, rapidly changing country. Their insight and tips on traveling to China will be showcased in the January/February issue of Virtuoso Life, Virtuoso’s flagship luxury travel publication.
More than 3,700 people from 90 countries experienced the in-person benefits of being part of the Virtuoso network at a record-breaking Travel Mart August 14-19. The event was historic in several ways:
• Highest attendee total ever, breaking last year’s record of 3,368
• For the first time, the number of member advisors attending was greater than the number of supplier representatives
• The introduction of an additional third track of appointments, which resulted in 265,000 four-minute networking meetings
• New longer 10-minute sales meetings, which attendees arranged themselves through the debut of the Travel Mart Exchange online system. Attendees booked 5,445 sales meetings through it.
Sheila Gallant-Halloran was a first-time attendee at this year’s Travel Mart. Sheila, a travel advisor with Vision 2000, recently shared her Travel Mart experience on her blog.
For a “newbie”, Sheila quickly understood Virtuoso’s primary tenet about the importance of personal relationships and what they can do for both travel advisors and their clients. To further understand Virtuoso from an advisor’s point of view, read Sheila’s post.
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Virtuoso’s annual Symposium in Madrid showcased a stylish city with cultural flair.
Nearly 400 executives from top travel agencies and providers gathered in Madrid last week at Virtuoso’s 31st Symposium for a mix of thought-provoking meetings, engaging events in gorgeous venues, and a healthy dose of Spanish culture. Spain is the only country to host this event twice (Symposium was held in Barcelona in 2004).
The meeting kicked off with a welcome reception at the InterContinental Madrid, complete with dance performances, music, and huge pans of paella. During the next three days of business sessions at the hotel, attendees learned about the destination’s highlights from tourism board dignitaries; conducted networking sessions; and heard from futurist Nancy Giordano on trends shaping consumer behavior and the rise of “collaborative commerce,” which enables clients, advisors, and suppliers to share information for even better travel experiences.
Of course, it’s not all work. Food is central to any travel experience, and attendees dined in venues from the dramatically refurbished City Hall (at which the deputy mayor spoke to the group) to the Circulo de Belles Artes theater; the Casino de Madrid; the historic Westin Palace and Hotel Ritz; and the Quinta del Duque de Arco, a stunning palace just outside the city.
The group also had the opportunity to learn the flamenco, see the city with a photographer, tour the city’s esteemed museums, and more.
Special thanks to Made for Spain and Valesa Cultural Services, Virtuoso’s on-sites in Spain who tended to all the details, as well as the event’s many sponsors. Olé!