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.