Posts Tagged Luxury Travel
Spanning land, sea, sky, and even space, Virtuoso offers memorable experiences no matter what the destination. The April/May issue of its VIRTUOSO TRAVELER magazine highlights “29 Experiences of a Lifetime,” which can be brought to life by Virtuoso travel advisors together with the network’s preferred travel providers. Virtuoso also includes insider tips from some of its most knowledgeable advisors, ensuring travelers get the most from their global escapades.
These enticing experiences offer something for everyone, from adventure (African safari), to magic (David Copperfield’s private island), to the ultra-romantic (tango for two in Buenos Aires after touring the breathtaking Iguazú Falls). No matter the destination, travelers can be assured that Virtuoso’s advisors have extensive product and destination knowledge, and often firsthand experience, as is the case with Buenos Aires, where Virtuoso recently hosted 135 advisors during its Symposium. These travel professionals left Buenos Aires with a greater understanding of what the city and region offer, a tangible benefit to their clients wishing to go.
These 29 memorable experiences align with Virtuoso’s 2013 Luxe Report, a survey in which the network’s 7,200 travel advisors provided insight into where, when and how travelers will go next. When discovering what motivates luxury travelers, Virtuoso advisors report that clients want to explore new destinations; seek authentic experiences; rest and relax; spend time and reconnect with loved ones; gain personal enrichment; and seek adventures.
Tapping into its impressive portfolio of more than 1,700 world’s-best travel providers, Virtuoso has selected 29 defining opportunities to motivate would-be travelers. The Top-Ten Virtuoso “Experiences of a Lifetime” include:
- Hiking in Bhutan: Nomadic Expeditions takes travelers to Taktsang (“Tiger’s Nest”) Monastery, perched 2,000 feet above the Paro Valley in the Himalayan Mountains of Bhutan in a ten-day private journey. Available throughout 2013. From $6,395.
- Seeing the Northern Lights: Iceland Encounter’s five-day adventure includes seeing the aurora borealis while offering the chance to dogsled and walk onto Sólheimajökull Glacier. Available between September 15, 2013, and March 31, 2014. From $2,950.
- Wine Tasting with a Master: The five-day tailor-made tour from Découvertes includes a sampling of wines from a 35,000-bottle cellar with one of Paris’ master sommeliers. Available through December 31, 2013. From $8,460.
- Escaping to a Private Island: Make magic with a stay at David Copperfield’s private Caribbean island, Musha Cay. The illusionist even autographs a special memento for Virtuoso clients. Valid through December 31, 2013. From $37,500 per day for up to 12 guests staying a minimum of four nights.
- Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef: Orion Expedition Cruises takes water enthusiasts on a six-day voyage to the world’s largest reef. Departs December 8, 2013. From $3,640.
- Dancing with the Masai: Nature enthusiasts traveling with Micato Safaris track wild animals in the bush and explore the cultures of Africa, visiting and dancing with members of the Masai Tribe. Weekly departures available throughout 2013. From $11,740.
- Tangoing the Night Away: Excursionists with Abercrombie & Kent can learn the national dance in Buenos Aires after touring Iguazú Falls. Available throughout 2013. From $5,995.
- Floating in the Dead Sea: Guests of the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea can trek in Petra, dune-buggy in the Wadi Rum, and, of course, swim in the waters of the Dead Sea. A $100 spa credit is just for Virtuoso clients. Valid through December 31, 2013. Contact a Virtuoso travel advisor for pricing.
- Getting Up Close on Easter Island: The mysterious South Pacific island is home to hundreds of moai, monolithic stone giants. The explora Rapa Nui-Posada de Mike Rapu is the perfect base from which to adventure and provides Virtuoso clients with handcrafted keepsakes. Valid through December 31, 2013. Three- and four-night stays from $2,415 and $3,220 per person, respectively.
- Living Like a Catalan: Hosted Villas offers families the opportunity to bond in the Spanish countryside, whether perched over the ocean or situated on a farm complete with horses and chickens. A Virtuoso travel advisor can arrange the ideal stay.
The remaining 19 experiences can be found at http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/virtuoso/traveler_20130405/index.php?startid=48.
To learn more about or book one of these experiences, contact Virtuoso at 855.570.3830 or by visiting 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.
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.
I have to admit it: One of the (many) fun perks of traveling to warmer climes is monitoring the weather back home. Call it a kind of schadenfreude, but I get a little thrill knowing I’ve left behind dreary conditions for clear blue skies. The more extreme the mercury back there, the more I enjoy the sun where I am.
Such was the case recently when I flew to Miami for the opening of the St. Regis Bal Harbour (read about the hotel’s highlights on page 38). While I was having lunch by the pool, strolling the beach, and soaking up the sunshine (all in the name of work, of course), friends and colleagues in the Northeast were snowed in, as airports shut down and the entire region came to a standstill.
The March issue of Virtuoso Life is dedicated to the thrills of warm escapes, and as we’re just emerging from winter, the timing is intentional. You’ll find a roundup of all things beach, from the best cocktail to the best spot to watch the sun set, as well as a stylish Rio jaunt, a French Polynesian cruise, and much more.
These articles are intended to inspire your next beach getaway, but our Travel Dreams Survey has a broader goal: to help you think about all the possibilities for family vacations, cruise itineraries, gourmet destinations, and trips of a lifetime, to name a few. Log on to www.virtuoso.com before March 31 – it’s fast, fun, and serves as a wonderful tool to map out your travel goals (and it’s great info to share with your travel advisor). Plus, you could be a big winner: Five lucky entrants will each take home $1,000 cash, and the grand prize is a 12-day, all-inclusive Mediterranean cruise for two on Crystal Cruises’ Serenity from Venice to Athens, in a penthouse suite. The cruise also includes the perks of Voyager Club, an exclusive program available only through Virtuoso.
Wherever your travels take you, try not to gloat too much in your postcards (and Facebook posts) to those back home. But do let me know where you’ve been – I’m always thrilled to hear from you, regardless of the weather.
On my wish list:
Dream Destinations: Indonesia, Uruguay, Croatia
Island Escapes: Maldives, Mauritius, Fiji
Family Vacation Destinations: The Galápagos, Costa Rica, Alaska
Couples Getaways: Santorini, Prague
Wine Regions: Champagne, France (no surprise to those who know my penchant for bubbly)
Trips of a Lifetime: Calling on all seven continents – or perhaps a suborbital space trip with Virgin Galactic (did you know Virtuoso advisors are the exclusive sales agents in North America?)
So many places, so little time. Unfortunately, I’m not eligible to win, but you are – so take our survey at www.virtuoso.com. Hurry, the deadline’s March 31. I’ll be rooting for you.
This comprehensive book showcases hundreds of outstanding hotels and resorts that are known for diverse settings, exceptional service, remarkable attention to detail and exclusive amenities.
Throughout the guide, you will find a list of Virtuoso-exclusive benefits, which include preferred rates and availability, breakfast for two daily, room upgrades, early check-in and late checkout and enhanced amenities that provide an additional value. These amenities are available only through a Virtuoso travel advisor. Click here to learn more about what a Virtuoso travel advisor can do for you.
In addition to the exclusive amenities, travelers can take comfort in knowing that each hotel and resort has been thoroughly evaluated for quality.
Annual Best of the Best Award Winners
See the hotels that received special recognition from Virtuoso travel advisors.
Virtuoso Villas & Private Retreats
Private hideaways in the world’s most exciting locales.
Africa & Middle East
Find quiet serenity in Cape Town or at a walled oasis in Marrakech.
Asia & Pacific
Explore the lagoons of Bali, the heart of Tokyo or the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef.
Canada & United States
Stay in the Canadian Rockies, the Big Apple or the Big Sur in bespoke style.
Caribbean & Bermuda
Heaven awaits in a posh suite in Jamaica or at a 350-year-old convent in San Juan.
See the Old World anew from an idyllic hideaway in Rome or a country estate outside Bath.
Mexico, Central & South America
Take in rooftop views in San Miguel de Allende or the cloud forest in Costa Rica.
To learn more about Virtuoso, visit www.virtuoso.com.
by Betsy Goldberg
Senior Manager – Corporate Communications at Virtuoso, Ltd.
Fascinating Spain blends a rich heritage with contemporary twists on history. This mix is particularly evident when visiting the country’s Virtuoso properties. I toured five network hotels during a recent educational sponsored by Virtuoso On-Site Valesa Cultural Services and two Virtuoso tourism board partners, the Tourist Office of Spain and Heritage Cities of Spain.
We began at the grande dame of Madrid hotels: the Ritz. This 101-year-old señora is famed for her elegant interior resplendent with historic treasures, the impeccable service and the Sunday brunch buffet. Here we found a mix of tradition and modernity, as Spanish standbys such as paella and the ubiquitous ham shared tables with international favorites such as carpaccio (no less than three different types), quesadillas and sushi.
The InterContinental Madrid offers an equally impressive Sunday brunch buffet in equally impressive surroundings. Included are everything from non-traditional whole lobsters to dim sum to chocolate mousse – and, yes, traditional paella and ham. We stopped eating long enough to tour the hotel, and were blown away by the 4,000-square-foot modern Royal Suite, which has housed such luminaries as Paris Hilton, Joe Biden and Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch.
More oohs and ahs followed as we visited the newly redecorated AC Santo Mauro Hotel in Madrid. The hotel’s elegant late nineteenth-century building was the residence of the influential Duke of Santo Mauro. Its decor playfully blends history with hipness. We admired the public rooms, including the gorgeous Chinese and Red Lounges, and craved a sip of something delicious in the clubby Chivas Lounge.
How many hotels have such a storied history that they have their own on-location museum? The Westin Palace Madrid, which turns 100 next year, does. Giants of the arts world, including Hemingway and Dali, frequented the bar. More recent celebrity guests include Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson and Henry Kissinger. We dined under the hotel’s spectacular stained-glass dome after touring the spacious rooms decorated in a contemporary style.
You’ll feel like a celebrity when concierge Joey Sendra escorts you around the cutting-edge Hospes Palacio del Bailio in Córdoba. You’ll see patios, gardens, murals from the 1700s and the stunning lounge-library, where guests have been known to doze off in the comfortable surroundings. The hotel, declared a historic monument in 1982, was built between the 16th and 18th centuries. But the site has been inhabited for much longer. We were given a midnight tour of the Roman ruins under the hotel – accessible only to Virtuoso guests.
All of these trips and more can be hand-tailored to suit your needs with the help of a Virtuoso travel advisor. Don’t have a travel advisor? Click here to find one.
Beckoning to you from China, India, Buenos Aires and more, you’ll realize your true travel potential with one of these Enriching Journeys. Take a trip down the Yangtze River in China, discover four cities with distinctly different personalities in India, and find the latest fashions (and footwork) in Buenos Aires. If you desire inspirational travel, this is the issue for you!
The New China: Page 82 – A trip up the Yangtze River reveals the superpower’s intrigue, from breakneck development to ancient treasures and natural wonders.
Subcontinent Sampler: Page 92 – An essential guide to four cities in India, each with personality to spare.
Tokyo Today: Page 102 – A new day dawns in the land of the rising sun.
Stepping Out: Page 108 – Fashion, food, and fancy footwork – winter’s the perfect time to make moves for Buenos Aires.
Also, you won’t want to miss – The Virtuoso Traveler on page 54 – Frank and Gerry Victor trip the light fantastic to their Virtuoso travel advisor’s score.
All of these trips and more can be hand-tailored to suit your needs with the help of a Virtuoso travel advisor. Don’t have a travel advisor? Click here to find one.
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.
Immerse yourself in the best of Europe in this issue of VIRTUOSO INSIGHTS. Whether it’s the siren song of the French Riviera, the seductive call of Sicily or the allure of a biking adventure across the Continent, you’ll find plenty of enticing reasons to travel to Europe. And if it’s nightlife and cityscapes that beckon, you’ll find them on an after-dark journey to Hong Kong or atop one of the best rooftop hotel bars and lounges around the globe.
Of particular interest, The Virtuoso Advantage offers an enlightening comparison between a do-it-yourself trip to Paris and one planned by the Virtuoso travel advisor.
Spotlight – The what, why, when, and how on Sicily, Italy’s Island of the Sun.
Let There Be Night! – Adventures after dark in hip Hong Kong.
On Top of the World – Cheers to our favorite hotel rooftop bars.
France’s Côte d’Azur – Sun, starlets, and Europe’s sexiest coastline.
On A Roll – The Continent’s best biking cities. Plus: Relaxed rides in the countryside.
Planning the perfect European escape is effortless when you use a Virtuoso Travel Advisor. Click here to find out more.
Celebrating its sixth year honoring select members through its Chairman’s Recognition Event, Virtuoso® luxury travel network welcomed 120 travel agency owners/managers and guests from nine countries to the annual gathering last week in Kenya. Hosted by Micato Safaris, with supporting sponsorship from Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, &Beyond, the Kenya Tourist Board, Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, these top revenue-producing agencies were provided with an up-close-and-personal experience in one of the world’s preeminent safari destinations, while being immersed in the local culture and educating themselves how travel can help benefit inhabitants of this diverse country.
“Chairman’s Recognition Event has become a very valuable time for Virtuoso Member owners and our senior team to come together,” says Matthew D. Upchurch, CTC, CEO of Virtuoso. “It enables us to build stronger bonds amongst ourselves, to understand the trends and challenges we face together, and to experience incredible destinations around the world.”
With a schedule of events befitting of the world’s top travel agencies, the group traveled to Kenya from October 22-29, 2010. During their time, they enjoyed a special itinerary that included morning, afternoon and night game drives, bush walks, lectures with Maasai Elders and hot-air balloon rides in the Maasai Mara; as well as helicopter trips, horseback riding and other activities at Mount Kenya Safari Club.
On the first full day of the event, United States Ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, hosted participants at his personal residence in Nairobi for a special lunch honoring The Pinto family, Virtuoso and Micato Safaris’ non-profit work within Kenya. In his remarks to attendees, Ambassador Ranneberger commented: “When visitors come to Kenya, their experience is in the hands of tour agents like many of you here today. They rely on you to craft a unique experience for them, experiences that will create memories that will last a lifetime. In turn, you rely on companies like Micato to consistently deliver the quality tourism experiences that your clients deserve. Yours is an important partnership.”
On the final day of the trip, participants personally experienced how travelers can truly make a difference when visiting East Africa. The group visited the numerous projects of Micato’s non-profit program, AmericaShare, located in the Mukuru slum on the outskirts of Nairobi. These projects, centered on community outreach, economic empowerment and education, are committed to improving the lives of the poor and vulnerable women and children living there – many of them victims of the AIDS pandemic. Many Virtuoso travel advisors met with the African children they are putting through boarding school through AmericaShare’s School Sponsorship Programme and everyone learned about Micato’s innovative new One for One Commitment, which sends an impoverished child to the local government school for every safari sold. In total, 68 individuals associated with Virtuoso – Members, Preferred Suppliers and Virtuoso staff – sponsor 78 children through AmericaShare.
The invited agencies from across the globe collectively represent 57% of Virtuoso’s $5.1 billion annual network sales. With more than 6,000 travel specialists associated with over 300 agencies in 22 countries within the organization in total, this elite group represents the very best travel advocates in the industry. Virtuoso selects its Chairman’s Recognition participants based on top production in the following categories:
- Highest Virtuoso preferred supplier sales per agency
- Highest Virtuoso preferred supplier sales per agent
- Highest Virtuoso preferred supplier sales growth per agency
Photos provided by Micato Safaris.
For more information, please visit www.virtuoso.com.