Virtuoso Travel Mart 2010 | Report from Bellagio

Every year for the last 20 something, the world’s top travel advisors have met annually with representatives of 5 star hotels, lodges, cruise lines and local speciality travel companies around the world. I attended this year’s event which just ended Thursday evening at Bellagio & Aria in Las Vegas.

Advisors and suppliers learn from each other and pass on their new learning to clients and/or to improve their products and services. All are members of Virtuoso, a by invitation only marketing group representing the creme de la creme of the travel industry. And quite a group it is.

But I think even more important, for me as a luxury travel advisor, is the one to one connection with these suppliers. Personalized luxury travel is different from mass market travel. If Joe Traveler books a one week Mexico package at a 3 star, or even a 5 star resort, they’re just another body filling a bed. Granted, the experience at a 5 star resort will be better, but nonetheless, there’s no personal connection between the traveler and the resort’s management.

However, when I meet a supplier at Travel Mart, or in my office, or at their hotel, and I get to know them, and they me — then that degree of separation from this traveler (my client) to the supplier is closed.

Meet some of my travel partners and see what I mean:

Guillaume
Take Guillaume from the Connaught Hotel in London. The Connaught is a traditional English hotel, recently refurbished, and a sister property to Claridge’s and the Berkeley. I met Guillaume a year ago when I was invited to stay at Claridge’s where he was the Food and Beverage manager. Now he’s the #2, or the Hotel Manager, at the Connaught. I can guarantee anybody booking that hotel with me that Guillaume will assure them a very memorable stay there. If on business, he’ll make sure his staff has simplified all necessary arrangements for a productive visit. And if for leisure, he’ll be sure theater tickets, restaurant reservations, guides and the like are handled beyond the guests expectations. Sure, Guillaume is a great guy, but the one-to-one cannot be underestimated.

Maita
Maita owns a local travel company in Argentina and arranges the most amazing customized luxury vacations of her home country (and neighboring ones) you can imagine. She’s put together 1) a 3 week vacation for a single adventure traveler who wanted to hike glaciers, explore Iguazu beyond the norm and climb mountains, 2) a 10 day customized & escorted tour of Chile and Argentina for a California winery club focusing on gourmet dining (in the Andes no less) and wine tastings and 3) a pre-cruise exploration of Buenos Aires with tango lessons, private guides and a day at an Estancia.

David
David is an Englishman now living in Hong Kong and owns, like Maita, a small company focused on providing the visitor to HK or China with a visit they’ll always fondly remember. He’s arranged pre and post cruise stays for my clients in Beijing, Shanghai & Hong Kong. But beyond the usual, because my clients have already been to these places before, he suggests places and activities (i.e. Jewish Shanghai, Hangzhou, Lamma), and the latest hotels. Do you know the Upper House on Hong Kong Island?

Christophe, Aiko, Peter & the Dorchester Collection
Christophe is the Director of Sales and Marketing of Le Meurice in Paris. It’s one of the the hotels in Paris, along with their sister property, Plaza Athenee (you can meet Peter there). They also own the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan (Antonio), and of course their namesake, The Dorchester in London (Louise), and several more in the UK and USA. Kings, queens and my clients love these hotels. And so did Carrie Bradshaw for a few days. And I can guarantee that this team of amazing hotel professionals will do whatever it takes to ensure that your stay in their hotel, and in their city will be perfect. A Virtuoso saying — it’s the power of one to one.

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