The Walshe Group brought together two dozen Virtuoso luxury travel advisors last Wednesday [18 September, 2019] to showcase three destinations the company represents in the Australian market. Representatives from Hawaii Tourism Oceania, Abu Dhabi Tourism and NYC&Co (the official marketing and tourism organisation of New York City) gathered at Studio Sydney Tower, where during a three-course dinner, they were briefed on some of the latest developments in the luxury space.
The event was the first-of-its-kind joint destination update for travel advisor The Walshe Group had conducted. Hawaii Tourism Oceania’s Country Manager Giselle Radulovic remarked that Virtuoso was a strong supporter of all destinations and products within The Walshe Group’s portfolio.
Attendees were given a broad overview of each destination, such as where to go, what to do, how to get there, what’s hot, what’s new and advice on how long clients should plan to stay to really get immersed in the location. The range of high-end accommodation was highlighted, including existing properties, such as the desert oasis of Qasr Al Sarab by Anantara in the Empty Quarter of Abu Dhabi, through to recent additions, such as the fitness-focused Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards in New York.
A range of special offers exclusive to Virtuoso travel advisors were also discussed, including the Mauna Lani Auberge Resort on the Kohala Coast, on the Island of Hawaii, which is offering Virtuoso advisors 20% commission on reservations made by 31 December this year, for stays throughout 2020.
Abu Dhabi Tourism’s Brigette Ward detailed a variety of destinations clients can explore in the emirate, including The Corniche near the centre of town where the “seven-star” Emirates Palace is located; Saadiyat Island – a manmade island featuring white sand beaches and home to The Lourve Abu Dhabi and an expanding range of luxury hotels; and the entertainment precinct of Yas Island which is where Ferrari World and other theme parks have already opened, and the former Yas Viceroy, soon-to-be W Hotel Abu Dhabi.
For travellers with more time, the Empty Quarter in Abu Dhabi (about 2 hours drive from the city) or Sir Bani Yas Island (240kms from the CBD) where there are 10,000 animals such as gazelle and giraffe roaming free were recommended.
Ward flagged a number of hotels which may be of interest to luxury travellers, including Abu Dhabi’s first all-inclusive resort, Rixos, which is priced around $500 per night and has a three night minimum stay, and the Zaya Nurai Private Island – think “Maldives meets Miami,” Ward described – which offers villa-style accommodation, private pools and is renowned for its Friday Brunch packages (from midday to 4pm) which are popular with locals and tourists alike.
NYC & Company’s Kristen Hellmrich told the travel advisors that the ‘The Big Apple’ was more than just Manhattan, which is where most Australian travellers spend their entire time while in New York. Hellmrich touched on the five boroughs that make up New York City: The Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, and each offer unique experiences.
With over 2,500 hotels on offer in New York, “there’s a hotel for every client,” Hellmrich said, discussing some of the Virtuoso-affiliated properties, such as the sustainably-focused 1 Hotel Central Park and the iconic Plaza Hotel, The Beekman – Thompson Hotel in Lower Manhattan and The Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
The Equinox Hotel at Hudson Yards offers Virtuoso members booking their clients a three-night stay in a suite private helicopter transfers from JFK Airport.
Also in New York, The Empire State Building has recently opened up a new entry on 34th street which streamlines the process of heading up to the observation deck. Hellmrich lauded the attractions newly launched Sunrise Experience which operates on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It involves a very early start to the morning in summer, but “is well worth it”, with entry limited to only 100 people, meaning less crowds and stunning morning views and avoids queues.
When it comes to retail therapy in New York, Virtuoso members are also able to offer their clients the Madison Avenue Preferred Privilege Card, providing benefit to customers at a collective of shopping outlets in the precinct, such as a glass of champagne on arrival, a personal shopper, or a small gift.
Lead image: Brigette Ward, Department of Culture and Tourism for Abu Dhabi, Giselle Radulovic, Country Manager, Hawaii Tourism Oceania and Kristen Hellmrich, Manager of Tourism Development, NYC & Company.