Virtuoso’s new Regional Preferred Partner Program devised in Australia is providing a pathway for local suppliers to potentially access the luxury network’s global database of travel advisors. The new partnerships, revealed exclusively by LATTE last month, have provided suppliers with an avenue to engage with the region’s best advisors whilst providing an alternative to compromising their value proposition by dumping inventory with online package specialists, says Adrian Clarke, Virtuoso’s Marketing & Commercial Manager, Asia Pacific.
The Regional Program comprises 16 new partners, mostly hotels and resorts, but also brings boutique cruise lines, tour operators and segment specialists into the fold.
Through the arrangement, they have access to 1,300 Virtuoso advisors in this region, plus another 200 in Asia.
In addition to the inclusion of Emporium Hotel South Bank in Brisbane, Coral Expeditions and InterContinental Hayman Island Resort (flagged by LATTE previously), Virtuoso has added the likes of the The Ritz-Carlton Perth, Mayfair Hotel in Adelaide’s CBD, Elysian Retreat in the Whitsundays and Bullo River Station, a working cattle station in the Northern Territory.
Clarke says South Australia presents vast opportunities for the luxury network due to the diversity on offer. In addition to the group’s first hotel in the capital city, Virtuoso has signed Mount Lofty House and its soon to open 5-star addition, Sequoia, in the Adelaide Hills, The Frames in the Riverland district, and The Louise in the Barossa. Previously, Virtuoso only had Southern Ocean Lodge in the state, a property destroyed by bushfires in December 2019.
Also in South Australia, Virtuoso now has two ground operators; Coast & Co and Exceptional Kangaroo Island. They aren’t the first operators to join the network, but they are the first specific to a particular region.
As well as Coral Expeditions, Virtuoso has signed Ahoy Club as a cruise partner. Travel concierge, Addicted to Australia, and private apartment specialist, Luxico, have also joined the Regional Program.
“We’re broadening the portfolio beyond just hotels and resorts,” Clarke said of the Australian collection. One of the overarching goals of the program when we started was to provide quality, relevant options to our members to meet traveller demand during the COVID recovery. We already had a very strong group of existing globally preferred Virtuoso partners here in Australia but we saw this period as an opportune time to expand the local mix further.”
Four pillars are used in the selection criteria for Regional Program members; member feedback of what they’re selling, competitive analysis, general market intelligence and approval from the Virtuoso regional member advisory board.
“We are really happy with the program and the members are particularly enthused by the partners we are bringing on. Even the partners themselves are excited by the immediate direct engagement.”
“Many of them may have wanted to be part of Virtuoso in the past, and perhaps hadn’t necessarily been ready, or had the strategic focus to be part of the global Virtuoso program. But the regional program gives them an opportunity as a bit of a stepping stone, a pathway essentially, for them to be considered on the global platform if they want that in the future,” Clarke said.
“It’s a smaller introduction.”
The Regional Program provides the members with visibility on Virtuoso.com within the Asia Pacific region – Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Greater China.
“We offered them this exposure because we knew this would appeal in the short term recovery as travel bubbles emerge as we don’t know when the rest of the world will be open,” he said. “For some of these partners it’s a valuable way of supplementing the inbound international visitors they’d relied so heavily upon previously.”
An expansion of the program is under evaluation for New Zealand, specifically for experiences, Clarke said.
“There could be more opportunities in the Pacific and Asia going forward. To that end our Virtuoso team in China is instigating a similar program and bringing onboard regional partners for Greater China, as well in Asia, and that’s along the same methodology and criteria as what we have undertaken here.”
Clarke said the regional program is positioned to offer partners a “different distribution lane” they should consider as part of their sales mix without feeling they need to resort “dumping their product into the discount bin”.
“We’re not saying this is the only thing they should consider, but they definitely should approach it as part of a comprehensive distribution program going forward.”
“We have the advisors that have a client base that they have nurtured over many, many years who do have the means and moreso the desire to see the things that make your experience stand out. If you have a food and wine focus, if your primary objective is family travel, or celebration travel, or its adventure, whatever that may be, we’ve got clients that are more inclined to holiday based on a passion-point rather than they are on price-point, and that’s the key difference that we see,” Clarke said.
Regional Program members are also able to attend two Virtuoso events right through until December 2021, have access to Virtuoso marketing, as well as training and development.
Prospective new Regional Program partners can contact Virtuoso directly or through their travel advisor.