David Kolner, Executive Vice President at Virtuoso confirmed the repositioning of how the global luxury travel network utilises its powerful tool, Wanderlist, at Virtuoso Travel Week last month, at the same time providing an update on the advisor experience and enhanced initiatives.
Originally designed for travel advisors to create collaborative “dreaming lists” to share with their clients, Wanderlist has been given a “twist”, Kolner said. “We’ve now made them public, which means advisors and our partners can now use Wanderlist in entirely new ways.”
He said Virtuoso travel advisors can, for the first time, set a Wanderlist to show the kind of trips that they specialise in, using a combination of images, videos and preferred partner information.
“It’s a way to re-market yourself as an advisor and what you do. And this is really important in the luxury leisure space, as it gives the client an example of the things they do,” he said.
Preferred partners can now also create Wanderlists about their destination.
Kolner cited a hotel partner in Chicago that had created a Wanderlist of its own, highlighting what Chicagoans do, which has generated “tonnes of new bookings and business from clients and advisors.”
“They are creating free-flowing world of information and generating sales leads,” he said.
Kolner also highlighted the renewed partnership between Virtuoso and Virgin Galactic, saying the new referral program is a “major change from our last relationship”, opening up the opportunity for all 20,000 travel advisors in the network to sell space travel. As revealed last month by LATTE, Virtuoso has been allocated 50 seats (those in the block 850-899) for members to sell, earning themselves a US$10,000 referral fee.
“There’s no training and certification, per se, but advisors do need to complete a small amount of training to do a referral,” he said, adding that clients who begin the enquiry with a Virtuoso advisor are able to “jump the queue” to begin the process.
The Virtuoso Preview program of Preferred Partners – a platform to help new products in the luxury and leisure industry get to market quickly – also has a strong bank of hotels and resorts in its stable. Members obtain pre-acceptance into the Preferred Partner portfolio, and in exchange, they provide marketing for Virtuoso advisors to assist with alerting their clients, ideal for those who “have to be the first one to go”.
Hotels and resorts scheduled to open in the next 6 months or so include: Atlantis The Royal Dubai (opening Q4 2022); 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay, Princeville, Hawaii (January 2023); The Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York; Waldorf Astoria Cancun; Susurros del Corazon (November 2022); Raffles London at the OWO (March 2022); Violino D’Oro (March 2023); The Peninsula Istanbul (April 2023).
Also in the Preview program is Explora Journeys – the maiden cruise line invited into the preview portfolio.
Virtuoso has expanded its Private and Villa segment “that still continues to be popular as the pandemic recedes,” Kolner said. New additions include Abercrombie & Kent Villas and the recently launched Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes comprised of villas and mansions, alongside the Orient Express La Dolce Vita luxury train being developed by Accor’s five-star hotel brand.
Events and Research
Kolner further confirmed Virtuoso would hold over 30 events around the world in 2023, and highlighted the significant benefit event participation has for travel advisors.
Events help increase an advisor’s sales based on the number they attend. According to Virtuoso’s research, an advisor coming to just one of their events increased sales 55 per cent (based on the period from 2019-21), compared to those who did zero.
Those sales figures increased the more events advisors attended: 91% for 2 events; 114% for 3 events; 172% for 4 events and up to 192% for 6 or more events.
“This is just a great reminder of how statistically relevant and proven coming to Virtuoso events is for advisors,” Kolner added.
He said the Virtuoso On Tour series will visit 16 cities globally in 2023. Next year will also see the introduction of Virtuoso Connects – a series of half-day or evening events. This new style of event is centred on local connections and relationship building, offering a smaller more intimate gathering at local venues. ‘Connects’ are currently scheduled for six cities with more to come.
Virtuoso’s advisors who are members of one of the network’s specialist ‘Communities’ – Adventure, Cruise, Culinary, Family + Celebration, UltraLuxe and Wellness – are also continuing to see increased sales over general advisor sales, Kolner revealed. In 2021, the average increase in advisor sales rose by 52% (for Wellness), to 91% (Ultraluxe), to a significant 178% (Cruising).
The one-stop-shop for learning, the Virtuoso Travel Academy, now has a refreshed layout and new universal navigation, offering more than 1,300 courses. Among them is the new Travel Agency Finances course.
Study Tours resume
Additionally, Kolner said Virtuoso’s Study Tours have been revived from pre-pandemic days, emphasising “these are not fams as they are much more intensive and focused and maybe less frivolous than what a fam can sometimes be. The goal is to educate the advisors and help them boost their sales on that product and destination.”
The Virtuoso executive of 13 years said the enhanced Study Tour product also has new twists, such as being focused on Wanderlist destinations, making it easier for an advisor to promote. A new ‘Community‘ tool has also been developed for advisors, making it easy for Study Tour participants to stay connected, pre, during and after the trip, “as often lifelong friendships are created on tour”.