Virtuoso is assessing how it can evolve its hotel program to better benefit its high-net work individuals that are booking premium styles of accommodation, such as villas.
Four months into his role as Virtuoso’s Senior Vice President, Sales & Partnerships, Cory Hagopian, told LATTE enhancements are afoot for the hotel scheme, with more aligned amenities and benefits for guests who are spending more.
Discussing the plans for Virtuoso’s hotel program exclusively with LATTE, Hagopian said the current model launched some 15 years ago and remains “very similar to what it was then”. Typically, Virtuoso Preferred properties offer guests a complimentary room upgrade at check-in, based on availability, daily breakfast for two, early check-in/late-check out and a food & beverage credit at the hotel of $100 in local currency.
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“I think it’s just time to look at it and just truly evaluate, does it do what we need it to do?” he said at the Virtuoso AU/NZ Forum in Fiji this month. “Does it do what our partners want it to do? And, if not, then what needs to happen for it to become relevant today?”
“Right now the amenities for the property are the same, regardless if you’re booking a suite or a villa. I’d like to elevate that part of the program,” Hagopian said.
“If you’re a high-net-worth traveller, I don’t know if you necessarily care that you’re getting $100 credit if you’re spending $10,000 a night on a villa.
“If you’re buying an entry-level room, and you’re paying $400, or you’re paying $10,000, you’re getting the same thing. [That] makes no sense to me. So I think we need to segment that way.”
Hagopian was 28 years with Accor before seeing an opportunity to work for a company that wanted to change.
“My wheelhouse in terms of where I’ve always done well is creating something new, or evolving something to become better,” he said of his decision to move from the French hospitality company. The refresh of the hotel program is one of his key priorities. He believes Virtuoso needs to look at the benefits of premium room and villa bookings, possibly on a more experiential level.
As an example, Hagopian suggested that clients’ booking a villa with a Virtuoso Preferred member could be offered a chef-prepared meal in their villa.
He said during his time at Accor and as a Virtuoso partner, the program previously offered an experiential element before it was evolved to the current offering.
“I understand why, for our partners, it’s easy to do a $100 food and beverage credit on the room account and be done. It’s not as easy to do an experience and plan that and coordinate it for the client. I don’t expect it will work for everyone but I do believe at the higher end, who we’re targeting, it will be favoured.”
Hagopian said at strategy meetings, partners are seeking more high-net-worth travellers to sell their suite and villa products to, saying: “Virtuoso can deliver that. We have the customer, we just have to package it differently.”
He said Virtuoso is bringing its members and partners together, in person and virtually, to discuss collaboratively how the program can be best evolved.
While still in its development phase, Virtuoso is also looking to establish a pool of hotels to discuss the program’s evolution. That will represent a mix of different properties, regional and global locations and brands, those with affiliations, those in large chains and overarching hospitality companies to smaller independent hotels, and mid-size members, to get a “proper representation” of the market.
Other program changes and launches
The hotel program revamp is the “first step” Virtuoso is looking to overhaul, he revealed to LATTE. “We want to look at our advisors too.”
“How are we using the data now that we have and invested on during COVID? And now we can start looking at who are the top advisors, and who are they booking.”
Hagopian flagged possible recognition for the top sellers within Virtuoso’s Communities, which range from Family & Celebration, to Adventure, Cruising and UltraLuxe.
“How are we recognising them and what are we going to do to ensure that they are elevated? And at the same time, there’s a whole group of advisors that fall just underneath that level who want to grow, so then what are we going to do to move them up, so they can be in the higher category? “
Other projects on the horizon for Hagopian include the possible creation of a new community focused on yachting, one of the luxury travel industry’s highest growth areas.
“There are a lot of new yacht products coming out so that will become a new segment – with more than 20 yachts coming over the next few years that’s a huge area of focus as well.”
Responsible for member and partner expansion, Hagopian said Virtuoso is also assessing its on-site/DMC arrangements, which he says are incredibly busy since the pandemic. “We need to understand do we need to grow that, do we need to bring more members on, or is this a temporary problem or is it a long-term problem?”
The luxury network also wants to grow its number of Tourism Board partners, with Hagopian saying “we know we’re lacking in some part of the world.”
“We’re growing in that area now. We have multiple new contracts now with destinations including Panama and Morocco,” he said, adding that “we need to be more proactive on growth.”