BEHIND THE SCENES WITH A VIRTUOSO ADVISOR

Guido Graf – Travel Designer – Deluxetargets – Switzerland – takes Cleverdis editor-in-chief Richard Barnes “under his wing” at Virtuoso Travel Week.

“Shadowing” Guido Graf for a full morning of meetings during Virtuoso Travel Week was a unique opportunity to see the internal workings of this legendary hotdating session. We asked when the Virtuoso “love story” first started.

GOING HOME AFTER TRAVEL WEEK, SOME PEOPLE MEASURE THE TOWER OF BUSINESS CARDS THEY HAVE, AND IT CAN BE UP TO 40CM HIGH!

Eight or nine years ago at ILTM in Cannes, I first met with Matthew Upchurch (eds: Virtuoso CEO) and then five years ago, I asked him why Virtuoso wasn’t coming into Europe. He told me it was difficult, because there are so many different countries, with different laws and different mentalities… quite unlike the US. However, he did have a vision of global expansion, and three years ago, he said “OK, we’re ready, let’s do it!”, and we started with five founding members here – I was one of them. We are going step-by-step – it’s not at the same level as the US, because it needs time, also because of the different countries and supplier contracts people have in each country. Another thing that is different here is the fact that everything’s completely tour operator driven. We need to convince clients that it’s more about the experience. It’s not about going on a working tour in Tokyo for example; it’s about opening the back doors, giving people the impression of what the real mentality is of the Japanese people.

I sat in with you on the Virtuoso speed dating. That was amazing. What key value do you get from this?

In my case, it’s more like catching up with friends. I’ve worked for over ten years to build up this network, so my approach is very different to someone who is here the first time. Yes, it’s normal that people come here to sell their property. In order to do this, they need to give you as much information as possible in a short space of time. I like these four-minute appointments. For me, this is enough to introduce yourself, get the connection, get a short impression of what the other has to offer, and decide “Yes, that’s for me,” or “No, I don’t really have any clients for that,” and to ask two or three questions. I also have the chance, if something has been going wrong, to tell the people face to face. You have the possibility to have 70 meetings in one day. Going home after travel week, some people measure the tower of business cards they have, and it can be up to 40cm high!

Bellagio

One of the several halls at the Bellagio and Aria hotels hosting Virtuoso one-onone speed dating sessions.


Photo : Guido Graf | Travel Designer, Deluxetargets