Virtuoso’s 2018 Community Globetrotting event enables luxury travel advisors to get valuable insights into destinations’ USPs
The ultimate kick-off event on the eve of Virtuoso Travel Week, Community Globetrotting, was an outstanding success. The single-day highly-concentrated event on Saturday August 11th featured eight pavilions, each of which was dedicated to a single Virtuoso Community (Adventure, Family, Voyages, or Wellness) with advisors able to attend up to three pavilions over the course of the day. So, just how was it? Cleverdis editor-in-chief Richard Barnes was present – reporting both for Cleverdis, and also as guest editor for Virtuoso.
The Community Globetrotting event enables small groups of advisors to sit down to in-depth ten-minute presentations – often from the “top brass” of supplier companies. It’s not just about imparting information; it’s about making human connections, building trust and understanding. But it can also be fun and creative.
Suppliers are all smiles
Making human connections is sometimes about having some fun. Paul Gauguin cruises set up a Snapchat booth (see photo – top of page), giving visiting advisors props, along with signs, to have their pictures taken, following which the photos are sent by email with instructions on how to post them on social media, how to send them to one’s clients and get the message out to the world. Sandy Stevens, vice president of sales at Paul Gauguin was thrilled with the event: “The quality of the agents is the best… that’s why we love it and that’s why we’re here, and we are particularly popular with our Snapchat photo booth right now, so that they get to send all this information out to the world.”
In the Adventure Travel section, Kensington Tours was just one of many suppliers to report direct business from the Globetrotting event, especially to trending destinations like Egypt and the Middle East. Marc Moore, vice president, agency sales, told us, “We find anything it’s eight minutes or longer we get the best ROI, so it’s been a good group with good agents – highly engaged, so it’s money well spent for us. It is really focused on adventure travel. It’s not just a broad, general travel show; it’s a very segmented group but it’s very qualified, so it’s time well spent for us.”
Marc told us he already had four quotes half way through the day, so he was very happy. Lindblad Expeditions wowed advisors with some amazing video content of Orcas attempting to hunt a seal … with the latter happily getting away. The kind of images people see and take home from a tour to the Antarctic. Their trending destinations still include the Antarctic, Galapagos islands, and more recently the Arctic as well as Alaska and the Russian far east. Jacinta McEvoy, vice president of global sales for Lindblad told us this is one of her company’s favourite events, because they’re seeing the agents that really specialise in expedition travel and adventure travel: “This is the perfect forum for us to present our products and these are definitely our preferred agents in the industry who sell a lot of expedition travel,” explained Jacinta, adding, “We get access to the folks who really specialise in this area of adventure travel and we are able to target the travel advisors who sell us. It’s also building that relationship, seeing them once a year. You put a face to the name for the people who are selling you, so it’s really valuable for us to be a part of globetrotting. What’s different here is that it’s really one on one access that we don’t get that some of the other trade events. It’s about building a relationship with our preferred travel advisors.”
I was there, why weren’t you?
Advisors attending Community Globetrotting were unanimous in singing the praises of the event, with the most common question being “Why isn’t everyone else here?” We met with a number of them and asked what their impressions were.
Lauren Raps from Travel Prospect, based in Connecticut has been with Virtuoso for about two years. “I did not do globetrotting last year but I heard really good things about it, so as I specialise in family travel I was interested in spending more time with destinations and properties that really cater to luxury family travel. So far, I love it! I think it’s great! It’s nice to have this in-depth time to get to know these products more. I am going to be able to go home and report back a great Safari option, and a great alternative to summer vacations, so absolutely this has been extremely valuable so far.”
Flavio Géo is director of Visa Turismo in Brazil. “I think being part of a community opens opportunities to know what’s going on in the travel industry. Today, service and new ideas is what clients are demanding from us, so we have to search and research new things that are happening in the travel industry, and that’s why this is important. I like to participate in the Globetrotting, because you get to know what is really happening and you have more time here to talk with the people. Consequently, you learn about a lot of new things that are coming up in the market.”
Aussie accents were not uncommon among the advisors to be spotted at Globetrotting. Josephine DeMuth from Bayview Travel in Brighton, Australia was to be found touring the wellness sections. “This is my second wellness section today, and it has been extremely worthwhile to actually come into contact with the owners or the directors of the companies, and gain firsthand knowledge of what they do. It gives you a better understanding of which clients should be placed where, and of course over this side of the world they are not just going to come for a weekend, particularly coming from Australia, so you are wanting to tailor-make a tour that would incorporate one of these wellness resorts. Here, it’s all about making those contacts and connections that can be invaluable down the track. It might be two years before you actually need to contact that person, but it’s fantastic to be able to say hey I met you at virtuoso in 2018.
Another Aussie, Anna McMurtrie – managing director of Sydney-based Wentworth Travel – was back at Travel Week for the seventh time, and she says she loved the Globetrotting. “It’s so fantastic to learn so much about one particular type of travel in a couple of hours. It’s really condensed. I am in the family community and also the wellness community and it gives you great education about the products available.
This is quite a unique experience as there is nothing quite like it anywhere in the world, as it gives us a level of expertise and an advantage that helps us stand out against all competitors.”
Ontario-based Vision Travel were present with a number of advisors. Regional Manager, Ontario, Jennifer Strazzeri doesn’t actively sell, but we spotted her in the wellness community at Globetrotting, gathering information to take back for her team in order for them to sell these beautiful resorts around the world.
“It gives us information, ideas and one of my advisers sells a lot of retreats and is active in the wellness community so I am looking to bring back information for her. I was also quite interested in the Napa Valley and learning about the wineries there that also include a wellness program. That’s something I had never thought of. I didn’t realise that those offerings were in the Vineyards. So that was a surprise and that’s a great offering for our clients.”
Vision Travel Advisor Paola Molinari-Shaw said it was the people that made the difference. “You learn so much, you get more insights and general knowledge that you couldn’t get just from looking at a brochure or looking at a website. You get to meet the people: the important people to contact in case you have any questions and you really just getting so much more than you could ever hope for. You get to gain so much insight that you think, ‘Well, maybe I should propose these ideas more to my clients instead of just sending them to regular all-inclusive resorts or on regular cruise lines’.”
For Taiwan’s first Virtuoso advisor, Charlie Chan, of On Style Tours, this was also his first Globetrotting event, and he says he had great fun… “Especially because Virtuoso has chosen and screened the best providers for us, so this saves us a lot of time. It brings me extra opportunities and new products to sell to my clients in Taiwan, which I would probably have a lot of difficulties in knowing or even getting in contact with if I was not a Virtuoso member. The providers look at you differently here. They know you are a Virtuoso member with great potential buying power, especially for me because I’m an agency from Taiwan and most providers are not used to having contact with Asian buyers so that means I stand out quite easily.”
Brian Payntar Harris – Owner – Aspen Travel Advisors – Luxury Travel Worldwide says he has seen the exceptional evolution of Globetrotting over the past two years. “I think it’s really getting dialed-in now, so it’s a lot more organized and it flows a lot better. Also, Globetrotting is my most important day of all Travel Week. It’s that we have more time with the suppliers; the suppliers can present an atmosphere that really shows what they do and what sets them apart. For me, it’s a lot more fun than the speed-dating section of the week, because I learn a lot more, and it’s a lot more engaging for me than the rest of the week.
On the other hand, for Emily Marshall – Wellness travel specialist – Aspen Travel Advisors, it was her first experience at Virtuoso Travel Week. “Globetrotting has been very educational. With my focus being on wellness travel experiences, it’s nice to be able to have a little bit more time with the suppliers and learn about the unique things they can offer. This experience has changed my life and my attitude. I’m hearing from fitness-based wellness resorts, or specifically health and longevity-based resorts for institutes is a little bit different than what I expected. I didn’t expect to see the “We’re going to whip you into shape over a four, seven or ten-day experience’, so that’s been an eye opener.”
For Brian Payntar Harris, his biggest take-away from the day’s event was from Aqua Expeditions and National Geographic. “They flew in one of their top guides. Our business is who we know: who we know as clients and who we know as suppliers. To make a human connection with the people that are going to be handling our clients on the other side of the world… That’s what Aqua Expeditions did. They brought in one of their doctor lecturers, and he was so engaging! In expedition travel that’s what sets one supplier apart from another, is the guides and how good they are at story-telling. For ten minutes, the whole booth was in raptures. We were just locked in with them. And I told them afterwards that I had seen five National Geographic Globetrotting presentations over the years, and this was the one that the most engaging. It was like, ‘Yes, that’s why people want Nat Geo, and that’s why I want to send them to that, because it’s not that they have the name, it’s that they have the best story-tellers’. Virtuoso Travel Week is the most important week of my year professionally; meeting who you know. But the whole week is ‘who you know’. This day is more about what they have to offer and why are they different. It’s night and day for me. Community Globetrotting is so important. It’s the one that opens your mind up and makes you think of new ways to market yourself and your business or get new clients, because there’s always something you didn’t know. I don’t know why more advisors don’t come to Globetrotting. Maybe it’s because it’s newer – just a few years old as opposed to 30 years old. But I am surprised, because this is where I get the most take-away. I get more business cards during the rest of the week but this is where, if I have a new project, and I want to concentrate on small ship expedition cruising or polar itineraries, I can’t get that kind of stuff out of a three-minute meeting.”
Most engaged advisor honoured at Globetrotting Lunch
Alicia Diez, senior leisure advisor and leisure development manager, Valerie Wilson Travel Inc, in NYC, was voted the most engaged advisor in this year’s Community Globetrotting event.
“I was flattered to be nominated to begin with. It was very unexpected, and to actually have won is very humbling, but it’s basically because I consider relationships with suppliers to be such a key component in order to be able to deliver what we need for our clients, and it’s the communities that we work with that help bring things to fruition and keep our clients happy and for our clients to think we are superstars. It’s not possible to be expert in everything all over the world, but all out our clients think we know everything, and it’s the network of these communities that helps us to learn and be able to have the confidence to send clients to destinations and to use the products because we have the trust between ourselves to be able to deliver everything.”
THIS REPORT HAS ALSO BEEN CIRCULATED AS PART OF VIRTUOSO’S COMMUNICATION WITH ALL PARTICIPANTS IN TRAVEL WEEK – AND ALL MEMBERS WHO COULD NOT BE PRESENT.