I’ve been an agent for a little over five years now and have been to my fair share of travel conferences. But in mid-August I attended Virtuoso Week in Las Vegas—a yearly conference for agents and suppliers who belong to the consortium Virtuoso. I’m new to this agency and have never worked in an agency associated with Virtuoso, so have never attended this event in the past. It’s a luxury affair and I felt the difference from other conferences from the moment we stepped out of our taxi and walked into the beautiful Bellagio Resort Hotel and Casino.
The service there is impeccable, and I immediately felt the five star treatment. We showed up early, but within a few minutes our rooms were ready. The rooms were elegant with interesting paintings on the walls, and waiting for each of us was a huge raspberry chocolate bar with a miniature Monet painting on it and a bottle of Evian. My room was cleaned three times a day—three times!! I found that I could really get used to that. Everywhere we ventured in the hotel we received first class treatment; my co-worker wanted chicken in her gyro—no problem. We wanted to order two breakfast items each (one each was included in the cost)–no problem. The food was not like your normal conference food either—I didn’t see a dried up chicken breast with a side of hard carrots at any meal. For instance, dinner one evening was oxtail tortellini and Atlantic salmon with sides of beluga lentils and roasted baby beets. Everything was delicious—and I haven’t even mentioned the desserts!
A few other different and amazing things that took place were the parties in the Bellagio suites with awe inspiring views of the fountains below; the cocktail party decorated as Candy Land with cotton candy trees, a DJ, hosted bar, incredible food, and walking up a 100 foot red carpet that turned out to be the train of a women’s dress while hundreds of Bellagio employees cheered and clapped for us. There was a Destination Dinner where each area of the world was represented in the table decorations. Each agent took something wonderful home from the table—depending on which table you were seated at the gifts ranged from a free trip to a small memento. In my case I received a beautiful glass paper weight with the world etched on it. I love it! At a different party I received a $100 Saks gift card. I gave it to my mom because she deserves a little something beautiful.
Aside from the incredible food, receptions and parties, I actually did work. The opportunity to meet as many luxury suppliers as I did was mind boggling. I met over 100 suppliers face to face and shared 4-5 minutes with each of them. It’s amazing how much networking can be done in that short amount of time! Each supplier carried an iPad with pictures and information. They had a timed presentation and I would ask one or two short questions. We exchanged cards and they progressed to the next agent’s table. It moved very quickly and I found it to be intensely educational.
Once back at the office, I was able to go through each business card and my hastily scrawled notes and organize them into my contact data base. Now when I need to send a client to Shanghai, I know exactly which properties to consider. If I need a tour operator in Panama his info is right there at my fingertips. If I need car service for a client while they are in NYC, I can do it easily and confidently as all Virtuoso suppliers are trusted to be the best—Virtuoso has vetted each and every one.
Yes, clients will definitely benefit from my having attended this conference, as will my agency, but so will I on many different levels. Meeting face to face with people creates a connection and I was offered by more than one suppler to come and stay a few nights complimentary at their property. I was also introduced to many different FAM opportunities I may never have heard of otherwise. As busy as I am, I’m not sure when I can take advantage of their generous offers, but it’s nice to think about.
I know there are many other consortiums out there that provide incredible benefits to their agencies—however, I can’t find one complaint with Virtuoso. Aside from treating their members to such a wonderful event every year my clients receives exclusive benefits from upgrades, to excursions, to complimentary wine and dinners, etc. It’s a win /win and I am very glad to be a part of the Virtuoso family.
Julie Summers is a travel adviser for Global Travel in Boise, Idaho (www.myglobal.com). She has two teen boys and a spoiled Boston Terrier. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn.