Well I made it back from Virtuoso week in August and as usual, this event never disappoints. In fact, I feel it just expands and gets better each year. Of course this year I had a better idea of what to expect and was a bit more prepared for the ongoing meetings, learning opportunities and fancy dinner parties.
This year’s event saw record numbers of attendees—partially because Virtuoso was celebrating 25 years of Travel Mart. The very first Travel Mart started back in 1989 and attracted 98 people to a Palm Beach hotel. This year we had 4100 attendees who cumulatively had 350,000 4-minute one-on-one meetings at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
Once again, I was able to meet with some amazing properties and vendors from all over the world and it amazed me just how better and better these places get. I am convinced that there is something for every single consumer. And the services that can be added, simply blow my mind! We are always striving to be the best of the best whether it is as a travel agent, a hotelier or a tour company. We can never stop improving and learning in this industry and to see the passion held by all was incredibly refreshing. I learned about destinations I hadn’t even known existed and met with natives and heard their personal stories. And while 4100 is a huge number, you always come across old friends and colleagues—so in a sense it is a very small gathering as well. But the big takeaway for me was what I did not know in terms of destinations, amenities, and experiences.
Attendance at the specialty dinners can only ne likened to attending the Oscars, Grammys, or Tonys. Professional photographers, musicians, a la carte dining and an evening host passing out awards for all types of achievements — Best Airline, Best New Hotel, Best Family Property, Best Dining Experience, Best Sustainable Property. The list seemed to go on forever.
Of course all good things must come to an end and as we closed the end of the conference, everyone was ready to head back home and put to good use all of the new tools and information that were cultivated over the past week. I was excited about some of the new hotels I had learned about in Europe and had many people already in mind for phone calls. I discovered destinations in the Caribbean beyond Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and St. Lucia. There are islands off of islands that have really come onto my radar by offering the unique experiences that I never knew existed.
I could go on and on; but as you see, I learned a lot and have added so many more places to my bucket list of travel. And like all conferences and shows, I am coming back from a much-needed break completely reinvigorated and re-enthused!
It seems the more we think we have seen the more remains still to be seen. What places have suddenly surprised you and raised your awareness? Where is a must on your agenda?
Nikki Smith works in a Boise based brick and mortar agency, Global Travel, a Virtuoso Agency. Nikki got her start in her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland when she started in the industry as a flight attendant. She has also worked as a guide for ski and snow vacations worldwide.