If there’s one thing that’s true in the travel industry, it’s that if you ask 10 hospitality providers to define luxury, you’ll get 10 completely distinct answers. Once, I even heard someone define Target as a luxury brand, “because that’s where the luxury shoppers go for their day-to-day essentials.”
The reality is whether you use Michelin stars, sheet thread count or expensive name-brand items as your luxury benchmark, in today’s frenzied world, the real luxury is time. It’s the one item we can’t buy, manufacture or trade.
Which is why, contrary to persistent murmurs extolling the death of the travel agent, the well-connected travel advisor will always provide a service that cannot be replicated. The travel advisor can provide a wealth of information during the dreaming phase of a trip, and subsequently can save their client valuable time when it comes to research and follow up.
Every year, at Virtuoso Travel Week, the travel industry is reminded of how valuable travel advisors are. At the massive gathering, held every August at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, suppliers attempt to grab the advisors' attention in four-minute speed networking segments.
On the heels of the Woman’s Day article outlining sneaky practices travel agents supposedly employ, it was incredibly refreshing to watch travel professionals in action as they tried to find the best products to match their clients' needs.
One agent, for example, told me that she loves a particular Italian villa, but that it wouldn’t work for her client, because the were too many steps for the client’s wheelchair-bound mother.
You can use the finest technology in the world to plan your vacation, and you'll still never find that kind of service online.
What’s more, these champions of travel — despite constantly having to defend themselves and their choice of profession from nearly every corner — show up to Virtuoso energized and ready for the grueling week ahead. They know they have to sit through some 320 back-to-back, four-minute meetings, as well as attend a dizzying line up of educational sessions, parties and workshops, in days that frequently begin at 6 a.m. and often extends well into the night. But these travel professionals are ready to go to work.
Maybe it’s because they know Virtuoso Travel Week attendees sell an average of $250,000 more annually than those who do not attend.
Or maybe it's just that these hard-working professionals are the true definition of luxury travel.