Albert Herrera, vice president for hotels, destinations and tours for Virtuoso, announces Virtuoso’s partnership with Rue La La. // © 2010 Virtuoso
Virtuoso Hosted a record-breaking 2010 Travel Mart from Aug. 15-20 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. This year’s travel advisor attendance was up 19 percent for U.S. agents, and a total of 1,514 agents, representing 423 agencies, were present. A record number of one-to-one appointments — 312,064 — also took place at this year’s conference.
Another positive note for the industry is that the demand for luxury travel is growing. Virtuoso president Kristi Jones announced at the Opening Session that recent research suggests that the luxury market is making a comeback. According to Virtuoso, many sectors of the industry are performing better in 2010 than in 2009, with the hotel industry achieving the highest gains — up 55 percent — over last year. Escorted tours are up 24 percent, and cruise is up 17 percent.
Jones attributed the gains in the hotel industry to a value-added approach.
“I believe that personalizing service at hotels is what has led to the increase in business for this sector,” said Jones.
Virtuoso also announced a new strategic partnership with the private-sale website, RueLaLa.com.
Rue La La is an online shopping website with 2.2 million members that offers luxury men’s and women’s fashion, home goods, food and wine, as well as travel. Now, Rue La La members will be able to shop for limited-capacity, luxury travel packages and book them through a Virtuoso travel advisor. These travel offers will be available through special “travel boutiques” curated by the consortium. Each boutique is available for 48 hours on the Rue La La website.
“This relationship allows us to bring our advisors into the online arena without losing focus of what makes them exceptional — their customer-service skills and travel knowledge,” said Jones. “Moreover, it opens up a new avenue for client development, while providing Virtuoso’s preferred travel providers a means of strategically filling inventory while protecting their brand with discerning travelers.”
Rue La La is also planning to create a restricted-access, private-label website exclusively for Virtuoso clients. Virtuoso’s travel advisors will be able to invite their clients to the private-label site, where they will find a collection of individual travel offers with strong, value-added elements that are not available to the general public. Those invited to the exclusive Virtuoso site will have full access to the fashion merchandise boutiques offered by Rue La La, as well.
“We want to surprise and delight our members,” said Marka Jenkins Waechter, general manager, experiences, Rue La La. “We believe that this partnership with Virtuoso is a win-win situation.”