From left to right: Alberta M. Herrera, vice president hotels, destinations and tours, Virtuoso; Kristi Jones, president and COO, Virtuoso; and Upchurch. // © 2011 Virtuoso
The 8,000-plus employees of Bellagio Las Vegas always know when the Virtuoso Travel Mart is about to roll into town. That’s because, during the annual conference, which celebrated its 23rd year in 2011, Bellagio employees are not allowed to take vacation time.
Instead, hotel employees line the hallways of the Bellagio conference center, cheering and applauding as the 3,700 Travel Mart attendees make their way to the opening night festivities. The applause is well deserved.
Virtuoso travel advisors are the creme de la creme of the travel professional community. In fact, last year, they booked $9.6 billion in luxury travel products, which means that their transactions account for nearly 10 percent of the total $100 billion booked by the travel agent community nationwide.
The theme of Travel Mart is the “Power of One to One” and, each year, advisors get one-to-one time a plenty, meeting with suppliers in concentrated segments of four-minute, mini appointments over a period of five days.
“We like to say that we invented speed dating,” joked Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso.
Upchurch is also quick to mention that, in total, some 300,000 individual meetings are held between advisors and suppliers during Travel Mart, totaling nearly 75,000 meetings per day.
Gary R. Johnson, who is the owner/director of Woodside Travel in Seattle, said that it’s the one-to-one meetings that make Travel Mart such a valuable tool.
“Where else am I going to get the chance to meet with sales directors and general managers of this many luxury products, all in one place?” said Johnson, waving at the hundreds of meetings taking place in the ballroom. “This is the true power of Virtuoso.”