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Virtuoso recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of its annual conference by setting a record for attendees at the event. More than 6,000 travel professionals participated in this year’s Virtuoso Travel Week, which has grown to encompass three Las Vegas hotels — Bellagio Hotel & Casino, Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas and Vdara Hotel & Spa.
The growth of the conference mirrors the success the organization itself has seen, setting new highs this year with 17,500 advisors and more than 1,000 agency locations in 50 countries. Virtuoso advisor sales have surpassed $23.7 billion, up 12 percent from last year.
At the opening ceremony, Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso, credited the organization’s success on the emotional pull of travel and the personal connection between travel advisors and clients.
“Last year, I closed my talk by saying our future success would be grounded in the fact that Virtuoso offers what you cannot see, but will feel forever,” he said. “That message continues to be validated. Seeing is not believing; feeling is believing. And it’s what your clients feel when partnering with you that is the difference.”
Upchurch also looked back on the highs and lows of the past 30 years, noting that today’s advisors still face competition from online companies, including a growing challenge from Amazon.
“But I say, the world will grow and so will we,” Upchurch said. “Because this is not just about getting more bookings, it’s about working with the best clients and securing the best business. Together with your clients, we’re building a collaborative economy, where we bring together the many people who satisfy the growing craving for authentic human connection and experiences.”
The opening of Travel Week also included an emotional tribute to Upchurch’s father, Jesse Upchurch, one of the founders of Virtuoso who passed away earlier this year. The African Children’s Choir performed live as part of the tribute in honor of Jesse’s lifelong support for travel to Africa.
New InitiativesDuring Travel Week, Virtuoso announced several tools and programs for its members, including new technology, training and communities.
This year, agents will see a new comprehensive marketing tool called MyMarketing that’s designed to make advisor marketing more efficient, and in early 2019, Virtuoso will introduce Virtuoso Orchestrator, a major new tool designed to aid long-term travel planning.
The organization is also revamping its online Virtuoso Travel Academy, with new features and content that utilizes artificial intelligence. Virtuoso’s professional development programs continue to grow significantly, with a 59 percent year-over-year increase in the number of courses completed by agents.
Additionally, Virtuoso is expanding its Communities program, which is designed to provide niche market updates and training to advisors based on their interests and specialties. Currently, there are four communities — Adventure, Voyages, Wellness and Family — and in 2019, two more will be added: Culinary and Ultraluxe. Virtuoso’s second Community Globetrotting event, which is centered around the Communities program, took place this year at Travel Week with more than 1,200 advisors attending
In closing the opening ceremony of Travel Week, Upchurch once again looked back at Virtuoso’s past.
“There is a world we imagine, and we can make that world a reality,” Upchurch said. “In fact, we are here today because we did imagine our own world, collaboratively, and we made it a reality. And that’s why it’s my honor to serve you.”