I just returned from Virtuoso’s Travel Mart at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I was one of over 3700 people from 90 countries around the globe who had gathered to learn what’s new in luxury travel. This was my first time attending Travel Mart, and I went to Vegas with many newbies on Vision 2000’s @home team with our GM, Lynda Sinclair, and our Exec VP, Stephanie Anevich. But 2011 marked the 23rd such gathering of Virtuoso advisors and suppliers, and it was the 11th straight time the luxury trade show was held at the Bellagio.
Travel Mart’s theme this year was the “Power of One-to-One.” And I saw how that worked, up close and in person. I had my “aha” moment when I met the representative of Four Seasons San Francisco 24 hours before my client was to check into that hotel. Parul Kaushal of the FS San Francisco”vip’ed” my client, and had a special amenity waiting for her in her room. That was the power of one-to-one. I could immediately see the value of the connections I was making in Vegas.
Obviously, the power of making those one-to-one connections will be felt by my clients, and will help them develop a strong preference for the Virtuoso brand.
At Travel Mart, I had 312 four-minute “speed dating” sessions scheduled with suppliers over the four days. (Those meetings were supplemented by a dozen or more ten-minute detailed sales meetings. I also attended various luncheons, dinners, and cocktail parties; meeting suppliers, one-to-one). And, since I had a list of whom I would meet in advance of going to Vegas, I was able to contact my important clients, and share the details with them. “Collaborative commerce” was indeed enabled – I met suppliers with my clients’ specific needs in mind. I asked questions related to my clients’ families, and their vacation needs. I often had a photo snapped with a supplier so I could send it back to the client – just to let the client know I was hard at work, planning their next dream getaway. I had a couple going to the Clift in San Francisco on their honeymoon, a mother and daughter wanting to go to the Carlyle in NYC, and another family hoping to go to the Il San Pietro di Positano in Italy. I was busy representing their interests, and had their holidays in mind, as I made connections.
Virtuoso chair, Matthew Upchurch, gave an interview about this year’s Travel Mart with Travel Press. In it, he talked about the bifurcation between the do-it-yourselfers, and those who see the value of using a travel advisor.
It’s definitely true that many consumers have a do-it-yourself mentality (the DIY’ers). They believe they can get all the info they need to plan the perfect vacation just by spending a few hours on the internet searching. Those same people also could research how to do their own accupuncture just by spending a few hours on the internet searching, but for some reason, I bet they won’t entrust their personal well-being into their own unskilled hands. They don’t want to poke themselves with needles. Yet, they will often entrust another precious (and limited) asset into their own hands – their valuable vacation time. They will risk their family memories… and be oblivious to the pain they are inviting, but more importantly, the pleasure they are missing.
The DIY’ers do not have the resources, the experience, nor the skills to do what professional travel advisors do. They don’t have the booking engines, the tools, nor the clout to wield influence should issues ever arise. It’s hard to act as your own advocate if you’re stuck with 1000’s of other people in some airport terminal. (Talk about poking yourself with needles!)
The DIY’ers also cannot get the value-adds which my Virtuoso traveler clients can get (special amenities, such as breakfast for two daily; a complimentary room upgrade, if available at check in; early check in, and late check out; and another resort specific amenity, such as a $100 food and beverage credit). And no matter how hard they try, and how many hours they may spend on the internet searching, the DIY’ers simply do not have the connections that I have. They do not have the business card of the representative of the Four Seasons San Francisco in their rolladex. They have not experienced the power of one-to-one. They cannot pick up the phone to call Parul, and say, “Hey, remember we met at Travel Mart? My vip client is coming to see you tomorrow. Can you please take good care of her?”
I was an actuary in my former life. I was a specialist in financial risk management. I ensured people were prepared for the worst possible events in their life (e.g., premature death, marriage breakdown, or debilitating personal injury). Obviously, I still have those risk management skills, and have honed some business savvy. But I also now have the training and experience of being a Virtuoso travel advisor. And, if I can take the liberty of recycling Matthew Upchurch’s interview words, I can truly say that instead of handling people’s nightmares, now I really do orchestrate people’s dreams.
Let me be your advocate. Call me to get my help to orchestrate your dreams. I can call upon my Virtuoso connections, and the power I’ve experienced with the one-to-one, to “vip” you, and give your family the travel memories that will last a lifetime. (And, go ahead – tell a few “DIY’ers” what they are missing. It’d be good to spare them poking themselves with needles.)