Virtuoso Travel Week, which took place August 12 to 18 at the Bellagio Resort & Casino, ARIA Resort & Casino and Vdara Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas, brought a bevy of awards and updates from around the luxury travel industry. In case you missed any, here’s a look at the latest developments from Travel Agent and our partner publication, Luxury Travel Advisor.
The event provided a sneak peek into the latest trends in luxury travel in a panel led by Terrie Hansen, SVP of marketing for Virtuoso, and consisting of Bobby Zur from Family Travel, Ana Villaça of Turismo Ltda Rio de Janeiro, Gabriel Donalds from Atelier Voyage, and Haisley Smith of Brownell. The panel talked Millennial travelers’ affinity for travel agents, the rise of affluent Millennials, and family/multigenerational travel, wellness travel, adventure travel and cruise travel.
The show also saw the rollout of some major cruise announcements. In addition to the debut of Crystal AirCruises’ new Crystal Skye, a luxurious Boeing 777 jet, Norwegian Cruise Line announced new details on the Norwegian Bliss, which is set to debut in Alaska in 2018. The ship will incorporate a two-level racetrack on the top deck – a first for the North American cruise market – as well as an open-air laser tag course.
In one of several awards ceremonies at the event, the Hotels & Resorts Dinner on August 17 spotlighted the winners of Virtuoso’s annual “Best of the Best” awards, which were based on input from the luxury network’s travel agency partners and travel advisors, as well as the editors of Virtuoso Life, the network’s magazine. In addition to Palazzo Seneca in Norcia, Italy, which won Hotel of the Year, a number of other luxury hotels and hoteliers were honored as the best in the industry.
Virtuoso also spotlighted its top travel advisors and agency partners at the Virtuoso Awards. Avenue Two Travel was named Host Hospitable Agency, Fernando Gonzalez of First in Service Travel was named Most Innovative Advisor, and Jessica Renshaw of Renshaw Travel was named a Virtuoso Rising Star. Four outstanding cruise performers were also honored at a reception August 15.
At the August 14 Destination Showcase dinner, Virtuoso announced the winners of 20 destination, cruise and lifestyle partner awards. Made for Spain and Portugal took home the Best Curated Travel Partner award, while Regent Seven Seas Cruises was crowned the Most Luxurious Guest Experience. The organization also named the winners of its Virtuoso Active and Specialty Travel (VAST) Awards.
In terms of research, Virtuoso used the event to offer a peek at its forecast for the upcoming fall and festive travel season. According to its internal data, Italy is the place to be this fall, with the rest of Europe not far behind – the continent accounted for six of Virtuoso’s top 10 destinations for this fall.
At the event Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch spotlighted the network’s growth, reporting that the organization has reached a record of over 16,000 affiliated travel advisors and 800 locations in more than 45 countries. Advisor sales topped $21.2 billion last year. The network also touted its new technology offerings, noting that its hotel booking tool, which was launched last spring, currently stands at $1.6 million in sales.