10 Things I Did Last Week

Last week I was in Las Vegas for Luxury Travel Expo, the largest event for luxury travel in the industry. As fate would have it, there was much more happening in the city. Here are some highlights:

1. I attended the Vdara ribbon-cutting ceremony at CityCenter where I was impressed with the design of its public spaces and suites. It’s an all-condo hotel, so every room has a kitchen. The spa was gorgeous.

2. That evening we hosted the Luxury Travel Advisor Awards of Excellence, which drew about 130 luxury travel advisors and top travel executives. It was an intimate, exclusive event, held at The Mirage, which did a fantastic job. You can check out the winners at www.luxuryta.com.

3. The next day, when Luxury Travel Expo was in full swing, I hit the general session and then moderated a panel on the world’s top hotels with Jim Strong of Strong Travel Services and Peter Carideo of CRC Travel. The two panelists were incredibly informative and funny. Back on the show floor, suppliers reported strong traffic and quality conversations with the agents in attendance. All are looking forward to 2010, because they are optimistic and because they can’t wait to put 2009 behind them.

4. That evening I attended an exclusive Virtuoso event at the Mandarin Oriental, which was about to debut. We were all impressed with the rooms and with the service. The views of the Strip from the lobby provided a real rush.

5. The next morning, at the general session, we presented the Leaders in Luxury Awards. Priscilla Alexander of Protravel presented Sven Lindblad of Lindblad Expeditions with his award; Matthew Upchurch of Virtuoso presented Andy and Elaine Pesky of Protravel with theirs; Michelle Morgan of Signature Travel Network presented Bill Smith of Crystal Cruises; and Travel Agent’s John McMahon honored Vikram Oberoi of The Oberoi Group with his. Altogether a stunning, heartfelt event.

6. Next up, I moderated a very important panel on Twitter. Our panelists were Andy Stuart of NCL, Gene Sloane of USA Today and Carrie Finley-Bajak of Cruise Holidays of Mission Viejo. I was thrilled to see how many travel advisors have advanced their knowledge of social networking over the year.

7. A few hours later, I went over to the MGM Grand for Signature Travel Network’s general session. Aside from a number of updates on technology, marketing and hotels, the consortia revealed an alliance with Bon Appetit to provide culinary vacations. There were 1,500 in attendance at Signature, including advisors and suppliers.

8. The following day I visited Caesars Palace to tour their top suites and to check out their new five-acre pool area. Of note is the Marcus Aurelius Villa, which I’ll be writing about soon. I then headed over to Wynn’s Encore resort where I was most impressed with the palatial spa, which has 55 treatment rooms. If you go, plan to spend a few hours, even if you’re getting just one treatment.

9. Back at the Signature conference, attendees were gathering for an evening of networking over cocktails and dinner. All this was a prelude to the next morning, when Signature announced it had inked a deal with The Food Network to be its exclusive seller of themed vacations. Signature agents screamed in delight at the news.

10. Time to go home. After spending so much time in my room (#32811) at the Signature at MGM Grand (on one of the penthouse floors, it had a full kitchen, a balcony and a huge Jacuzzi bathtub), I had to pack and dash down to the lobby. It was then I realized the luxury of staying in a non-gaming hotel, since I didn’t have to traipse through the casino floor, speeding past vacationers, brides and gamblers who were still up from the previous evening.

What an amazing week! There were many more interactions and events, especially at Luxury Travel Expo, but this should give you a sense of what went on. As for Las Vegas, there’s so much more to see. I need to return soon.