Virtuoso is kicking off 2019 with a first: the company is rolling out Wanderlist, the organization’s first product that has a per consumer cost, as part of its continued effort to help travel advisors develop deeper, lasting relationships with their clients. CEO Matthew Upchurch shared the details at a recent event at the company’s New York headquarters.
Wanderlist is a product that helps travel advisors consult with their client to develop a long-term roadmap for the client’s travel plans, in terms of both destinations they would like to visit and experiences they would like to have. The genesis of Wanderlist, which just wrapped a six-month beta test, grew out of Virtuoso’s research into what makes a great travel advisor.
“A lot of the really great travel advisors are never just booking one trip at a time,” Upchurch explained. “They’re always planting seeds.”
Virtuoso’s research also showed a disconnect between what advisors believe their clients value, and what they actually value. Advisors always tend to overrate the importance of customization and exclusive perks, Upchurch said, and underrate what has consistently been clients’ pick for the number one quality in a great travel advisor: calling after a trip to see how it went.
“It’s the after the trip conversation that creates learning” in terms of what clients value in their travel experience, Upchurch said.
To help advisors dive deeper in understanding their clients, Virtuoso developed Wanderlist. After paying a fee, each traveler gets a personalized link to a Netflix-like list of travel options divided into two categories -- places and experiences – and is asked to rate each one in terms of importance. The advisor then gets access to a dashboard that pulls data on the clients’ responses together, from which they can develop a roadmap for the clients’ future travel plans. Advisors can even get a coffee table book printed that they can sell to clients, to build anticipation for future travels.
The purpose is not just to learn what the traveler already knows about themselves, but to invite the traveler to consider their own travel desires more deeply. “It’s developing data points that didn’t exist before, because you inspired the traveler to just take a moment and dream,” Upchurch said.
Those who think a multi-year travel plan sounds too restrictive can take heart; according to Upchurch, having a roadmap can make it easier for advisors to be flexible in responding to changing travel opportunities. “Now that we know what your aspirations are, and advisor can pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, have you seen the New Zealand dollar? Why don’t we move that to this year?’” Upchurch says. “It’s easier to be tactical once you have a frame of reference.”
One drawback that cropped up in the beta test is that Wanderlist is a time-intensive product, and in some cases it proved so popular that participating agencies had to stop offering it – they simply did not have the time to work with all the clients who wanted to participate. Virtuoso is looking to allow advisors to pair up with a “Wanderlist Guide” from the company, who can take some of the legwork off of the advisor’s plate.
Looking deeper, the thinking behind Wanderlist – and the per-consumer cost that comes with it – is to use it to continue to position travel advisors in a niche similar to lawyers or wealth advisors. While Virtuoso does charge agencies a fee to use the product, which requires setup and training, during the beta test the organization declined to set a suggested price, reasoning that agencies with different business models would be better off setting their own price based on their own needs.
“You have $200 an hour lawyers and $1,000 an hour lawyers,” Upchurch says. He did, however, emphasize the importance of charging for the service in the first place – just as a client would pay a wealth advisor for their time and expertise, so, too should they pay travel advisors.
“Luxury consumers already have a mental model that sees the value of a wealth advisor,” Upchurch says. “We can build on that.”