|photo by Virtuoso|
Travel Agent just attended a meeting with Virtuoso, where Virtuoso announced the company will be providing more resources to its travel agency members.
Some of the new resources come in the form of technology tools that will help members plan itineraries for clients. Along those lines, Virtuoso is vetting technology tools using the Virtuoso Incubator, an industry first. The incubator will test products created by various tech companies. It will be led by a technology committee consisting of 17 advisors. The advisors will provide the tech companies with feedback, so they can improve their product. The companies will remain in the incubator until they meet Virtuoso’s standards, and then they will “graduate” to a Preferred Supplier.
Currently, there are four companies in the incubator, including Axus, Quest, TripScope and Yonderbound. Yonderbound, an online travel agency, came to Virtuoso seeking a full-service solution for its customers, while the other three companies are itinerary management focused. Virtuoso hopes to have about 10 companies enter into the incubator process this year. Each tech company hoping to join the incubator must apply and be approved.
“This is really demystifying technology for our members,” says David Kolner, senior vice president-consumer at Virtuoso. “It’s really a chance for them to get their hands dirty and not be threatened or scared of technology.”
Virtuoso says that one tech company, Umapped, has already made the transition to become a Preferred Supplier. Virtuoso has tested Umapped, an itinerary management company for both travelers and advisors, for the past 18 months. Advisors in the Virtuoso network will receive special pricing and a free trial period of Umapped’s site.
“When there is external technology available like [Umapped] we’re going to start selecting and appointing them as preferred suppliers,” says Kolner.
Additional Virtuoso updates were announced at the meeting:
Virtuoso has five new tourism partners, including Auckland, France, Mexico, South Africa and Tourism Vancouver. They join other partners such as Cunard, National Geographic, and Merrill Lynch. The Merrill Lynch partnership was announced a few weeks ago and aims to help clients plan for retirement, including leisure travel.
Virtuoso also revealed its new agency catalog on Virtuoso.com, which provides photos, videos and bio content of agencies. The catalog can be found at www.virtuoso.com/agencies.
Lastly, the network's preferred retail partners will be rolled into a new category of preferred suppliers called "Lifestyle." The new Lifestyle category will come to include preferred partners in restaurants, wine and spirits, automotive, entertainment and more.