Watch The Full Presentation Below:
The Inside Scoop: Virtuoso Travel Week 2023 was hosted by GTN's Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Vanessa McGovern. She welcomed GTN's Director of Partner Relations, Erica Whitaker, and five GTN travel advisors throughout the presentation.
Globally, Virtuoso Travel Week is one of the most important luxury travel events of the year. Each year, GTN advisors and staff members attend this event to deepen their relationships with partners, cultivate new relationships, and essentially "shop for their clients."
The purpose of this Inside Scoop was to share what Virtuoso Travel Week means to us and our network of luxury travel advisors. Additionally, we wanted to share our tips and tricks for planning ahead, attending, and following up on a major industry event like this in order to maximize your experience!
Erica Whitaker, Director of Partner Relations, Gifted Travel Network
Erica, what does Virtuoso Travel Week mean to you?
Virtuoso Travel Week is an opportunity to connect with the strongest and smartest minds in the industry. It's not just about the meetings you will have or what you bring home to your most discerning clients, but its about the experience of this entire event.
What would you say the vibe was like during this entire event?
Excited! We were able to hear from so many different GTN members during the entire week were there. It was awesome to talk to our different members who were brand new to the industry and it was their first time attending as well as our "veteran" advisors, their takeaways
What partner meetings/conversations really stood out to you?
I had the opportunity to meet with the head of sales for Princess Cruises. Her energy stood out the most to me as she brings so much passion and light to the industry it is so refreshing. You can tell just from talking with her that she values building solid relationships with everyone she met with throughout her time at Virtuoso Travel Week.
How can someone best prepare to maximize their time, impact and gain from attending this event?
Well, from a literal and practical sense, my first tip - wear sensible shoes. You have to! The amount of walking and standing on your feet all day will drive you crazy if you dont have comfortable shoes!
From a business lens, you must be proactive. Plan out in advance what partners you want/plan to meet with during this week and send them a note before the event. Each and everyone of them are coming a long way and will be meeting with hundreds of advisors and industry staff.
Inside Scoop Tip #1: The advisors who stand out to partners the most are truly those who go the extra mile.
Wendy Chambers, Victory Travel
Wendy, you attended Virtuoso Travel Week this year virtually, tell us about your experience with this virtual option?
So, this was my third year attending virtually! I love the platform as it is easily accessible and is a great way to still gain exposure to the event. I believe when you want to be laser focused on talking and meeting with partners this is a wonderful way to get it done!
Can you name one or two partners that stood out to you the most?
Of course, Big 5 (a GTN preferred partner) who i have built an awesome relationship with, was someone who I scheduled to meet with. Now, I know I book with them often and already have such a great relationship, but I thought it would be nice to see a familiar face and talk/catch up for a few minutes. To my surprise as we were just chatting, I found out about some additional trainings that gave me great exposure to some destinations to consider for a few of my clients
Inside Scoop Tip #2: Wendy stated that she has a great relationship with Big 5, so naturally most people would say “I don’t need to waste time meeting with someone I already know really well, so I'm just gonna skip that”
NO! You should always leave time in your schedule to talk with someone you know, catch up with them and often times more than not, organically something will come up that you don’t know! Plus this gives you a chance to strengthen this relationship with that person. You dont want to be known as the person who only reaches out when you need something!
Do you have any recent booking "wins" that were a direct result from Virtuoso Travel Week?
I had a wonderful meeting with I.D.I Travel. I was able to form a new relationship with them and learn more about what they had to offer. The very next day I had a client that needed to pivot and this client said “I want to go to Italy in 3 weeks” so I reached out to a partner that I always work with, and they couldn't make it work. So then I met with Barbara at I.D.I, and she was able to give me a contact and we discussed how we were going to make this work and guess what… my client leaves next week for Italy and this was a $30,000 trip! Without meeting with Barbara the week before I don’t think I would’ve been able to get this done!
Sandy Lipkowitz, We Make Travel Easy
What was the vibe for you during Virtuoso Travel Week?
The thing for me that i always get out of this is the relationships and the partner relationships. I have already made a list of all of the things that have happened as a direct result of attending Virtuoso Travel Week. It is because of that that i am able to extend amenities, problem solve and take care of clients in a way that they would never be able to do on their own.
Tell us about one or two partners that really stood out to you this year?
AmaWaterways is a partner I have always had a great relationship with, and I love having the opportunity to meet with them in-person. So, I had a client that booked for Christmas market this December and we went to go make their final payment, and well, the reservation did not exist. But we were able to grab her another cabin and get that taken care of, but at the same time, she had a promotion that was no longer available (due to the mishap) for $1,000. So I went back to our BDM and they was able to not only honor the promotion, but their Senior Vice President of AmaWaterways wrote me the nicest note note saying how happy he was to do this for me and my client, and how much they truly appreciate GTN and its advisors and are always happy to assist. That just doesn't happen without building these strong relationships!
What are you planning to implement into your business as a direct result from Virtuoso Travel Week?
During the week, I attended a professional development workshop on crafting & writing emails that convert. There was a wonderful book recommendation, Power Sales Writing, that I have been reading and taking notes from, so, I have been able to implement little things here and there in these email communications with my clients.
Inside Scoop Tip #3 - If you belong to GTN or another Virtuoso affiliated host-agency, you should be logging into your Virtuoso profile every day. The amount of information and new subjects to learn about is truly amazing!
Celine Swicegood, Azurom Travel
Celine you just joined GTN last year, and this was your first time ever attending Virtuoso Travel Week, what made you want to attend in-person this year?
I have been in travel for a while now, but have really only attended small gatherings with suppliers but never anything to the scale of Virtuoso Travel Week. So I decided to jump right into it! I know the importance of taking the time to build and nurture 1-on-1 relationships. It is vital to taking your relationship to the next level. I think I met 150 people throughout the course of the week!
Did GTN play a role in helping you maximize your relationships?
100%. As soon as I met someone new and told them I was with Gifted Travel Network the first thing they would say is "oh you're with GTN? We love GTN! All of their advisors are the best!" And i also noticed that I was invited to multiple dinners, breakfasts and other events just from being a GTN advisor. So your host affiliation really does play such an important role in attending an event like this.
What are you planning to implement into your business as a result of Virtuoso Travel Week?
I need to make more time in my day to respond to emails. It takes two to tango right? I realized I need to be better at instrumenting that tango! I want the feedback from partners and clients, but they want my feedback too!
Jeannine Pendleton, Amazing Adventure Travel Design
Why did you decide to attend Virtuoso Travel Week in-person this year?
Last year was not my time, I was still in the beginning stages of building my business and trying to figure out how to adjust from being a "hobbyist" to making this my career. And, this year I was ready. I have recently taken on a lot of clients. I needed to get out there and see what was available for those clients.
What connections did you make/which connections stood out to you the most?
To get to talk to someone and hug them for the first time in person for almost two years was insane! GTN as a whole is such a tight community and everyone is constantly talking, in the forums, during calls, etc, being able to lean into those relationships going into such a big event was such a plus for me.