This Travel Group Wants To Turn Your Dreams Into New Experiences

Have you ever felt that the feedback you provided in those post-flight or post-stay surveys fell on deaf ears? That may no longer be the case, at least if you book your trips through a Virtuoso travel advisor. In fact, what you tell your advisor in your post-trip download could end up helping create the next adventure for you and possibly thousands of other travelers.

Matthew Upchurch, chairman of the luxury-focused network of travel agencies, said the group is using the personal relationships its advisors have with their clients and is combining it with big data to figure out where you want to go and what you want for future trips.

Success could mean a 180-degree swing from how travel products are customarily developed and brought to market.

“Today, we primarily wait for our partners to tell us what they have,” Upchurch told a press conference during Virtuoso Travel Week, being held this week in Las Vegas.

“By engaging our travelers to tell us more about what they want, we can go out and source the trips, and it becomes exclusive content (for Virtuoso agencies to sell),” he predicted.

As an example, based on clients’ feedback, Virtuoso might create its own customized programs to view the Northern Lights.

During a recent gathering in Vienna, Virtuoso executives were able to use data garnered from customers’ post-trip interviews with their advisors to show tourism officials the types of experiences clients were looking for if they visited the Austrian city.

Upchurch said the most essential part of the process is showing clients that advisors are listening and taking action. He said customers feel, “If I spend any time (giving feedback), what am I getting back in value?”

The first new programs created from the initiative could be seen in the next two years.

According to recent research, Virtuoso clients this year will spend an average of $26,257 on travel. That’s up from $20,645 prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The number compares favorably with “non-advised” travelers, referred to as DIYers, for Do-It-Yourself. DIYers’ annual travel spending dropped to just $6,186 this year from $7,184 in 2019.

The high-end advisors have long created custom itineraries and experiences for clients on a one-off basis or, on the other hand, sold programs off-the-shelf.

The initiative fits with Virtuoso’s strategy of providing products not available via other agency groups. It recently signed an exclusive distribution partnership with Virgin Galactic, giving it 50 of about 200 remaining seats to be sold before the space travel operator caps future sales. The 90-minute flights are priced at $450,000 per seat.

David Kolner, an executive vice president with Virtuoso, told a press gathering there is a strong opportunity for the network to grow. He cited figures from Knight Frank projecting the UHNW population will increase by 28% in the next five years.

Upchurch believes the new exclusive products will help increase the cache of his advisors. Describing the organization, he said, “We are the Hollywood agent. The advisors are the stars.”

After Covid initially brought travel to a standstill, and then a long and painful period of restrictions and lockdowns, Virtuoso agency revenues for future bookings are currently tracking 47% ahead of 2019’s record levels, according to Kolner.

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