Virtuoso Paradigm

In today’s travel scene, “curated” takes the place of “authentic” and “experiential”

So, you want to take your family on a trip they’ll never forget. You’re thinking tropical, but mountain climbing might be fun. Or taking part in a traditional tea ceremony at a private plantation in China. Maybe take a drive along the Amalfi coast in a candy-red Ferrari followed by an elephant ride for the kids. The sky is the limit. But then there’s that budget, and wrangling all the moving parts. And research. And planning. And, and, and…

Booking travel yourself isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Better to let a human advise you, not a computer. The number of people booking trips through a travel advisor is growing—after frustrating experiences arranging their own vacations or with online agencies, travelers are craving the human touch in planning their trips. It’s in keeping with a trend that is continuing to change the industry—travelers want more curated results along with the best deals and packages. This new paradigm yields space for the old-fashioned human touch.

Enter Virtuoso. This international travel agency network specializing in luxury and experiential travel is by invitation only. Its 390 agency members and more than 11,400 elite travel advisors in 40 countries throughout North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East are at the ready to personalize travels with rare experiences and privileged access. “You can’t march into a luxury hotel and declare that you’re a VIP,” says Terrie Hansen, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Virtuoso, “but a travel advisor can.” Everyone wants to be treated like a VIP, so why not let the travel advisor set you up in advance for pampering fit for a royal.

Betty Jo Currie, owner of Atlanta Virtuoso agency member Currie & Co. Travels Unlimited, cites seriously personalized travel planning with creative, thoughtful, fairly priced itineraries as the main reason for her firm’s success. “We genuinely care that our clients travel well and wisely, and we truly know the players all over the world.”

Susan von Lengerke, a travel advisor with Virtuoso agency member Lake Shore Travel in Chicago, references a client who just wanted to spend a couple of nights in Quebec. “I booked him at the Auberge St-Antoine there, a Virtuoso property. I knew it was his anniversary so I contacted the hotel rep on the private Virtuoso website. Long story short, they were treated like royalty and he came back to me saying that he will always try to stay in a Virtuoso hotel in the future because of the personal recognition he got. What’s more, he and I are already planning a trip to Africa. I obviously earned his trust by providing something he couldn’t get on his own. The whole network is the way I am able to do that.”

When asked what’s the next big thing coming in luxury travel, Betty Jo Currie doesn’t hesitate. “I see the integration of sharing platforms with bespoke travel planning—how to marry Airbnbs and other creative accommodations with the best in activities in any given destination. We aren’t great at this yet, but we are exploring how to be.”