Resort at Pedregal | Cabo San Lucas
Galapagos | Lindblad Expeditions
Wharekauhau Lodge | New Zealand
Chief's Camp | Botswana
Peninsula | Hong Kong
Le Laperouse Ship | Ponant

Virtuoso Travel Week

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Today marks a month from the start of Virtuoso Travel Week 2014.  It feels like months have gone by since this epic travel conference.  I could not let any more time go by without doing a little recap so here it goes.  When I tell clients I will be in Vegas for a week to attend Virtuoso Travel Week they tell me to have a great time with the misconception that it is just a week of Vegas gambling, partying, and eating at the most fabulous restaurants. While all of this is completely true about Vegas, this is not the main purpose of this annual retreat. To give you a visual of the scope of this event; there were over 4420 people from over 90 countries in attendance! This time spent in Vegas allows for me to meet face to face with the people in the travel industry that I have built relationships with over the years.  These human connections are what takes a trip I arrange for my clients from good to amazing!  

I opted to stay at V’dara this year versus the Bellagio and while it was pretty convenient getting to the ballrooms of the Bellagio I will probably stay at the Bellagio next year. While the rooms were spacious and had a kitchenette (that I never used), I found housekeeping to be lacking and there were several other issues that needed to be brought to the management’s attention. They did sent over a Keurig machine which can be requested but I did not know this until the second to last day. I felt this might be a good thing to let a client know at check-in.

The first thing I did when I landed in Vegas was have dinner at FIX with Damian McCabe CEO of my affiliate McCabe World Travel.  This is a new affiliation Jen Mitchell Travel is very proud to have.  McCabe is preferred partners of many of the luxury hotel chains which give my clients a number of added benefits in addition to those offered by Virtuoso. This year they were nominated in 5 categories at the awards ceremony and won for Most Hospitable Agency!

I had decided to come in a day early to attend the VAST (Virtuoso Active and Specialty Travel) event.  This event is well worth my time, as each of the 35 VAST partners go out of their way to find the most creative and fun way to spend 7 minutes with us and present their product.  This event always gives me great ideas to take back to my clients and keeps me energized.  I wrapped up the day with some great laughs and a boat load of fun at Cabo Wabo with some of my favorite VAST partners.

Top 5 Take Backs from VAST:

  1. Greenland is HOT HOT HOT- Natural Habitat and Lindblad are both going there in 2015.
  2. Aqua Expeditions has a new ship the Aqua Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia
  3. Tauck has new departures specifically geared towards families with older teens.
  4. Divorcemoon- this is a real thing… and Greaves has created tours designed for this very purpose.
  5. Want to go where few have gone before? Something Arctic Kingdom has authentic and awe inspiring trips!

Sunday morning was reserved for professional development where I started by day with a session with Anne Scully (President of McCabe World Travel). In my profession it is key that I continue learning all the time.  The afternoon kicked off our conference with an opening session to inspire, closing with a bang up performance by Olivia Newton John.  Virtuoso managed to impress us another year with their opening reception.  We circumnavigated the World Sampling cuisine and music from different regions.  I made sure not to miss the juice bar at KHC Travel Portfolios party and Geoffrey Kent’s big announcement at the A&K event (introducing family departures).

Monday I hit the ground running with the start of my 4 minute appointments 8am-4pm each day until Thursday afternoon.  This is often referenced as speed dating as the two have an awful lot in common.   This is also a great time for me to drop a clients name to a general manager so that they can VIP you and anticipate your arrival. Some of the people I was super excited to see in person were Tom with Southern World, Lucy with Rocky Mountaineer, Sam with Seasonz, Maritza with Belmond, Linda with Tourism Hong Kong, Drew with Paws Up, Michelle from Entre Alaska, Varena from Sincerely Paul, and Virginia with Made for Spain to name just a few. These are just a handful of the contacts I work with and getting to have that face to face meeting makes those connections more real.

Top 10 exciting take backs:

1. Alpine Adventures is doing a special ski package at Ranch at Rock Creek.

2. Mukul Beach Resort is adding dinner into one of their meal packages.

3. Curtain Bluff had one of their two bedroom suites open up last minute if you are looking for an all-inclusive over Christmas!

4. The Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes Orlando just opened a new causal restaurant Highball and Harvest featuring southern inspired cuisine.

5. The Peninsula Shanghai let you drive one of their Mini Coopers when you book a Suite.

6. Resort at Paws Up is doing a pie making and cookie camp for all the avid bakers out there!

7. Blantyre goes all out for Halloween celebrating all week long highlighted by s’mores fire side telling spooky stories and hot cider and cookies in the main hall.

8. The Ritz Carlton Vienna has a chocolate sommelier! Yes I said that right…

9. Abercrombie and Kent is coming out with a Family Brochure

10. Ritz Carlton Istanbul has an outdoor open air spa.

Each night I was hosted for dinner followed by a series of cocktail parties and I can’t possibly talk about all of them.  I must mention the Destinations dinner where I was hosted by the incredible Cathy Holler of Travcoa.  Desert was followed by an announcement of the most wonderful gifts!  Each of us was gifted a trip, I will be taking a Safari in Tanzania!  I was seriously lost for words, which rarely ever happens.  The best part is I could bring a guest…. This means I will be taking Will to Africa this year!!! I was very honored to be hosted by the infamous Joann Kurtz Ahlers for the Hotels and Resorts Dinner!  The night of the Gala I was enjoyed the company of my friends at Natural Habitat and Lindblad, which has a reputation for being the “fun table”.

Since I can’t mention all of the cocktail parties I attended I will give special mention to one that really stood out…. the JCR party at Todd English. Janine and Anthony put on a super fun laid back affair represented by almost all of the hotels in their collection. I had such a great time meeting with each individual and getting to know them on a personal level. 

Each year I pass up the partying on the last night after the Gala and this year was the first exception.  When the Gala ends they open up Lilly and the Bank exclusively to Virtuoso. I started out the night at Lilly with some of the ladies of McCabe inlcluding the legendary Anne Scully.  I spent a good portion of the night with my Kiwi friends dancing the night at Bank.  As I was set to get a few hours of shut eye I ran into my good friend Cathy Holler at Lilly who talked me into staying out a bit longer.  I literally slept one hour before returning home to my loving family whom I missed ever so much!  Virtuoso Week really fuels that fire inside me for travel, and each year that I go I come back even more excited about what I do! 



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