Virtuoso says its pool of potential customers is growing fast

LAS VEGAS — Virtuoso’s target clientele, high-net-worth individuals with more than $1 million in liquid assets, is growing in every market around the world at a faster clip than projected last year.

“We expect 16 million new high-net-worths to be created in a five-year period between 2021 and 2026,” Virtuoso executive vice president David Kolner said during the Virtuoso Travel Week conference.

While Virtuoso predicted growth in high-net-worth people last year, Kolner said that projections this year have accelerated by 18%. The travel agency network is working to reach high-net-worth individuals with the continuation of its “So Virtuoso” marketing campaign, which launched last year.

Huge sales growth in 2023

In the first half of 2023, Virtuoso’s sales outpaced last year’s by 37%, and 2022 was a record year, Kolner said. Sales in the first half of this year outpaced 2019 sales by a whopping 56%.

Cruise sales in the first half of 2023 were 23% higher than 2019. Hotel sales were up 19% from last last year and 100% from 2019.

“It’s not all due to the mastery of the pricing people — we can see that the bookings are also up by nearly 20% compared to 2019,” Kolner said. “So the increased sales aren’t just average daily rate.”

Virtuoso member agencies are also at an all-time high for optimism, Kolner said. A pulse survey of members completed in July found 87% of respondents were feeling optimistic about their business. Twelve percent reported being neutral/unsure.

Going forward, things are trending positively. Americans’ bookings for trips outside the U.S. are up 39% from last year and up more than 100% from 2019.  

For fall and the festive season this year, sales and bookings are up. “So it’s not just higher prices, it’s actually more bookings on file,” Kolner said.

Virtuoso event celebrates 35 years 

Virtuoso Travel Week this year celebrates its coral anniversary. Thirty-five years ago in 1989, the first Travel Mart hosted 174 attendees at the Brazilian Court in Palm Beach, Fla., said Jennifer Campbell, Virtuoso’s senior vice president of network products and events. The event featured 20-minute matched appointments between advisors and suppliers over the course of two days.

Over the years, the programming would evolve.

In 1999, the event hit 1,000 attendees in Whistler, B.C., with attendees staying in six hotels. That spurred Virtuoso to find a new home: the Bellagio, which is still Virtuoso Travel Week’s hub today. The Bellagio first hosted the event in 2000, when it had 1,500 attendees.

Matched appointments turned into speed dating, Campbell said, reflecting the changing desires of attendees.
In 2012, the event officially changed from Travel Mart to Virtuoso Travel Week.

This year, Virtuoso has welcomed 80 new members and 170 new supplier partners, said Cory Hagopian, senior vice president of sales and partnerships at the consortium. Nearly 70% of new members and partners come from countries outside the U.S.

Virtuoso Travel Week this year drew more than 5,000 attendees from 105 countries. About 400 joined virtually. The event is being held at the Bellagio, Aria and Vdara hotels.

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