Virtuoso Travel Week
A Great Reminder Of What An Exceptional Conference Is About

with Vanessa Lee

Christian Sierralta of Silversea with Vanessa Lee

Mike Dawson, Chairman of Worldview Travel, Vanessa Lee & Mark Conroy, Managing Director of the Americas for Silversea

BJ Thomas performing at the event in Vegas

4-minute appointments at Virtuoso Travel Week

I have just returned from a rather hectic and intense week attending my first Virtuoso Travel Week conference in Las Vegas – but I have returned energised, focused and even more committed to the world of professional travel advisors and to my ongoing passion for cruising and luxury travel.

Travel has been my career for almost 40 years now, and cruise has been my main focus since 1991. Which, surprisingly to me, is now 25 years ago…….. And I know many others who have made our industry their life’s project and their true passion and calling. As we know, once you are in this business, most of us never want to leave.

We grow and we change and we mentor others (something I love to do) and we nurture our staff and our clients too – but ultimately we are here because we love that which is our world. One of the Virtuoso tag lines comes to mind – “Specialists in the Art of Travel” – and indeed they are. And of course, we all want to be a specialist, an expert in our field, but we also want to fulfill the dreams of those who wish to see the world and all the wonders it contains.

I am truly impressed by the exceptional Virtuoso organization, who certainly do “Orchestrate Dreams” ™ – another of their powerful and spot on trademarks - and I was particularly wowed by the depth and breadth of talent in their executive team. It is remarkable and admirable.  As I have always been a staunch advocate for the travel professional community, it was inspiring to find myself within a pool of like-minded people.

The message at the event was clear: the travel advisor is alive and kicking and has a great future and a good advisor is a necessity for the global explorers your clients have become. There is just so much information that it is mind-boggling for consumers and a professional retail travel person is required to sift through it all and find relevant solutions.

This event was also a great reminder that conferences held by major retail groups in North America on a regular basis are must-attends. They provide an enormous amount of opportunity for personal development, time to bond with one’s colleagues, and most of all, they encourage engagement with suppliers.

I think of all the great annual conferences I have been to over the years – all the lost sleep, the great games played back at the Giants and Ensemble Conferences and those from the Sears days too. The Cruise Holidays, V.Comm and CruiseShipCenters events. Getting men to dress up in ladies underwear with high-heeled shoes and lipstick – hysterical. I am not sure Holland America has been the same since!

Lots of stories that must remain untold (it’s not just what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, I can assure you. Plenty of other places and ships have wild stories to tell). There were fabulous times, crazy times, hard-working times, pools and hot tub times, pajama parties, fun events and marvellous moments shared with people you still see and can share great times with.  A PVR cab ride comes to mind but I won’t tell you what happened as I am bound to protect the innocent (you know who you are!).

So to all of my hard-working colleagues, who give up weekends, work the longest hours, schlepp all over the world, leave their families behind, give up special events to get on yet another plane and head off to another ship or resort or hotel for all the right reasons, you are my hero’s and heroines. I applaud all that you do and for those of you I saw last week and had time to speak and interact with – you are special to me and I thank you for being a part of my world and my global travel community.

Some photos accompanying this article will showcase how much fun was had in between all the hard work at Virtuoso Travel Week -- and yes that is BJ Thomas, 5-time Grammy award winning star best known for hit songs such as “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” and “Hooked On A Feeling” – his voice as great today as it was 40 years ago.

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