Pink's version of A Million Dreams has been stuck in my head ever since returning from Virtuoso Travel Week in Vegas, and I really have been awake at night with a whole load of ideas and dreams swirling around. I'd meant to post a lot from this event and take selfies with my favorite suppliers. Well, none of that happened. The phone went away and I engaged as if my life depended on it because the amount of invaluable, pertinent and new information was close to overwhelming.
The sparkly group in the photo below are about half of the all-female dream team of Gifted Travel Network, our host agency. Whilst J5Travel is now a team of 5, it's Gifted Travel Network who have educated and encouraged us on our entrepreneurial journey. Their stellar leadership has placed us after just 4 short years at the pinnacle of the luxury travel industry and is why we are now sitting at tables with GMs, and sales directors and CEOs of the worlds best travel companies, through our affiliation with Virtuoso. We did not win the Virtuoso Rising Star award in the Cruise category, but it doesn't matter. We are winning in our mission to improve constantly and provide clients with options and ideas that even Pink may not have dreamed of.
From left to right - Meredith, Sandy, Jen, Vanessa, Lisa and Erica absolutely stormed this event and worked so incredibly hard to enable their advisors, such as me, to shine. I want to thank them and let you know who they are, as our flourishing business would not be here without them.
My biggest lesson from the week? In a world that is increasingly impersonal, it is personal connections that, without a doubt, make the difference to our clients experiences.
I had over 250 meetings, so picking a Top 5 is rather difficult compared with most weeks, but here goes.
Top 5 Virtuoso Travel Week Connections
1. Michelle Devlin, General Manager - Egerton House Hotel, London
Michelle is pictured above holding the hotel's resident Jack Russell, Milly. I met Michelle at a lunch hosted by Red Carnation Hotels who have a delightful, small portfolio of properties in London and several others dotted around the world. I don't like to mention Tripadvisor, but I know in this case that Egerton House fully deserves it's #2 ranked hotel in London rating (out of over 1,100). Just a couple of minutes conversation made it clear to me how this rating is achieved. The personal care that Michelle and her team wants to pour on each and every guest that walks through their door was just so evident, I was quite moved. I am absolutely thrilled to now have Michelle as a contact.
2. Caitlin Rodgers, Sales Manager - Entree Canada
I was inspired by Caitlin last week to write about Somerset Island, Nunavut, Canada and how you can experience Beluga whales up close and personal, but my sit down with her was much more than that. Caitlin was another person whose deep passion for what she can create just flows out of her. Entree Canada design luxury itineraries for the amazing possibilities that Canada holds. From Fogo Island (above) to Vancouver and a trip to Nimmo Bay and everything in between.
Her answer to the question, "When and where is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Canada?" was so long and detailed it would take up 2 weeks ezines just to write it all down.
3. Avi Lugasi, Founder and CEO - Windows to Japan
Avi is Israeli born and his story is so wondrous that you cannot help but be intrigued. He also showed up with the best business cards of the week, on handmade parchment.
Avi first visited Japan in 1989, and stayed for 18 months. He returned in 1995 and has been a part of the country ever since. During his time in the land of the rising sun, he practiced for three years at a Zen monastery, obtained a second dan black belt in Kyudo Japanese archery, studied the arts of Japanese pottery and bonsai miniature plant cultivation, and has participated in a whole host of other Japanese arts and traditions. His years of experience within Japan have clearly given him unique insights into local cultures, and have revealed to him secrets that are invaluable for creating and guiding tours throughout the island nation.
Avi likes to create cultural, culinary and crafted "windows" for his guests. Just one example, Young Sumo (above), where children may join in on morning practice with fellow young athletes, giving the kids a taste of the traditional sport, while giving family members photographs and memories of a lifetime.
4. Puneet Dan, Ambassador, Adventurer, Educator - Micato India
Puneet may just have the best laugh in India and his enthusiasm was infectious. We connected particularly well as once I told him I would be in Delhi in just a couple of weeks, he let loose on what I should do. He has directed me to visit Sikha Gurduwara Temple at a certain time, walk around for 30 minutes and then find the kitchen. He told me the rest would be a surprise. How am I not going to do this?
Puneet and Micato create very high end Indian tours and every single one, whether for just a couple or a group of 20 is fully escorted by a guide for the whole trip. The Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur (above) and the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur (below) are two of his favorite properties and give you just a glimpse of the incredible hotels and resorts that are scattered throughout this huge country. India awaits me shortly and I am very excited.
5. Mark Wernich, General Manager - Taj Cape Town (below)
Cape Town born and bred, Mark has been GM at Taj for just over a year. Taj hotels are famed for their unique architecture, exquisite locations and their unwavering 'Tajness' - a combination of personally curated luxury and service that sets Taj hotels apart from all others. Mark is carrying on this tradition. Guided city walking tours are complimentary here and there is a top class wine tasting every evening. To be able to call upon the GM of such a spectacular hotel to add even more personal touches on top of your experience is an absolute blessing.
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