We spent a few days last week at our first Virtuoso travel conference, in Washington DC. As you can see from the photo below we are an excitable bunch of travel advisors, all from our host agency, Gifted Travel Network.
And with good reason. For our first 3 1/2 years in business we have striven every day to learn our trade, inspire others with our own travels, and ensure our clients experiences are both superior and run like clockwork. Despite our extensive world travels, we know we can't be an expert on everything, and yet we now have quick access to some specialized suppliers that can make extraordinary adventures in incredible countries and locations a reality.
Just our first conference revealed possibilities that we had not ever considered or even heard of before. With a mix of supplier meetings and some longer learning sessions on how to make the absolute best of our new tools, we could not have had a better start to 2019. We continue to adore what we are doing and will not stop the learning...ever.
Please read the top 5 below, they moved us and sent shivers down our spines.
What we learned, the TOP 5
1. ME to WE (below)
If you truly want to travel with purpose, this is the best company we have come across to fulfill your wishes. Focused on trips to Ecuador, Kenya and India they have ongoing 20 year+ projects where you are genuinely able to contribute to local communities in a sustainable and immersive trip. You will be welcomed as an extension of the new friends and family you will encounter. Along the way you will also enjoy special experiences such as Bollywood dancing (India), meeting a local Shaman (Ecuador) and being trained in the art of Maasai warrior weaponry (Kenya). They have a great tagline - Where Meaningful Meets Undeniably Unforgettable.
2. Australis (above and below)
If you've sailed the world, hiked every mountain, and ridden the full length of the Orient Express, you still might not have heard of Australis. They are a small cruise line with just 2 ships, and they only cruise the myriad of islands off the Chilean and Argentinian coast of Patagonia, along with heading out to Cape Horn. Known as the end of the world, Cape Horn was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in June, 2005 and Australis actually land there so your tour guide can lead you safely to discover the Cape Horn Monument, masterfully built to survive the often 125 mph winds down here.
3. The Brando, French Polynesia
We are honestly privileged to meet with many of our contacts and suppliers, and it's not just cruise lines and tour package companies. We even get to sit down with important points of contact including the General Managers of many properties all over the world. Just last week this included Banyan Tree properties, the Ritz Carlton Naples and probably the highlight, the sumptuous private island retreat, Brando Resort (below).
The Brando is a unique luxury resort on French Polynesia’s breathtakingly beautiful private island of Tetiaroa, offering carefree luxury in the midst of pristine nature. With access to the island by private plane, the resort features 35 villas on white-sand beaches frequented by sea turtles, manta rays and exotic birds.
4. National Geographic
Whilst we were aware that National Geographic partner with some tour operators such as G Adventures and Lindblad expeditions, somehow we had missed that they operate dozens of fully independent programs and tours. They even have 10 Private Jets which are used for their truly amazing NG Expeditions. Just as one example, in business class all the way, it's possible to see South America on a 21-day itinerary accompanied by National Geographic archaeologists, conservationists and photographers.
- Tikal and El Mirador, Guatemala
- Panama City and the Panama Canal
- Cusco, Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (above)
- Patagonia & Torres del Paine National Park
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Iguacu Falls, Brazil
- Cartagena, Colombia
5. Within the Wild
Occasionally at these conferences you come across a hidden gem or two. Within the Wild is such an example. A family owned company, they operate just two rustic-luxury full service Alaskan lodges. If the Alaska cruise doesn't appeal to you or you have the time for a land adventure pre or post cruise these are wonderful options. Both Winterlake Lodge (above) and Tutka Bay Lodge (below) operate on an All-Inclusive basis and that is very generous in this case as helicopter adventures are included within all lodge packages! Whether it’s glacier trekking, fly-fishing, remote camping or dog mushing atop a majestic mountain, their guides are available to customize your adventures.
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