For the entirety of last week both Kendall and I were in Las Vegas attending Virtuoso Travel Week, the largest gathering of luxury focused suppliers and advisors in the world. It was masks on for all 100+ meetings we both enjoyed and as we were on separate tracks this means we met with well over 200 potential connections to enhance your trips.
We were blown away by many new hotel properties and even new cruise lines, but also had some interesting meetings with tourism boards, insurance companies, and those wonderful car rental companies (yes, we gave them some grief!).
The photo below is where most of our meetings occurred and is just one of 5 different venues needed to cope with the numbers spread between Bellagio, Vdara and Aria Hotels.
We've had some lively discussion here about our favorites and most surprising connections of the week, and that's how I've landed on this weeks Top 5.
Top 5 - New Virtuoso Connections
1. 1 Hotels
If you haven't heard of the 1 Hotels brand yet, you will soon. Many brands talk a good book on sustainability in travel and indeed there is a very strong movement in the right direction on this subject, but 1 Hotels are going all in. As a lifestyle hotel brand inspired by nature, 1 Hotels cultivates the best of conscious design, and sustainable architecture with extraordinary comfort and an unrivaled level of service. 1 Hotels was developed with the simple idea the nature isn’t just beautiful -- it changes the way we feel. Properties already open are 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach, 1 Hotel Central Park, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge (above) which is already a client favorite, 1 Hotel West Hollywood and 1 Hotel Haitang Bay (China).
Their flagship property, and this particularly thrilled Kendall our Hawaii expert, is set to open late summer next year and will be a true reincarnation of the old St Regis Princeville. So be ready for 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay (below). Others to follow in London, Paris, Toronto, Nashville and San Francisco. We at J5Travel are certain this brand is going to make a huge splash in the luxury market.
2. Farmhouse Inn (above and below)
It's a magical quirk of this Virtuoso event that you can find yourself talking to a very highly placed executive of a massive brand such as Hyatt or Marriott, or in this case with the owner of an independent property totally worthy of the same amount of time. I sat with Joe Bartolomei, owner of Farmhouse Inn and we waxed lyrical on how Napa gets the name recognition as "the" wine destination when Sonoma really should have a close to equal claim.
His property has a Michelin starred restaurant and if you've drunk a little too much in the region then ask about the juice pairing dinner!
Rooms with curated wine refrigerators and feather beds. Joe and wife Catherine are so intimately connected to Sonoma that their story dates back five generations. This - and so much more - is why Farmhouse Inn ranks among the most highly rated hotels in the world, and it was a privilege to sit down with Joe.
3. Leighton Kitagawa
Leighton is the regional sales manager of Four Seasons Resorts Hawai’i (Hualalai, Maui, and O’ahu at Ko Olina) and he greeted Kendall like a long lost daughter. Granted, Kendall knows Hawaii like the back of her hand and we have had a whole lot of Hawaii and Four Seasons bookings in the last year, but his pride in someone young in the industry doing so well was real, and it's connections like this that we cherish and our clients benefit from indirectly.
4. Mr C Hotels
Conceptualized by Ignazio and Maggio Cipriani of the Cipriani family internationally renowned for their restaurants, innovative event spaces, nightlife and residences, this brand has been quietly around since opening in Beverly Hills in 2011, but is now making news with the opening of Mr C Seaport in NYC (above) and Mr C Miami Coconut Grove (below). European glamour and old world simplicity combined...
5. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island (above and below)
My meeting with Carla Puverel of Conrad shook me up. My host agency is all female led and there are many high powered women in this industry, yet for the first few minutes of our meeting I assumed I was meeting with a very professional and highly engaging senior sales person. The property is as spectacular as they come, so that was a distraction, but then I glanced at Carla's business card. Carla is the General Manager of this amazing resort and I immediately apologized for my assumption and won't make that mistake again.
Despite my embarrassment we connected really well and if you ever want to enjoy a family Maldives trip in a remarkable resort, I now know who to call to make it extra special.
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