Travelocity.com and Virtuoso Team Up for
Virtuoso is the most powerful network of
independent luxury travel agencies in the world.
What do you do when you're the president of
the largest travel-booking site on the Internet and you want to take
your family on a very special vacation?
Travelocity.com President Terrell Jones found himself in that
predicament last year, and, of course he made most of his arrangements
via Travelocity.com. But he also decided to hire a travel specialist
to orchestrate additional intricate details of his vacation.
The specialist, who had extensive first-hand knowledge of the
destination and personal relationships with the top travel providers
there, was able to clear space in an apparently sold-out five-star
hotel, secure a room upgrade, map out a wonderful "off the
beaten path" itinerary, and provide the Jones family with a
specially requested luxury car to drive during their vacation. In
the words of Mr. Jones, "The trip was perfect."
Top Travel Specialists in America
That experience led Jones to seek out the top travel specialists
in America in hopes of forging a partnership that would give Travelocity.com
customers access to specific travel specialists based upon the interests
of the customers. As it turns out, the specialist he had utilized
is a member of Virtuoso (formerly API Travel Consultants), an exclusive
Fort Worth-based network of the top independent upscale leisure
travel agencies in North and Latin America.
Travelocity.com has now launched a "Specialist Referral Network"
within its website that will allow customers to search a database
of Virtuoso specialist agencies and choose one specializing in the
type of travel or destination the Travelocity.com customer is seeking.
For a $25 "plan-to-go" fee, the Travelocity.com customer
is introduced to the specialist travel agency via e-mail, and an
expert within the agency will contact the customer for an in-depth
interview regarding the desired vacation. The fee is applied toward
the service time of the specialist and the first vacation booking.
From that point forward, the customer is free to access that specialist
indefinitely for no additional fee to Travelocity.com.
If customers are interested in cruising on a specific ship to
a specific destination, the site will introduce them to a specialist
who is frequently onboard that ship and familiar with cabins, itineraries,
excursions and crew. And, as a member of Virtuoso, the specialist
will have access to the best values and complimentary amenities
for that cruise ship. In most cases, Virtuoso will have a host onboard
the ship to handle customers' needs during their vacation.
Variety of Experts
By utilizing the search engine within the new specialist referral
network at Travelocity.com, customers will be able to find a wide
variety of experts, whether they're interested in the best way to
discover Machu Picchu in Peru or the private gardens of Bermuda.
Virtuoso is the most powerful network of independent luxury travel
agencies in the world. Comprising 244 agencies in North and Latin
America, the privately owned corporation provides marketing, sales,
technology support, and exclusive services and products to the member
agencies and their clients. Due to its immense buying power in the
luxury travel market, Virtuoso has secured exclusive agreements
and values with the leading hotels, spas, cruise lines, tour companies,
rail lines, airlines and ground operators around the world.
Simply using Virtuoso specialists can automatically entitle travelers
to automatic upgrades, complimentary amenities, rare travel opportunities
and private events not open to the public.
Experts' Top Hotels Picks in Gourmet Magazine
Virtuoso has been frequently featured in Conde Nast Traveler and
other leading travel and lifestyle publications. In May 2000, Gourmet
Magazine will include the recommendations of Virtuoso specialists
alongside its readers' recommendations in the publications "Best
Plenty of Experience
The Virtuoso specialists available via the new specialists referral
network at Travelocity.com have an average of 20+ years of industry
experience. Most are accredited with the Institute of Certified
Travel Agents. Travelocity.com has carefully chosen specific Virtuoso
specialist agencies based upon sales production, frequency of first-hand
experience and endorsement recommendations from the leading travel
providers for each area of specialization.
Beyond finding a travel specialist, Travelocity.com customers
will be able to search a database of exclusive Virtuoso offers from
the best travel companies in the world. Four search engines - cruises,
hotels, land tours and adventure travel - will offer an index of
the latest vacation offers. The service has launched with the cruise
search engine first, and the other engines will become operational
within a few weeks. In addition, each week the website will promote
a "Featured Getaway."
"Many of America's most discerning travelers are already
utilizing a Virtuoso travel specialist," said Matthew D. Upchurch,
CTC, managing principal of Virtuoso. "Now Travelocity.com is
providing Virtuoso an extraordinary platform to build relationships
with other travelers in search of the best travel experiences.
This creative partnership is truly a move "back to the future,"
reminiscent of decades past when travel agents were valued for their
knowledge vs. their ability to merely take orders and print out
Sharing the Knowledge
"Travelocity.com has made it easy for consumers to quickly
book a flight, rent a car or reserve a specific hotel," added
Upchurch, "but now customers who are in need of personal expertise
and want a specialist to create an entire upscale vacation can use
Travelocity.com as a portal to the unique offerings of Virtuoso.
While the advent of direct booking on-line has caused a shake-up
in certain tiers of the travel agent community, it's actually being
embraced by Virtuoso's specialists, who would rather spend their
valuable time in the role of a consultant, who shares in-depth knowledge
and connections with clients, versus sitting at a computer terminal
all day processing airline tickets.
"Imagine that you could somehow combine the finest couture
departments of Neiman-Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom's and
Bergdorf Goodman stores under one roof that can be anywhere you
want it to be. And imagine you could staff that remarkable store
with the most talented service professionals from each of those
upscale retailers. You'd have the most comprehensive selection of
top designer products and the best personal service available anywhere
in the world," said Upchurch. "That's what Travelocity.com
has now created on-line for discriminating travelers with our Virtuoso