Have you ever heard of luxury adventure travel?
Until stumbling into the world of Virtuoso, I certainly hadn’t. It’s a safe assumption that I would have never imagined that you can take an African safari in style or charter a private ship to the Galapagos or that glamping was a real thing. Glamping, glam camping, is a term I’ve recently heard from Cosmo (and maybe on a certain favorite ABC Family show), it was not used as an actual term from any of the suppliers today. Still, I feel it fits many of today’s vacation options rather appropriately. This is a good thing because I for one would never consider going camping without the glam.
Anyway, I’ll get to this part of the day after I explain to you my first 7 hours. The morning of NextGen Boot Camp is filled with seminars, panels, and round table discussions. At any other convention I might doze off, but these discussions are revolving around the world of travel. Not only that, they touch heavily on two things I know a bit about, but am always eager to learn more: being a young travel advisor and integrating technology into luxury travel consulting.
I’m surprised to see several girls that are roughly my age and I find a couple who are sitting by themselves. Always the first kid to make friends on the playground, I hop right in and introduce myself. Cassie, from Florida, and Aleza, from Toronto, quickly become my companions for the day as we navigate from one event to the next. It’s really nice to bond with other young agents who are completely new to the industry, as I’ve not been given that opportunity up until this point! I just can’t see why this industry doesn’t appeal to more people my age – if for no other reason than to skip your first week of class to come to Las Vegas (take notes for me, fellow Bulldawgs!).
Our panel discussion is led by the committee in charge of creating the NextGen Boot Camp – they are world renowned travelers and key agents in well-respected agencies. It’s an honor to hear about their time in the industry and to see that each of them have built themselves from the ground up to become extremely successful agents and entrepreneurs. They’re all role-models and have taken the time to reach out to fledglings in the world of travel who might not even know Patagonia is a real place and not just a clothes manufacturer (guilty).
Each member of the panel is so successful in their respective travel positions, yet so willing and eager to help the newbies that I realize that reaching to this level of knowledge and expertise while keeping a level head is completely within my grasp (just after I learn to locate Patagonia on a map).
During the panel, I actually think that one of the very nice, down-to-earth agents announces, “I specialize in billionaire travel” is making a joke. It takes me a minute to realize he’s not. Billionaires are people, too, I remind myself. Just kidding. I realize how awesome that sounds and how this one guy is single-handedly capitalizing on such an interesting niche. I’d like to get in on that. Any billionaires reading this blog, please let me be your travel advisor. Thanks.
Really, though, he puts things into great perspective. This particular agent assures us that he has never considered himself in the line of sales, he is just so passionate about his experiences and sending people around the world that the sales occur. “The world is our product,” he proclaims, and it sends chills down my spine.
I was just considering something along these lines on my flight yesterday. I had previously interned in advertising sales and had chalked that position up to “never again”. Not a single part of me desired to work in sales. However, when I took on the job as a travel consultant and began to delve into each individual assignment, researching for my clients, I never once regarded my position as one of sales. I honestly don’t know what I’ve labeled it as, besides an extension of my passion for travel into the lives of others.
On a less cheesy note, I do learn that, as a Virtuoso travel advisor, I can send you to space. I had no idea that Richard Branson had delegated his Virgin Galactic program exclusively to Virtuoso. Anyone interested in space exploration can feel free to contact me. You might also fit into the aforementioned billionaire travel category.
We meet individually with the panel members, who are all very progressive and eager to teach us newbies the ropes. The discussions cover marketing, customer relations, agent education, and what exactly to expect at Travel Mart.
With that being said, I’m still not sure what to expect at the real Travel Mart (or, “Big Girl Travel Mart,” as my companions and I renamed it today).
Anyway, after those lessons and a great lecture on maximizing PR presence, I head to VAST, which I believe stands for Virtuoso Active and Specialty Travel, but I could just be making that up off the top of my head. Either way, it is the previously mentioned luxury adventure travel portion of my training.
I spend 4 1/2 hours meeting for 7 minutes with nearly 40 of these travel professionals. I hear about things from Antarctic cruises to chartering the Bandit (the boat from the Deadliest Catch) to exploring Australia by train to Rwandan Gorilla adventures. Anything your adventurous heart can dream of is here.
Which, for me, personally, means very little. My heart is not incredibly adventurous when it comes to hanging out in the natural habitat of chimps or laying out on the ice beaches of Antarctica. Still, it’s cool to learn about. I do hope to take an African safari one day and I hope to do so through an awesome tour operator called Micato. The safari company donates a full education to one Kenyan child for each safari sold. That seems like a pretty awesome cause to travel for, in my opinion.
On a completely selfish note from the previous sentence, we get a whole lot of SWAG at Travel Mart. I now have bags of coffee, tea, a small bottle of African liqueur (we were told that the elephants like it, which seems like a bad selling point), a t-shirt, a scarf, and a stuffed monkey with Josh’s name on it (not literally. It says Orion), to name a few. I also have approximately 400 pounds worth of travel brochures and business cards and several magazines with which I would like to adorn my coffee table.
I have a feeling that I’m either going to have to pack a box to ship back, or leave behind much of my new gear.
Something tells me that learning about the luxury properties represented by Virtuoso is not going to prepare me to part ways with my newly acquired material possessions.
I still have a cocktail reception and dinner to attend in about thirty minutes, so my day is not completely over. I will say that the past 12 hours of my first day at Travel Mart has been a great experience, and I’m positive there will be more where that came from.
I can officially say that I’ve there have definitely been more great experiences since six hours ago. I get my second wind as I catch up with another NextGen advisor on the way to our reception in one of the Bellagio suites.
Once we reach the sixth-floor suite, I think I’ve seen it all. If you’re any good at understanding foreshadowing in a story, you’ll catch on that I’m using it here.
The suite is massive: a wide, open living room with a large dining area and a spacious bedroom down the hall with a beautiful bathroom (due to my love of bubble baths, I’m a big fan of impressive bathrooms). I mingle with several people from the Boot Camp, particularly Tegan, a sweet girl who works in Phoenix but was born and raised in Australia.
It’s so interesting the network of people you can create at an event like this given merely one day. Something as intimate as the Boot Camp, where we are all thrown into an unfamiliar environment and fostered along by trusted advisors, really bonds you quickly. I learn the back stories behind a number of fellow agents, but I’m still grateful for the name badges by the end of the day. I need to learn Seabourn’s trick for remembering names.
The cocktail party is a blast, really a beautiful affair put on for us by those behind NextGen. I’m mingling with my peers and Tony, the man in charge of the boot camp (and to whom I’m gracious for getting me in so last minute!), when Jay, one of the committee members walks up to me and announces, “You are a fantastic writer!”. I’m so caught off guard and then I recall that Jay and I had swapped Twitters (is that the correct plural form of the word?), to which my blog feeds updates. I’m so thrilled to hear this from one of the leaders of this event, all of whom I’ve grown to respect in such a short amount of time. So here’s a shout out to my newest reader, Jay, and my new friends at Tafari Travel. You have joined a small, but hopefully growing, group of people: those who read my blog. Thanks!
Later at the party, a Virtuoso employee speaks to us and invites the NextGen group to the cocktail reception at Aria, the brand new hotel next door. After a bit of an internal debate (my feet hurt and the bed is calling me, but when else am I going to get to see a Sky Suite at Aria?), I decide to check out the party with Tegan.
The City Center, a modest 9-billion dollar, ultra-modern series of condos, hotel space, casino, and God knows what else, houses Aria, the sleek new hotel that I detailed in my blog for my last trip to Vegas (you can check that out on the What? page). Tegan and I follow signs to the Sky Suites, where we are then allowed access by one of the guards. He directs us to the FIFTY-EIGHTH FLOOR, further giving us detailed directions to our designated villa (you heard me right: villa).
Readers, I tried to take pictures for you, but I just could not do this place justice. Besides a spectacular view, this Sky Suite villa at Aria boasts a magnificent living and dining area, automatic toilets in each of the four bathrooms (which the housekeeper proudly showed us after she informs us, “You are in the small bedroom, upstairs is the big one.” All the while I’m still under the impression that this is the only bedroom), a gym, a massage room, three bedrooms, a beauty salon ideal for Jersey Shore: Las Vegas, and probably tons of other interesting features that I missed due to my obvious gawking, all spread out across its two-story floor plan.
Last night, I noticed on the Bellagio room service menu that one can order 100 pieces of various hors d’oeuvres for several hundred dollars a pop and I thought, What a crazy thing to put on a room service menu. Now I realize that kind of room service menu is designed for guests who can fit over 100 people in their room alone.
I have reached the top and I have no desire to come down.