Virtuoso teams with 'Airbnb of food'

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Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

When it comes to modern luxury, there are few buzzwords we hear more than "experiential." But with "culinary" and "local" quickly catching up or taking a close second, Virtuoso is teaming up with what has been described as "the Airbnb of food."

The luxury travel agent consortium earlier this month announced that it is partnering with the London-based immersive food experience operator VizEat, which works with some 22,000 hosts offering local culinary experiences in more than 110 countries.

"VizEat's innovative concept is a perfect fit with two trends Virtuoso has observed growing of late: culinary travel and the desire to enjoy authentic local experiences," Cece Drummond, Virtuoso's managing director of destinations and experiences, said in a press release. "VizEat provides the ability to bring destinations to life through food, allowing our advisers to design truly unique experiences that connect their clients to the local people and the culture on a different level."

VizEat's members (who can be accessed via an app like Uber, and are rated similarly to the car-sharing service's drivers) offer dinners, wine tastings, cooking classes and a variety of culinary-based experiences designed to give travelers insight into the local life and culture.

By adding VizEat to its network, Virtuoso has created what politicians like to call a "win-win." The Virtuoso stamp of approval, which Drummond said the group is "incredibly selective" in handing out, helps VizEat distinguish itself among the elite in the travel world. On the Virtuoso side, it keeps luxury agents connected with rather than trying to compete against yet another  disruptor in the travel world.

VizEat co-founder and CEO Jean-Michel Petit called it a great match, noting Virtuoso "represents the very best in travel."

The partnership is just one example of new alliances Virtuoso has been fostering to meet the changing demands of luxury travelers.

According to a press release circulated following the group's recent meeting in Vancouver, much of Virtuoso chairman and CEO Matthew Upchurch's remarks focused on the need for agents to make personal connections and be able to offer new experiences.

"Today we are in the era of exponential choices," Upchurch said. "We're swimming in options, and there are so many more products. The goal for all of us should be enduring loyalty, which is not to be confused with repeat business. It's building lifetime connections and lifetime value."

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