Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

Virtuoso Travel Week is famous for its rapid-fire meetings between agents and suppliers, highly choreographed affairs that see advisors table-hop for hours on end every August in Las Vegas (or, virtually, in 2020). The connections that come out of those meetings, advisors have told me, are invaluable. 

I tried it myself once a few years ago, when Virtuoso arranged a few hours' worth of meetings for media. It's an impressive way to gain exposure to a number of suppliers in a relatively short period of time. It's also a little exhausting, if I'm being honest, so my kudos to the advisors that do it every year.

But what if you took that concept and flipped it, inviting clients to meet with advisors and suppliers virtually for a set period of time? Would it have value?

It did for Largay Travel in Waterbury, Conn.

The agency recently hosted a virtual event that invited clients into a Zoom room with an advisor. Then, every 10 minutes, a new supplier would pop in and talk about their destination or product, before moving on to the next room. Largay held two, two-hour sessions for around 75 participants.

"It was fabulous," Largay president and co-owner Amanda Klimak said. "People loved it. It was like the Whitman's Sampler of travel."

Suppliers including Big Five Tours & Expeditions, Lindblad Expeditions and Viking Cruises participated in the event, dubbed "A Walk Around the World With Largay Travel," giving clients a nice taste of different destinations and products.

In the lead-up to the event, Largay didn't do too much to publicize it. The advisors who participated personally invited clients, and Klimak estimated 90% of attendees were already good clients of Largay advisors (the event was opened up to others via social media just before it was held).

When people registered, they were asked to share their dream destination. Each attendee was sent an interactive Wanderlist dream board on their destination, filled with content, to get them in the mood to dream about travel, Klimak said. Wanderlist is Virtuoso's long-term travel-planning product, but dream boards are available for free. They enable the client to interact with content their advisor added to the board as well as add their own links and content that their advisor can monitor.

The event, Klimak said, was designed to get clients dreaming about travel. She believes that's part of the reason why it was so fun -- Covid-19, rules and restrictions and similar topics were not the focus of the conversation (Largay had a follow-up event last week titled "Should I Stay or Should I Go").

"As much as we're in the midst of this pandemic still and we don't have ships sailing and all of that, take time to still dream about travel," Klimak said. "Allow your clients -- give them permission to still dream about travel."

The event worked. Just days after, Largay got its first lead from a man who attended -- not previously a Largay client -- who was interested in a celebration trip to India. Largay's India specialist will work with the client and Big Five to arrange the trip for his wife's 70th birthday.

Outside of the event, bookings for 2022 and 2023 are rolling in at Largay, Klimak said. The agency has been coaching clients to use future travel credits now, as some popular products are starting to fill up.

Largay is booking about 30% of what it normally would, Klimak said. 

"I wouldn't say, 'Guess what, we're back,'" she said, "but it's a good trend."

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