With sales booming, Virtuoso agencies have been hiring

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David Kolner, senior vice president of global member partnerships, Virtuoso, at Virtuoso Travel Week.
David Kolner, senior vice president of global member partnerships, Virtuoso, at Virtuoso Travel Week. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada

LAS VEGAS -- Virtuoso said it has added 1,000 travel advisers since January for a record total of 16,000 affiliated agents, with over half of the growth coming organically from current agencies adding staff members.

David Kolner, senior vice president of global member partnerships, said the top source of that growth was independent contractors (ICs) affiliating with Virtuoso agencies.

"The 'IC-ification' of the world is not just a United States phenomenon, it's a huge phenomenon in Australia, in Mexico and even in Europe now," Kolner said at Virtuoso Travel Week.

Virtuoso runs a B2B recruiting service for members, and so far this year has had 1,902 inquiries about joining a Virtuoso agency. So far, 408 of those have been referred to member agencies.

Agencies are also looking for more advisers to help their workload, Kolner said.

"People are trying to hire as many people as they can to keep up with the sales and demand that they're getting from their own clients," he said.

According to Kolner, the number of new advisers is indicative of the overall health of travel agencies. Virtuoso now has 800 agency locations, up 8% year over year, in 47 countries. Around 100 locations have been added since this January. Sales are up 37% year-over-year to $21.2 billion annually.

"It's a wonderful time to be an agent, for sure," he said.

Kolner provided an update on Virtuoso's initiative to enable consumer hotel bookings on Virtuoso.com. Launched this spring, consumers can book hotels with Virtuoso perks online, but all bookings belong to a Virtuoso adviser, either one the consumer has worked with before or one who has signed up for a paid lead-generation program. Advisers can also book on the website.

According to Kolner, hotel sales from the website have surpassed $1.6 million, and have an average daily rate of $600-plus.

The online solution answers an important problem many advisors face, he said: Customers who book their own hotels instead of asking their advisor to do it for them.

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