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