Posts Tagged ‘Virtuoso’
After spending 4 nights in a typical convention-type hotel, The Hilton in Durban, a stone’s throw from the site of Indaba, a trade show about Africa, I craved a Virtuoso-style property. You know the kind I mean, right? A place in which you feel comfortable, pampered, and where you can, in one deep exhale, blot out the memories of any irritations—welcome to our suite at the Olive, a boutique hotel in Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek.
Our accommodations could easily be featured in Dwell or Architectural Digest—contemporary, clean lines, natural materials and fibers, shallow pools by the front door and a lounge area and plunge pool in the rear. I’m sitting on a taupe leather sofa, the pieces sewn with purposely unfinished edges and my feet are propped up on a gnarled tree root table. Enough, though, of my words—you have photos to tell the story. TTFN—I’m off to luxuriate for the evening!
Answer: a horse running in Buenos Aires’ Virtuoso Derby!
Virtuoso, Specialists in the Art of Travel, is an understatement! Tuesday set a new record for Virtuoso creating extraordinary life experiences!
After a morning of breakout sessions for members and suppliers, we were taken to the Palermo Hippodrome, a racetrack in Buenos Aires for The Virtuoso Derby, a series of 3 races for the exclusive benefit of attendees at the 2013 Virtuoso International Symposium. The races were run strictly for our enjoyment and we were treated like royalty the entire time.
As we entered the Hippodrome, we were directed down a few steps to the grassy area that borders the perimeter of the race track. We were greeted by hostesses, dressed in vintage gowns and stylish hats, who handed each of us a program, a paper fan and paper umbrella. While we strolled around the area enjoying a variety of tasty passed hors d’oeuvres, we shaded ourselves with our umbrellas and watched the famous Argentine mounted police demonstrate their horsemanship skills.
Then the “serious” betting began. Race #1, The Sponsors Cup I, featured horses who had names such as A Walk in the Park Hyatt and Betting on Inprotur. We didn’t use dollars or pesos to bet, we bet via business cards. After scientific research such as liking the horse’s name, the way the horse looked, or the jockey’s colors, we chose what we hoped would be the winning horse by dropping a business card in a box whose number corresponded to the horse’s number. My scientific approach was to choose a venue I enjoyed, the Faena Hotel Buenos Aires, and I boldly placed my bet on The Fabulous Faena. My friend, Sam, actually picked the winner, “Mai10 Queen” so she was entered into the prize drawing for the first race.
After the first race, we transitioned from trackside to a sit-down luncheon in a glass-walled dining room overlooking the race track. As we dined we watched the horses parade by us for Race #2, The Sponsors Cup II. This was a hard call because I liked several of the horses. Should I pick Azamara’s Advocate, HAL Double Dutch Treat, or Makin’ Great Travel Impressions? Decisions, decisions. Finally, something in the air caused me to lean towards Lovestruck by LATAM (I am not above cheap double entendres!). Alas, I lost again because the winner was Party Like an RCI Rock Star. Of course, we had a fabulous luncheon of rib-eye steak, so we all won in the dining category!
Race #3 was the final race, The Destination Derby. One of my table mates picked Pretty in Paris; another chose Something About Sydney; and I went with my heart, picking The Belle of Buenos Aires. Sadly, I was 0 for 3 because the winning horse was Bite of the Big Apple.
By the way, the prizes were excellent and I really wanted to win one: 7 iconic itineraries combining the Southern Cone Virtuoso properties (20 hotels plus Australis Cruise)and services of the Virtuoso On-Sites; a print from Bruggens Art Gallery; air tickets on Etihad Airways, on Virgin Atlantic Airways and on Delta Airlines. Lucky winners included Amanda Klimak of Largay Travel, Lynda Johnson of Cruises Etc. Travel LLC, Leslie Shaw of Travel Resource, Kevin Loveless of Global Travel, David Lowy of Renshaw Travel & Cruise Concepts, and Linda Munson of Rsoyal International Travel Service Inc, to name a few. Finally, it dawned on me. We all won because we had an unforgettable afternoon and are here in Buenos Aires, members and our vendor partners together, participating in yet another stellar Virtuo
Buenos Aires: What has 6 legs, a mane, a tail, a poncho, a moustache and cowboy boots with the Virtuoso logo?
Buenos Aires, Argentina | Answer: Matthew Upchurch, astride a horse at La Ruralwelcoming participants to Virtuoso’s 2013 International Symposium
Barbara King, of Great Getaways Travel here, blogging from the gorgeous European-style city of Buenos Aires. Sunday night was the official beginning of our annual Symposium and what a spectacular way to start 4 days of 400 members and our vendor partners networking, brainstorming, networking, dining, touring, networking, learning, and, oh, did I mention networking?
Sunday’s event held in the venue that houses Buenos Aires’ annual agriculture and livestock show was sponsored by Holland America Line and Seabourn Cruises. Mark Kammerer, Lori Bohn, and Doug Seagle, sponsors for the evening’s festivities, welcomed us and invited us to enjoy a demonstration of horsemanship mixed with dance, a true pageant! I’m still trying to figure out how the female tango dancers, who wore very high heels were able to navigate in the sawdust arena while horses tangoed next to them!
The show was followed by an Asado, Argentine BBQ, of all varieties of meat, sausage and chicken. Before, during and after dinner, guests strolled through the pop-up shops of local artisans. Maita Barrenechea, Managing Director of Mai10, orchestrated the evening. In fact, she organized the entire symposium with help from A&K Argentina, our host hotels, The Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires, Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, Alvear Palace Hotel and the Faena Hotel.
Monday was a very long day and oh so worthwhile! Meeting at Catholic University, our General Session began with a presentation by David Kang and Robert Carey, of McKinsey & Company, authors of The Trouble with Travel Distribution. We explored topics including travel advisors influence on purchasing behavior of our clients, the wealth of customer data we have and how to leverage these insights to increase loyalty, and the most effective ways to adapt to the different generations of travelers.
Lunch was a magnificent affair at Buenos Aires’ Alvear Palace followed by 2 ½ hours of intense networking. We had just enough time to dash to our hotels to gather once again at the Four Seasons Hotel for a knock-your-socks-off cocktail reception and heavy hors d’oeuvres (I always think describing a plethora of hors d’oevres as “heavy” is not very appealing—oh well!).
Blink your eyes and we are off to Argentina’s Presidential Palace, called The Pink House, where Granaderos greeted up and escorted us to the Bicentennial Museum in the Palace. Welcomed by Argentina’s Minister of Tourism, Carlos Enrique Meyer, we enjoyed a scrumptious dinner and we were serenaded by an exceptional opera singer. Thank you Larry Pimentel and Edie Bornstein of Azamara Cruises, Ivette Pimentel of Celebrity Cruises, and Vicki Freed and Erick Valdes of Royal Caribbean International, for sponsoring an unforgettable Buenos Aires dinner.
Here’s the take-away from Day 1: This Symposium has an excitement, almost electric. Members and Vendors are collaborating to raise the bar of the customer experience. We all agree the focus must be on our clients and how to best serve them and we are stretching beyond the usual and familiar to create something both unique and vital. Bravo, Virtuoso, you not only orchestrate dreams, you create dynamic, thought-provoking Symposiums.
By the way, I looked up the word “symposium” and Dictionary.com offered (edited by me):
sym·po·si·um [sim-poh-zee-uh m]…noun
1. a meeting or conference for the discussion of some subject, especially a meeting at which several speakers talk on or discuss a topic before an audience. [Yes, that fits!]
4. (in ancient Greece and Rome) a convivial meeting, usually following a dinner, for drinking and intellectual conversation. [“intellectual” conversation after drinking? Really? Strike-through at the editorial choice of the blogger]
Dennis Pinto is the Managing Director of Micato Safaris. Eleven years ago I became friends with a person I consider to be an uber businessperson and marketer. How do I describe Dennis Pinto? Words like incredible, untiring, inspiring, forward-thinking, and creative come to mind and I fear that if I go on, you’ll think I’m just looking up words in a thesaurus, which I am not…yet!
Dennis Pinto’s family, headed by patriarch Felix and matriarch Jane (an award-winning table tennis champ as well as a visionary) own Micato Safaris, the # 1 safari operator in the world, per Travel + Leisure and per the myriad of happy travelers who have experienced the Micato Safaris difference. I’ve blogged before about Micato Safaris, http://www.greatgetaways.travel/2010/10/before-we-say-farewell, extolling their many virtues. This time Dennis Pinto did something that left me speechless (not easy to do, either!).
On September 23, 2012 Great Getaways Travel held a party and fundraiser to celebrate our 20 years of crafting memorable vacations. To raise money for children’s charities we auctioned off vacations, artwork, clothing, jewelry and services and I’m pleased to share we raised almost $44,000.00! Micato Safaris was one of our major sponsors and was beautifully represented by Sales Director, Patti Voras. Micato also donated a 5 night safari in Kenya to our auction, which, of course, helped us reach the impressive five-figure amount raised. We raised money for 4 charities, one of which was begun by Micato Safaris, AmericaShare.org, helping children in East Africa. Micato pays ALL administrative costs of AmericaShare.org so all monies go directly to assisting the kids.
A couple of days after the event a florist delivery person came to our office, carrying a magnificent bouquet of roses, lilies, and orchids. I hoped they were for me—they were—and before opening the card, I just knew my husband, Michael, had sent the flowers….hmmm, that would be a “no.” Ripping open the card, I read, “Congratulations of having such a successful event. Warmest, Dennis Pinto”
Okay, this is the man whose company leaves thoughtful gifts in hotels (the family photo of us, which sat on the nightstand of our room at the Norfolk in Nairobi), gives us candy on the short bush flights, sends us clever “survival kits” prior to our Virtuoso Travel Week, and even sends darling stuffed animals to fill in for us at our office when we attended Virtuoso’s Chairman’s Event in 2010, hosted in Kenya by Micato. Dennis Pinto thinks of everything…and this gift, whose scent radiates through our office, takes the prize! Dennis, it is I who should thank you. You demonstrate how to be a success, how to care about this fragile world, how to make friends wherever you go, and to beautifully share the message of both the needs and hopes of citizens of Africa. Thank you, Dennis, for being one of my heroes and for helping Great Getaways create memories that our clients tuck in their hearts. As you, your family and your company have given to so many, may your life be filled with everyday miracles.