8.17.2017

Virtuoso Travel Week by the numbers



After a week of meetings, training opportunities, cocktail receptions and lunches/dinners with suppliers, Virtuoso #TravelWeek is concluding tonight with a closing Gala Dinner at which "Best of the Best" awards will be awarded to travel advisors in a number of categories. Brownell's own Martha Gaughan has been nominated for Most Admired Advisor, and we're all pulling for her.

I left after today's final appointment as I can get back home in California before the Gala and the after-party are done! I'm writing this from the American Express Centurion Lounge at the Las Vegas airport. The above screen flashed (and Handel's Hallelujah Chorus played) at the conclusion of the final appointment at 4:25 p.m. this afternoon. These numbers give a sense of the reach and power of our network:
5,693 total attendees including travel advisors and providers
288,004 four-minute meetings
28,368 ten-minute matched appointments
22,281 room total nights booked at Bellagio, Vdara, and Aria
275,611 square feet of meeting space occupied
Travel Week is exhausting! It's also an immensely valuable opportunity for travel advisors to meet with the hotel reps and tour companies who can create WOW experiences for our clients. For instance, I was able to score a confirmed upgrade for one client at the Four Seasons George V in Paris ... and shop for a one-week stay in a villa with private plunge pool for another. I came back with lots of news, so be watching for my Top Ten List for Travel Week 2017.

This was my twelfth Travel Week, and the chance to re-connect with colleagues and providers is so worthwhile.

copyright  (c)  2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC.  All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

8.16.2017

minibar madness



Let me begin by affirming that Bellagio is a valued Virtuoso travel partner in Las Vegas. It is a casino resort with...

A warm and hospitable staff. Bellagio been hosting Travel Week for as long as I have been attending (12 years), and all my Virtuoso colleagues appreciate how well Bellagio's employees take care of us, even though our total attendance is over five thousand.

A great location in the center of the strip with "Lake Como" in the front of the hotel and fountain shows throughout the day.

A beautiful lobby with large Murano glass flowers adorning the ceiling and a sunny courtyard that features different, imaginative displays.

A large pool area with plenty of loungers and nice, warm water to lounge in.

Great food — I've enjoyed wonderful meals at Michael Mina, Harvest, and Lago so far this week.

But along with the compliments, I want to pass along a word of caution. Like most hotels, every room has a minibar. Bellagio's minibar has "move it and you've paid for it" technology. The pricing is exorbitant, but the price list is hidden. It's not in print and can be accessed only by turning on the room television, going to the menu, clicking three times to the right to select "Dining" and five more times to the right to select "minibar." As a public service, I've provided a screen shot of the [current] price list. $18 for a liter of Fiji water? Really!

But even more unfortunate is the note in small type on a card in front of the countertop display display of chips, cookies, water, etc.
A $50 per day service fee will be applied for storing personal items or altering existing items within the mini bar. Refrigerators for personal use are available for a daily fee.
Not nice ... and customer unfriendly. So I pass this along as feedback to my friends at Bellagio and as a caveat emptor to my readers. If you want to store baby formula in the minibar at Bellagio, don't!

copyright  (c)  2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC.  All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

8.15.2017

Las Vegas | the city that wakes up late

the Strip at dawn (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

At 6 a.m., Las Vegas is a sleepy town. I'm ensconced in a Strip View room at the Bellagio, a $20 upsell from a Resort room and well worth it for the view. Directly in front of my room I can see the large "Paris balloon" and replicas of the Arc du Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and Mon Ami Gabi — a French bistro at which I enjoyed dinner last Saturday night. (The trout almandine was really good).

I really enjoy the view when I walk into my room after dinner. The sky is dark, and the balloon is lit up and centered in my window. Every 15 minutes, I can see the fountain show from my window and even play the music on channel 22 on the tv in my room.

Las Vegas pulses all night ... but it's very quiet at 6 in the morning. There's virtually no traffic on the Strip, and the casinos are relatively empty. I woke up at 5:50 a.m. this morning (had a 6:30 a.m. breakfast appointment to begin my day at Virtuoso Travel Week) and enjoyed the effect as the rising sun dramatically highlighted the clouds.

copyright  (c)  2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC.  All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

8.13.2017

what's new in Las Vegas?

T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Something is always new in Las Vegas, and our limo driver from the airport to Bellagio clued us in on the new T-Mobile Arena, home of the NHL Vegas Golden Knights. The arena is the cornerstone of a major new development just west of the Strip, between Monte Carlo and New York New York. You'll discover new retail space along The Park as well as the new Park Theater (connected to Monte Carlo). The impressive stainless statue (pictured above) stands at the center of this new development.

A redevelopment of Monte Carlo appears to be underway. The hotel's swimming pool and beach volleyball area is gone, and there are construction cranes in the now vacant lot just south of the Bellagio-Crystals-Aria-Monte Carlo tram. Enjoying a good location just south of City Center, Monte Carlo is a lackluster casino hotel that could truly benefit from going upscale.

Keep checking back for news from Virtuoso Travel Week, the world's premiere luxury travel show. Team Ourisman will be meeting with hotels and other travel partners from all over the world, shopping for exciting new experiences that we can share with you.

copyright  (c)  2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC.  All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

8.10.2017

want a personal travel shopper?

I'll be attending Virtuoso Travel Week at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Shopping for travel can be very confusing. While Google is where many people begin to plan their next vacation, most people quickly become overwhelmed. Google the word "travel," and you'll get 1.19 billion results!

So consider us your personal shopper for travel. We can cut through millions of possibilities and help you plan the trip of your dreams. Whether you want an African safari or a bespoke trip that lets you experience the real China, a driving trip through the south of France or a relaxing vacation in Bora Bora, we can help ... because we've been there!

We will save you time, money, and frustration. If a beach vacation at Four Seasons Hualalai or Four Seasons Maui is capturing your fancy, we'll save you hundreds of dollars — with complimentary daily breakfasts and a hotel credit good toward a lunch or dinner. We can provide similar amenities at over 1200 luxury hotels and resorts around the world. It won't cost you a penny extra to book luxury hotels through us, and you typically pay at check-out, exactly the same as if you booked online.

Along with thousands of other Virtuoso travel advisors — and three other members of Team Ourisman, I'll be at Virtuoso Travel Week next week. It's not a vacation — it's work. I'll literally be shopping for you, listening for what's new and exciting and building relationships with our travel partners who help make your vacation special.

Is travel on your mind? Just click on our website and send us your travel request. While our response may take a bit longer than usual, as we'll be in meetings and networking from 6:30 a.m. until well past [normal] bedtime), we'll get back to you as soon as possible to help you Discover More in your travels.

copyright (c) 2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

8.09.2017

treating customers like people?

photo from InsiderTravelReport

I stared incredulously at the headline —

          JetBlue launches program to treat customers like people.

That's what it really said. If you don't believe me, look here. But to turn the question around, how do the airlines treat us, their customers?

What do you call it when the airlines...

... squeeze economy passengers into tightly packed planes, six seats across a narrowbody plane with as little as 28" between the back of your seat and the seat in front of you. (I'm talking about you, Spirit and Frontier).

... institute a culture of fees: fees to check a bag, fees to use the overhead bin, fees to print boarding passes at the airport, fees to change or cancel flights. (Kudos to Southwest who actually treats us well in this regard).

... withhold accurate and up-to-date flight information? Ever been at the gate with "on time" still showing on the monitor even though it's past time for the scheduled departure. Have you ever waited hours for a delayed flight without being kept fully informed of the reason for the delay?

... delay boarding, then tell customers to "hurry up and get out of the aisles" so we can still have an on-time departure?

... sock us with fuel surcharges when oil is costly, yet keep the same surcharges even when the price of fuel goes back to normal? (I'm talking about you, British Airways).

... tempt us with points that "never expire," then expire the points — and devalue them to the point of near uselessness.

We, the flying public, are not blameless in this deterioration of service. Why do I say this? Because most people shop blindly. They click the lowest price, even if it means they've booked a trip with two connections just to save $5.

Once upon a time, American Airlines instituted a program called "More Room in Coach." They removed two rows from each plane in their fleet and used the space to provide more room for passengers, making possible a seat pitch of 34" or more. Had the public given its business to American in a major way, then all the other carriers would have upgraded their cabins as well.

Once upon a time, Midwest Express had 2x2 seating and quite good hot meals on all its flights — first class space at coach prices. Had the public given its business to Midwest Express, the rest of the industry would have followed that model.

The airlines will not treat us like people until we insist they do, until we insist on comfort in the air and courtesy at all times. How to do that? For starters, reward the airlines with the biggest minimum seat pitch: Jet Blue, Virgin America, Alaska, and Southwest.

copyright (c) 2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

8.07.2017

three underground experiences in Paris

the Louvre (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Sometimes the most exclusive travel experience is the one you didn't even know existed. Here are three "underground" touring possibilities in Paris.

(1) The sewers of Paris. I've done this. Wasn't planning to, but when I came across the entrance years ago, I decided to go underground and have the experience. Worth it? NOT! Unless you have a fascination with all things having to do with civil engineering, it's not much to write home about. I suppose Parisian sewers smell the same as any city's sewers...

(2) The Eiffel Tower. Did you know there's an underground exhibit at the Eiffel Tower? You'll enter through a secret military bunker ... but most interesting are hydraulic lifts designed by Gustave Eiffel. Elevators that go straight up and down are commonplace, but Eiffel faced an engineering challenge: how do you operate an elevator that ascends at a slant? The exhibit will show you exactly how, and when you exit, you'll be at the front of the lines to take the elevator up!

(3) The Louvre. I never knew this was even possible. Like all museums, the Louvre has countless artistic treasure that are not on exhibit, and these reside in secret underground vaults. Our travel partner NoteWorthy can obtain exclusive access into these vaults. Along with your NoteWorthy guide and a curator from the Louvre, you'll be able to tour these vaults, far from the throng of tourists crowding in front of the Mona Lisa.

How many of these underground experiences did you know about?

copyright (c) 2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.