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Virtuoso Cruise Icons launch in Australia and New Zealand

While those in the know are very familiar with Virtuoso, some of us are wondering what exactly is a Virtuoso Cruise Icon, introduced in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year? Here’s some background info to bring you up to speed.

While those in the know are very familiar with Virtuoso, some of us are wondering what exactly is a Virtuoso Cruise Icon, introduced in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year? Here’s some background info to bring you up to speed.

Virtuoso is an influential network of some of the world’s most innovative travel advisors and travel providers that together offer discerning travellers extraordinary experiences. Virtuoso advisors are experts in creating bespoke travel experiences and itineraries for discerning clients.

Founded in the United States in 1951 as Allied Travel and rebranded in January 2000 as Virtuoso, the network continues to expand and has travel agency members and advisors in 54 countries. Nearly 70 per cent of new members and partners are located outside the US.

“The feeling (pre-2000) was that travel agencies were dinosaurs,” said Virtuoso’s Chairman and CEO, Matthew D. Upchurch. “The birth of the Virtuoso brand came from everyone looking at travel agents as the lowest common denominator. We needed to do something to show the consumer that these people are different.”

Matthew Upchurch, Founder and CEO of Virtuoso.

Virtuoso’s more than 2,300 preferred partners include the world’s finest hotels, cruise lines, tour operators, tourism boards, in-country destination experts and specialty providers. It generates an estimated $43-$49 billion (USD $28–$32 billion) in travel sales each year.

Locally, Virtuoso launched in Australia in 2004, followed by New Zealand in 2005, and across both countries now includes 60 member agencies and more than 1,700 advisors. The group recently celebrated its 20th year of operation in Australia and New Zealand.  

Virtuoso membership is by invitation only. Agencies applying for membership must meet established criteria for sales minimums and are evaluated by the Strategic Growth team on factors including the business model, philosophy, clientele and culture of the business. 

What are Virtuoso Cruise Icons?

Virtuoso Travel Greg Treasure General Manager Australia and New Zealand
Greg Treasure.

Greg Treasure, who took on the role of Virtuoso General Manager Australia and New Zealand in March (see Gaya Avery’s insightful feature about him here), explains that there are just 29 Virtuoso Cruise Icons in Australia and New Zealand.

While the program was launched in 2018, it has expanded to include advisors from global regions, including Australia and New Zealand, earlier this year. 

“Virtuoso’s Cruise Icons program recognises the top one per cent of cruise sellers globally, and we are delighted to have 29 of our Australia and New Zealand advisors recognised as Virtuoso Cruise Icons in 2024,” Mr Treasure told Karryon Luxury.

“These advisors have showcased resilience, creativity, and an unwavering dedication to surpassing client expectations while bolstering our cruise partner sales.”

“Their achievements are an inspiration to fellow advisors across Australia and New Zealand, a testament to their expertise, determination, and passion for crafting unforgettable cruising experiences for their clients.” Among the 29 local Icons are leading travel advisors who have shared their stories with Karryon Luxury recently – Home Travel Company’s Robyn Sinfield, LUXE by iTravel’s Megan Catterall and Main Beach Travel’s Mandy Dwyer.

They join an elite group of 146 advisors across eight countries worldwide who have earned the Virtuoso Cruise Icon designation and who collectively represent the top one percent in Virtuoso’s cruise sales, reinforcing their position as leaders within the luxury travel industry.

How Virtuoso Cruise Icons and their clients benefit

276 O300422 Storo Island Kayak©PONANT Daniel Ernst
Ponant guests kayaking at Storo Island. Image: Daniel Ernst.

Virtuoso Cruise Icons have access to various events and networking opportunities designed to foster growth and collaboration while sharing and cultivating best practices within the network’s cruise community. 

Events such as Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas will bring Cruise Icons face to face with some of the most respected cruise brands in the industry, while this year’s Cruise Icon Voyage in Tahiti aboard Windstar’s Star Breeze recognises the effort it takes to maintain status as a top-tier cruise producer.  

Clients of Virtuoso Cruise Icons enjoy their advisor’s access to exclusive benefits on more than 400 select cruises offered by 13 separate cruise lines via the Virtuoso Voyages program, including a dedicated onboard host and a choice of an additional perk ranging in value to USD$500 per couple of several thousand dollars, depending on the sailing.

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