As a leader of the luxury travel agencies, Virtuoso is a true influencer in the hospitality industry. Travellers are more and more demanding and Virtuoso keeps its leadership in delivering a tailored and experiential travel... Each guest is unique for Virtuoso and the agency ensure a complete personalization every step of the way.
To learn more about Virtuoso and the fabulous services luxury guests can expect, Journal des Palaces has interviewed Karen Goldberg, Managing Director, Hotels and Resorts at Virtuoso Ltd.
Virtuoso is the most iconic luxury travel agency in the world. What is your definition of luxury hospitality? KG: Virtuoso is a global network that specializes in luxury and experiential travel, and our clients’ tastes are as varied and diverse as the 20,000 travel advisors who serve them. Luxury is very personal and can be different for each, but the common ground is about exceeding expectations. It’s more than just well-trained staff and great facilities. It’s about how it makes the guest feel when these two items work in concert together.
How do you select the hotels that you recommend to your guests? KG: The Virtuoso Hotels and Resorts program is a by-invitation only program. We have a rigorous set of criteria including quality of product, service standards, market need and demand, if the hotel compliments others in the portfolio and, most importantly, we rely on recommendations by our Virtuoso-affiliated travel advisors and a Hotel Committee made up our member travel agency owners and managers who lend us their expertise. Ultimately, the hotel needs to meet their business needs and offer a compelling reason for their clients to want to stay.
Can you give a few examples of exceptionnal services provided by some luxury hotels around the world? KG: At the Four Seasons in Chicago, I ran out of my YSL make up – a true catastrophe. On leaving the hotel for the day, I asked the concierge to leave me a message on where I could find this brand close to the hotel. That night, I arrived to find a card with three stores that had the makeup in stock, the store hours, directions to each, the price at each store, and he also offered to pick it up for me if I prefer. Exceptional service is about going above and beyond your expectations.
At the Alvear Palace in Buenos Aires, the staff noticed that I had a cold and asked if I wanted the butler to go out to secure cold medicine. He did and the cold was gone right away! I should have bought more of whatever it was.
At the St. Regis Mexico City, I arrived back to my room to find that they hooked up a small computer mouse to my laptop. They also gave me a blanket when it became cold while dining outside.
At the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia, I checked in behind a young girl of seven years old who was being shown the children’s amenity basket. She had to stand on tippy toes to see inside and was told she could pick whatever she wanted. She exclaimed in all sincerity that this was the best day of her life. Her family was checking in because of a hurricane. This is more than hospitality. It’s magic.
What do the affluent guests are expecting the most today when they travel? KG: They want a hotel with staff that anticipates their needs with an almost clairvoyant type of service, where they know what you’d like even if you don’t. They want a hotel that fits into their healthy lifestyle with food and beverage options and facilities to match. They want comfort and a sense of place.
Can you give an advise to young hoteliers that aim to serve luxury guests? KG: Each guest is different. Some appreciate a good morning greeting and others you can’t speak to until they’ve had breakfast (or coffee). Service should be personal, and staff should be encouraged to notice and record guest preferences.
There’s a lot of opportunity to partner with travel agencies to maximize sales, while also learning more about the guest they’re serving. Travel advisors are like an additional sales force for the hotel. Treat these bookings well, follow the recommendations to improve the guest experience, which the advisor has learned through multiple planning cycles with the client. Make the advisor look like a hero and you will have agency loyalty for a long time to come.
As a traveler yourself, what are you expecting the most in hotels? KG: A quick check-in, a good bed, great linens, a robe that fits, a comfortable seating area, an uncluttered desk, a stellar bathroom product and a kind staff. Not too much.
Appolline Delhorme Journalist, expert in luxury hospitality, Appolline goal is to promote and sublimate beauty and elegance of luxury hotels through her writing. She likes to remind us that "In a luxury hotel, simplicity must serve the quest of excellence".