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Wednesday,  April 17, 2024 6:32 PM 

Virtuoso Canada holds first awards gala in T.O., Wendy Davis honoured; see winners here

Virtuoso Canada holds first awards gala in T.O., Wendy Davis honoured; see winners here
Virtuoso Canada held its inaugural regional awards dinner and gala Tuesday (Feb. 27) at Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel. (Pax Global Media)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

The world of luxury travel gathered to clink wine glasses and celebrate success Tuesday night (Feb. 27) in Toronto as Virtuoso Canada hosted its first-ever regional awards dinner and gala.

The glam event, held in the Aria East ballroom of the upscale Four Seasons Toronto Hotel, coincided with the luxury consortium’s Canada Forum, a signature conference, on now until Thursday (Feb. 29), for Virtuoso agency owners, managers and preferred partners.

The Forum kickstarts the year for members as they get to meet with suppliers, learn about what’s new in the market, and then share that with their teams ahead of Virtuoso’s “On Tour” advisor events, which take place in April.

The Virtuoso Canada team seen here at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto.  (Pax Global Media)

This year's Forum, Virtuoso Canada’s second annual, welcomed 105 attendees, with 24 out of 25 member agencies represented. (In Canada, there are roughly 1,800 active travel advisors certified by Virtuoso).

READ MORE: Skyrocketing cruise sales & France’s 452% increase: Virtuoso shares latest trends at Canada Forum

The awards component, however, were organized to honour members and partners that elevate the travel industry and create memorable experiences for luxury travellers in Canada.

From left: Anna Judek, director of marketing, Virtuoso Canada; Misty Belles, VP, global public relations, Virtuoso; Úna O’Leary, general manager, Virtuoso Canada. (Pax Global Media)

From left: Aaron Crawford, Holland America/Seabourn; Beverley Vickers, Regent Seven Seas Cruises; Arin Vaughan, Insight Vacations; Shane Buksh, Seabourn. (Pax Global Media)

From left: Sandra Gardiner, AmaWaterways; Karine Gagnon, Transat Distribution Canada; Anita Emilio, Envoyage Canada. (Pax Global Media)

“I’m so excited,” said a glowing Úna O’Leary, general manager of Virtuoso Canada, speaking to PAX at last night’s gala. “It’s our first awards, and it’s a mix of winners. There are production awards and there are growth awards.”

Over the past three years, O’Leary has been elevating Virtuoso’s presence in Canada.

READ MORE: On Location: “Huge opportunities”: Growing Virtuoso Canada brings talent, strategy to Vegas

The former CWT executive joined the luxury travel consortium in September 2021 when Virtuoso restructured, hiring regional managers around the world – a move that gave Canada more autonomy.

Ron Lonsdale, Collette. (Pax Global Media)

Since then, Virtuoso Canada has gone from a team of one to eight, establishing coast-to-coast support for its member agencies, partners and travellers.

“The growth we’ve seen in this market with our members and partners has been absolutely impressive,” O’Leary said. “We’re not looking to grow [our membership] exponentially. We want to grow organically.”

Nick Roberti, Virtuoso, Jordana Botting, Viking Cruises; Úna O’Leary, Virtuoso Canada; Tommy Ryder, Bedsonline. (Pax Global Media)

Where O’Leary has seen a significant shift is in “the awareness that Canada is its own country and region.”

“Our partners see the value of working with Virtuoso advisors here in Canada,” she said.

Wendy Davis honoured

The lively night kicked off with a rocking bagpipe performance by Ryan Fraser, Virtuoso's marketing and events manager, who is based in Halifax. 

One award that particularly shone bright was the inaugural Northern Lights Award, a Canada-specific honour that recognizes a member who goes above and beyond in engagement, activism, sponsorship and in the promotion of Virtuoso Canada.

As O’Leary, on stage, explained to attendees, it recognizes someone who embodies commitment, humility and “the spirit of human connection within the network.”

Wendy Davis of Zebrano Travel, photographed at Virtuoso Travel Week last year in Las Vegas. (File photo/Pax Global Media)

This year’s Northern Lights Award went to Wendy Davis, owner of Ontario-based Zebrano Travel.

(Davis, notably, was also the recipient of Virtuoso’s prestigious Ruby of Siam award back in 2021). 

“I’m just so honoured,” said Davis, who was unable to attend last night’s gala, in a video message that was played.

She thanked the room for “believing in me, our agency and what we can do.”

Packed ballroom at Virtuoso Canada's regional awards dinner at Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel. (Pax Global Media)

And the winners are...

Here’s the complete Canadian Virtuoso Awards winners list:

Northern Lights Award: Wendy Davis, Zebrano Travel

Most Engaged Member: Direct Travel

Most Engaged Partner: Globus family of brands

Globus family of brands was named most engaged partner. (Pax Global Media)

Top Producers – Member winners

Cruise Top Producer: Direct Travel

Hotels & Resorts Top Producer: Renshaw Travel

Tour Top Producer: Direct Travel

On-Site Top Producer: Direct Travel

Specialty Top Producer: Trevello Travel Group

Trevello Travel Group won Specialty Top Producer. (Pax Global Media)

The Direct Travel team. (Pax Global Media)

Top Producers – Partner winners

Cruise Top Producer: Celebrity Cruises

Hotels & Resorts Top Producer: Shangri-La Group Tokyo

Tour Top Producer: Globus family of brands, Tours

On-Site Top Producer: Iceland Encounter

Specialty Top Producer: Allianz

Highest Annual Growth – Member winners

Highest Cruise Annual Growth: LuxeXperts (Transat)

Highest Hotels & Resorts Annual Growth: Momenti Travel

Highest Tour Annual Growth: BST Vacations/Blowes & Stewart Travel Group Ltd.

Highest On-Site Annual Growth: YYZ Travel Group

Highest Specialty Annual Growth: Civilized Adventures

Highest on-site annual growth went to YYZ Travel Group. (Pax Global Media)

Highest Annual Growth – Partner winners

Highest Cruise Annual Growth: Oceania Cruises

Highest Hotels & Resorts Annual Growth: One&Only Royal Mirage (One&Only Resorts)

Highest Tour Annual Growth: Collette

Highest On-Site Annual Growth: Southern Crossings - Luxury Travel Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific

Highest Specialty Annual Growth: Bedsonline

To see more pictures from the event, visit and "like" PAX's Facebook page here

Stay tuned for more of PAX’s coverage from Virtuoso’s 2024 Canada Forum.

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