After four days of ‘working the tracks’ at Virtuoso Travel Week VTW – in Las Vegas 12-18 August – the 5,000 there at the 35th annual event were mostly shattered, to say the least (kudos to those like Andrew Torriani, Co-Owner and GM of THE RITZ-CARLTON MONTREAL, who took a team to work the tracks while he held court, outside BELLAGIO’s Palio restaurant, holding impromptu meetings as people walked by).
But everyone got renewed energy for the gala. The mêlée that had been scoffing Champagne in and around Harvest as late as six o’clock Thursday miraculously metamorphed in evening finery by 6.45, to find their tables for the hard-start of 7pm.
This year’s gala, themed House of Virtuoso, Luminaries, Legends, and Leaders, was truly sensational. Bellagio’s Grand Ballroom held 2,030, at 10-seat tables that were dressed in white, or in wide black and white stripes that complemented much of the constantly-changing stage backdrop and overhead. There were five overtly outrageous full-length fashion outfits modelled on stage, one on a guy, another floor-length bridal dress on a gal who was wheeled on atop a 1.5cm-tall trolley David Kolner showed his wry humour as co-emcee with Matthew Upchurch, and pre-meal there were presentations from the gala’s sponsors, Entrée Canada, Red Sea Global and Puerto Rico
Turkey’s The Peninsula Istanbul was awarded best new hotel. GM Jonathan Crook, with three colleagues, literally leapt up on to the stage to accept the honour for the 177-roomer, which completed its staged opening this June. (Masterminded by Dogus chairman Ferit Shahenk and HSH’s Peter Borer, the four connected buildings, dating from 1910, include the 1937-vintage Salipazan cruise terminal, now the lobby: other memorable features include two-star Fatih Turak’s rooftop restaurant and stunning Bosphorus-set gardens, by Enzo Enea).
There were a total 25 gala awards. Maldives JOALI Being headed wellness, Paris Le Cheval Blanc was Ultra Luxury; Sicily’s White Lotus star, San Domenico Palace, Taormina, A Four Seasons Hotel, was best property overall, and hotelier of the year was lively young-millennial Markos Chaidemenos, Santorini Canaves Oia.
Bellagio’s servers are well used to slick presentations for this number. That night they served avocado, crab and mango towers; filled chicken breasts; and then either a white chocolate mélange or a chocolate composition. Some party-people then went on to the customary Club V after-event… some stayed up all night. Others, like Girlahead, were aware of an early flight.