A sculptor and artisan known for her grandiose works created from salvaged and industrial consumer goods, Nancy Rubins created “Big Edge” at CityCenter. Cantilevered over Vdara’s main drive and measuring roughly 57 feet wide and 75 feet long, Rubins’ work is a colorful composition of aluminum rowboats, canoes and other small river and ocean vessels finessed into an eye-catching, gravity-defying form the artist calls “a blooming flower.”

As travel is undergoing a major re-design, the travel adviser function is also changing drastically. Far beyond the battle between the Internet and the Intermediary travel agent, about who is going to be the final booking engine, upscale consumers need precise information that is based on actual experience and commitment to sustainable travel.

One organization that early on saw the essence to actively promote sustainable travel as a way to grow business, was luxury travel marketer Virtuoso, which has its roots going as far back as 1945. When I recently came across an interesting piece of information about Virtuoso repositioning itself between its 300 or so elite membership, I asked Ange Wallace from the Travel Agency here on Amelia Island, a longstanding member of the Virtuoso organization, to share some of her views and experiences with the organization.

Here is what she answered:
Virtuoso is definitely about “a rising tide floats all boats” and sustainable travel. The organization is magnificently in tune with the future of travel and develops its business model in tune with its core values.
Recently Virtuoso hired Costas Christ (a man I have long admired for his work toward sustainable travel before the definition even existed!) as its Director of Sustainable Tourism.  Here is a weblink to one of Christ’s most recent projects writing for National Geographic , and a note to all the Virtuoso travel advisors, in preparation for their trip to Las Vegas for the annual Virtuoso Travel Mart in August.

A decade ago, you could count the number of travel companies engaged in sustainable practices on two hands.

Today, we are witnessing one of the most significant transformations in the history of modern travel – the emergence of sustainable tourism across the full spectrum of the travel industry. This includes major city resorts, such as CityCenter in Las Vegas, where the Virtuoso Travel Mart Awards Dinner will be held this year, to entire destinations like the country of Belize, which just launched a national sustainable tourism master plan.

Sustainability is not a trend, but an evolution of travel, and it is reshaping how we do business. According to a PhoCusWright report, nearly 44 percent of US travelers now consider the environment when planning a trip. And a 2009 survey by Time Magazine concluded that we are now in a “Responsibility Revolution,” where good environmental stewardship means good business. The Time survey further reported that nearly 50 percent of Americans say they select products because of a company’s sustainability values.

It boils down to this: embracing sustainability standards, such as travel that supports the economic and social wellbeing of local people and directly helps to protect cultural and natural heritage, is not just a question of doing what’s right for the planet, but it has become a strategy for doing what’s right for business growth.

And Virtuoso hotels, destinations and tour operators are helping to lead this transformation. Next year, Virtuoso plans to recognize that leadership with the introduction of a Virtuoso Sustainability Award for best practice. This is just one of the initiatives that Virtuoso will be undertaking in the coming months as it continues to help position its members and suppliers on the cutting edge of travel today.

In our continuing commitment to making Travel Mart a more environmentally friendly event, this year’s Gala Awards Dinner has been moved to Aria, part of the recently opened, sustainable-designed CityCenter. Aria showcases best practices in environmental stewardship, with more than 90 percent of construction debris diverted from landfills through recycling. Over 50 percent of the wood used in building Aria comes from Forest Stewardship Council approved sources, meaning no clear cutting of endangered rainforests, and water conservation at Aria saves more than 50 million gallons annually. By supporting businesses that are demonstrating sustainability in action, Travel Mart seeks to encourage a greener Las Vegas for the future.

With this invitation the sales staff at The Travel Agency is preparing to make their annual pilgrimage to the Bellagio in Las Vegas for the Virtuoso Travel Mart from August 13-20, 2010.

Much of what will be this year’s experience, will be shared by The Travel Agency during the agency’s annual Deluxe Travel Show to be held this year at the Talbot Ballroom of The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island on October 14 from 4-7pm. Although everyone who supports sustainable travel is invited, RSVP’s are needed. The best way to go about this is to call 904 261 5914 or email Angela@thetvlagency.com.