Online Travel Community Jet Sets to Melbourne, Australia for Big In-Person Meet

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A delegation of members from the popular Web-based travel community VirtualTourist.com move their online network offline this weekend when they meet in Melbourne for three days of sightseeing and festivities.

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One of the things I love about the VirtualTourist meetings is all of the high quality attendees. When you meet them they're highly educated, interesting, phenomenal people with fascinating hobbies, like sailing, beer making and languages. They're witty and they love to share.

Nearly 75 members of the online travel site VirtualTourist.com will descend upon Melbourne, Australia this weekend, May 19 - 21, 2006, for what is anticipated to be the largest Australian assembly of VirtualTourist members to date.

This meeting of worldwide VirtualTourist members, avid travelers who met online sharing travel tips and advice, is expected to draw participants from across Australia -- including Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Canberra, Mackay, Hobart, Brisbane and the Gold Coast -- as well as New Zealand, Malta, the Philippines, Wales and even the United States.

In any given week, dozens of VirtualTourist meetings transpire in cities around the globe. Meetings range from small and informal, such as a few members getting together for a museum tour in Paris or a cup of coffee in San Francisco, to large-scale extravaganzas. The last big-scale meeting, about 80 members total, was held earlier this month in Marbella, Spain.

VirtualTourist member meetings are entirely organized, planned and executed by members of the VirtualTourist community. But occasionally, a VirtualTourist staff member will join in the fun. Stephanie Johnson, Director of Member Relations for VirtualTourist.com, recently attended the Marbella meeting, held May 5 - 7; and this weekend's Melbourne meet will mark her 20th VirtualTourist member meeting.

"VirtualTourist meetings are organized by members who live in the host city, and they act as our tour guides," Johnson says. "They show you their hometown with an insider's eye. And you get to see it with a large, fun group of friends."

According to Johnson, meeting attendees range in age from 20-something to 70-something. Some of the VirtualTourist members have already met in-person at previous meetings, some have not. And often there will be attendees who are new to VirtualTourist, members for just a couple of months who come to see what all of the hype is about.

"Member meetings are always so exciting and so much fun," says Johnson. "The members have been conversing over email and in the VirtualTourist forums for so long that they are dying to meet each other. And when they do, they don't stop talking. They skip the small talk because they already know each other so well. They're like long lost friends."

Johnson adds, "One of the things I love about the VirtualTourist meetings is all of the high quality attendees. When you meet them they're highly educated, interesting, phenomenal people with fascinating hobbies, like sailing, beer making and languages. They're witty and they love to share."

The itinerary for the VirtualTourist Melbourne meeting, posted by the organizer on VirtualTourist.com, lists the following planned activities: A Friday night Meet-and-Greet at the Owl and the Pussycat on Exhibition Street. A "Mystery Bus" tour on Saturday with planned stops for wine tasting and then a traditional Aussie barbecue; the day long bus tour will be followed by a private dinner party at the Albert Park Manor Boutique Hotel. Festivities will wrap Sunday evening with cocktails and dinner at South Gate's Blue Train Cafe.

Following VirtualTourist member meetings, attendees will often post photos and anecdotes from the meetings in VirtualTourist's past meeting galleries.

VirtualTourist members have been meeting online since the site launched in 1999. After forging online friendships, members soon started meeting in-person; large-scale meetings, like this weekend's Melbourne event, date back to June, 2002.

About VirtualTourist.com

VirtualTourist is one of the largest online travel research sites / travel communities in the world, and a premier resource for traveler's seeking an insider perspective. On VirtualTourist.com, real people share real advice on places they've traveled as well as their hometowns; they research and plan trips and vacations, and they interact with other avid travelers via forums and email. By the numbers, VirtualTourist boasts 1.3 million travel reviews and 2.3 million photos on more than 25,000 destinations worldwide. Unbiased, user-generated content on Hotels, Attractions, Local Customs, Tourist Traps and much more is posted entirely by VirtualTourist's more than 700,000 registered members from over 220 countries and territories. Among VirtualTourist's awards and accolades: "Recommended Travel Forum," Time Magazine; "Most Popular Guide," Yahoo!

http://www.virtualtourist.com

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Susan Derby
VirtualTourist.com
(310) 727-2602
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