The Virtuoso luxury travel network has postponed this year’s Virtuoso Symposium, scheduled to be held in Vienna, Austria in mid-March, for 12 months. The cancellation of the 2020 get-together of Virtuoso’s owner/managers and partners comes after ITB Berlin, due to begin on Wednesday 4 March, was also postponed.
Organisers of both global travel events cited the ongoing concern of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Virtuoso President and CEO Matthew Upchurch said the decision was necessary following the acceleration of the travel crisis, “with news changing by the hour, with ever present unpredictability”. He said after careful consideration and discussions with the Austria National Tourist Office (ANTO) and Vienna Tourist Board (VTB), it was necessary to shelve the event in Vienna, planned for 17-21 March 2020.
Upchurch said that at no other time in his career had he ever witnessed a situation where the crisis was “as fluid and as active in real-time” as is the situation with COVID-19.
“More and more sectors and destinations are being affected, calling for active crisis management,” Upchurch said, emphasising that the decision would enable Virtuoso partners to prioritise support for their own staff and clients.
“Despite these challenges, we hear of great proactive work through our members and advisors that are helping their clients not panic, re-frame the fear and determine a cause of action,” Upchurch said.
The Virtuoso boss said Virtuoso has led by example for many decades in supporting destinations suffering “some sort of setback or in times of global crisis,” citing September 11, at which time the luxury travel juggernaut coined the phrase “Boundaries divide, Travel unites”.
Upchurch continued, saying “travellers are not only afraid of infection – it seems actually to not to be the biggest thing, some of it is – but frankly, the fear of being stranded is as powerful, if not more so, and this is made worse by the daily changes in policies of both nations and businesses.”
“We Virtuosos are not afraid to travel. As leaders, what is top of mind is being with your advisors and staff to help clients and the fluidity of decision making in this constantly unpredictable environment.”
Upchurch said ANTO, VTB and other partners were currently “actively working” to rebook the 2021 event.
“My team and I are focused on manoeuvring this crisis to come out the other end stronger than ever. Travel will rebound, stronger and better than ever, I’m sure of that,” he concluded.
Virtuoso Symposium 2020 was heavily backed by luxury cruise operators, with the event’s sponsors including AmaWaterways, Crystal, Seabourn, Uniworld and Viking.