Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch has outlined the responsibilities travel advisors should provide clients during a time of turmoil. Addressing the current global travel slump induced by the coronavirus pandemic, the luxury travel expert says its crucial clients are aware that travel has not stopped, but only paused for an indefinite period. Upchurch says offering a “calming voice of reason” and being a trusted partner during difficult times leads to loyalty, a proposition that eludes online channels.
“We’ve always said that the advisor-client relationship is rooted in trust and that becomes most apparent when things are at their worst. I think it’s safe to say we’re at that point,” Upchurch told Luxury Travel Advisor in the US this week.
Upchurch said the role of a travel advisor is not a “crisis expert”.
“Travel advisors have spent years, even decades, building personal relationships. They have access to real-time information that they share with their clients… and they are able to help navigate a rapidly evolving travel landscape where policies are changing on a daily basis. An advisor isn’t there to tell their clients to go or not go; their role is to help the client make the best possible choice for themselves,” he said.
In the interview, Upchurch said travel advisors were “unsung heroes” in times of crisis, working tirelessly to “quell fears and preserve business”.
“Faced with some of the most difficult times they’ve ever seen, they showed up for their clients and their industry.”
The head of the global luxury travel network reiterated remarks from last month, saying the COVID-19 outbreak is different and more widespread that anything the industry has faced previously.
“It has the fear of the unknown that came with 9/11 combined with the economic gut-punch of the global financial crisis. All we can do is support our members and partners, and wait it out together, because so much of this is out of our hands.”
Upchurch admits it’s a challenge for travel advisors to sell when planes are grounded and ships aren’t sailing, but he says frontline sellers need to try stay positive and focus on what happens next. Postponing travel instead of cancelling, looking to the Christmas holiday period, 2021 and beyond.
“Business will come back, planes will fill, cruises will once again visit ports, safari camps will continue to sell out. If you can get them dreaming about where to go next, you will help them escape the current news cycle for a bit until they can enjoy that next trip,” he said.
See Luxury Travel Advisor‘s full interview with Upchurch here.
Lead image: Matthew Upchurch in Sydney last year.