The life of Mary Rossi O.B.E, the founder of Australia’s first travel agency invited into the Virtuoso global luxury network, will be celebrated on Monday, 24 May 2021.
Mrs Rossi, 95, passed away last Sunday quietly at home.
Where it began
Often regarded as the Doyenne of the Travel Industry, Mrs Rossi established Mary Rossi Travel in Sydney in 1970. But Mrs Rossi was also a pioneer in other fields, championing the rights for women to work outside the home whilst raising a family (which eventually included 10 of her own children).
Mrs Rossi had made the move across to travel from a highly successful TV career in which she was the first woman in Australia to have her own televised program – A Woman’s World with Mary Rossi – on the ABC. The weekly national daytime show featured Mary interviewing interesting people from all around the world on current affairs.
In 1969, Mary was approached by the Lloyd Triestino shipping company, Galileo and Marconi, to lead a four-month around the world sea tour to Europe, that included a six-week coach tour – from Lisbon to London, via Rome – visiting places of significance to Christians. The tour, packaged by Paxtons Travel in the city, proved to be a great success and continued to operate for many years, paving the way for thousands of Australians to have their first taste of travel abroad.
Initially launching Mary Rossi Travel to cater for friends and followers, she quickly became recognised in the industry for her professionalism and understanding of the elements of service and what makes a good travel experience.
In 1971, her Catholic World Exploration Tour commanded 300 people, the follow-up tour in 1972 was also a success, and in 1973 Rossi Travel was operating two tours a year.
It was also in 1972 that daughter Claudia Rossi, at age 19, escorted her first tour to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem. Over the years, all 10 of Mrs Rossi’s children would escort groups to destinations including Jordan, China, India, Egypt and Papua New Guinea.
Another first for Mary Rossi Travel was the introduction of tours to China. Mrs Rossi’s friendship with Margaret and Gough Whitlam was instrumental in allowing them to be the first tour operator to take Australian tourists to China in the late 70s and early 80s.
By the 1980s Mary Rossi Travel had developed into what the business looks like today. The office was one of the first travel agencies in Australia to install an airline computer terminal, well before the advent of email and the internet, and fax machines were still years away.
Mrs Rossi developed a passion for hotels that reflected the ambience and unique essence of their destination. She counted amongst her friends many of the owners of small luxury hotels around the world.
As the business grew, Mary Rossi Travel delved into representation for hotels and products, which include the likes of Rosewood Hotels, 47 Park Street London, Butterfield and Robinson Walking and Cycling Tours, Sea Cloud Cruises, as well as the members of Relais and Chateaux.
Mrs Rossi was also one of the first female directors of a business in the travel industry (Robert Paxton Travel).
In 2000, Claudia Rossi Hudson, acquired the business from Mrs Rossi, and when Virtuoso came to Australia in 2004, it was a natural progression that Mary Rossi Travel be the first to be invited to join.
Last year Mary Rossi Travel celebrated its 50th anniversary.
“The Virtuoso family passes on our condolences on the passing of Mary Rossi. We recognize the importance of such iconic personalities in the development and prestige of our industry. We are grateful that Mary Rossi’s legacy of excellence continues within Mary Rossi Travel and we are proud to have this agency as one of the founding members of Virtuoso Australia.”
Michael Londregan, SVP Global Operations, Virtuoso
Claudia Rossi Hudson said: “Mary Rossi mentored and encouraged many women in their travel careers and judging by the amazing messages we have received in recent days – many men as well! All this whilst she and Dad (Theo) raised their own ten children and were active contributors to community work.
“Mum considered that her greatest achievement in life was the love affair that she and Dad shared in the 63 years of their marriage.”
Mrs Rossi leaves behind a legacy that the Mary Rossi Travel team strive to uphold, as well 34 grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren.
Mary Rossi Travel continues to this day to uphold the importance of integrity and the joy of human connection that Mrs Rossi so embodied.
Mrs Ross”s funeral service will be broadcast this Monday, beginning at 9:30am for a 10:00am start. Members of the trade are invited to join the stream here.