Virtuoso Chairman and CEO, Matthew Upchurch, delivered a message of hope and opportunity to attendees at the Opening Ceremony of the hybrid 2021 Virtuoso Travel Week held in Las Vegas.
While acknowledging that the pandemic has been especially devastating for those in the travel industry – dubbing the crisis as “the mother of all disruptors” – he posed the question “Where do we go from here?”
Upchurch impelled his audience of 3,300 Virtuosos, attending the ceremony in person and virtually, saying that they held the potential, through their organisations, agencies and the entire global travel industry, to serve more travellers, amplify the positive impact that travel can make worldwide, empower and uplift individual and communities and bring people together.
He acknowledged that while meaningful travel creates a positive impact and higher Return on Life, we must also consider the economics and correlating Return-on-Investment, and fortunately that potential is real.
“Disruptions accelerate trends, whether to the upside or downside,” said Upchurch. “Despite this global pause in travel, two of the most powerful upside trends are completely in our favour.
“First, is the value of travel, itself, because nothing motivates humans like taking something away that they took for granted. And the second is the value of a travel advisor. The heroic efforts of advisors during the pandemic only widened the gap with DIY.”
Upchurch also shared with the audience key innovations that the organisation had been working on throughout the year, for the benefit and success of the entire Virtuoso network.
Virtuoso.com integration with Wanderlist
Continuing to grow consumer preference for Virtuoso members, advisors and partners, and innovating the way in which travellers collaborate with the network through digital has been a focus. In the past week, Virtuoso launched the integration of its website, Virtuoso.com, and its travel dreaming site Virtuoso Wanderlist, a major milestone in combining travel inspiration with traveller engagement in the dreaming and planning process, and moving the platform away from a pure website to a digital traveller experience.
Since taking Virtuoso.com content forward in 2020, web traffic, page views and time on the site have grown significantly. So much so that Wanderlist has exceeded US$110 million in future travel demand, with 59% of list invitations sent by travellers accepted by their friends and family.
“[Wanderlist] engages the traveller in a process they have ownership in and it’s not limited by the advisors time constraints. Our focus is to enhance the interaction between the advisor and the traveller, deepen the quality of discussion and improve both efficiency and client engagement,” he told Virtuosos.
Upchurch cited one example of an advisor who had a prospect who had come across Wanderlist on her website, creating eight wanderlist trips.
“They had never had any interaction until the day the prospect called the advisor, and that prospect was ready to roll. They booked the trip immediately and started working on the sequencing of the other seven trips.”
Improved targeted support
The CEO continued, adding that Virtuoso works because the group shares its strengths and buying power.
“Our diversity mirrors that of the luxury and aspirational traveller, because we’re truly global, and I’ve never been more grateful than we are, as members and partners have supported each other in their local markets.
Our Communities Program has proven extremely effective in growing production through focused efforts and growing advisors’ knowledge and skills, and partner production. We will be using its foundation to apply it across the whole organisation to enhance the ability of advisors to move up their levels of skill in production and for us to provide improved targeted support.
“One of our next priorities is to focus on mobile, both consumer and network engagement, and to meet you and your travellers where you are, and leapfrog the desktop,” Upchurch added.
Imagine What Can Be
The theme of Virtuoso Week’s Opening Ceremony was “Imagine What Can Be,” and provided a strong visual and emotional presentation, designed to engage and inspire all attendees
This year’s keynote speaker, Adam Grant, renowned psychologist, author and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, brought forward his insights on the power of rethinking, calling it, “A crucial skill not only for facing crises…but for navigating complex social issues, making good business decisions, and more.”
At a time when all conventional wisdom and ways of doing business have been challenged, Grant’s message and insights held particular resonance with the audience.
Upchurch’s wife, Virtuoso Vice Chair and Sustainability Strategist, Jessica Hall Upchurch, also presented remotely at the Opening Ceremony, providing an update on the evolution of the luxury and experiential travel company’s sustainability white paper. More here.
Lead image: Virtuoso Travel Week 2021 theme mural