Virtuoso has unveiled the latest edition of its white paper focused on sustainability initiatives at Virtuoso Travel Week 2021 (VTW) in Las Vegas.
Sustainability has been a prime focus for Virtuoso for over a decade. It was 10 years ago that the luxury network introduced its Virtuoso Sustainability Awards, recognising the efforts of partners while establishing best practices.
“We knew it was important to recognise their work, raise their visibility and let travellers see the authentic, give-back experiences they could enjoy,” said Jessica Hall Upchurch, Vice Chair and Sustainability Strategist in a presentation during the Opening Ceremony of VTW 2021.
After several years of entrenching its sustainability involvement into the network at all levels, Virtuoso formed a Sustainability Council in 2017. Comprised of key partners, members and advisors, the council shares ideas and defined the group’s focus to amplify Virtuoso’s collective sustainable efforts “to ensure the highest and best impact”.
Those efforts culminated with the release of Virtuoso’s first white paper – Sustainable Tourism: From Trend to Transformative Movement which identified how travel advisors could make sustainability a greater factor in consumer choice.
Hall Upchurch said that since the release of the 2017 white paper, the luxury travel network had integrated sustainability stories in all Virtuoso content, developed additional advisor training, introduced a shortcut to partner profiles and rolled out a sustainability community.
“Our sustainability community has 690 passionate advisors and 365 dedicated partners, taking part in webinars and training that increase their knowledge and success,” she enthused.
Unable to be present at VTW 2021 and speaking from their home in Texas, Hall Upchurch highlighted how rapidly travel impacts can be altered. Two years ago at the most recent in-person Travel Week in Las Vegas, over-tourism had been a prime topic of discussion.
“These past 18 months have now shown us the devastating effect of under-tourism,” she said.
Her presentation highlighted that impact with a slide of a near-empty forecourt of the Sydney Opera House.
“The World Travel and Tourism Council, which both Matthew and I are involved, is helping people understand the economic impact of travel on the global economy. It’s important to remember that beyond numbers and statistics, families and children across the globe were deeply affected.”
She lauded those partners that had donated generously, supporting local communities and helping those most impacted by under tourism, highlighting Wilderness Safaris who delivered 30 tonnes of food to over 4,000 people in Rwanda.
Continuing, Hall Upchurch added that with consumer mindset now making more meaningful travel a greater priority, there is an opportunity for advisors to show leadership.
“While some clients ask for sustainable experiences, others may need guidance. Either way, you add value,” she said.
Sustainability white paper refresh
Last December, the Council re-engaged to address key issues and priorities. As a result a new white paper, Conscious Comeback: Influencing a Sustainable and Regenerative Future for the Travel and Tourism Industry was released to Virtuosos, digitally, and thus sustainably.
The updated paper now includes new supporting data from Virtuoso and external sources, case studies from partners, companies of varying sizes and different models, who are operating with purpose and profit.
Case Studys are supplied by the likes of andBeyond, Intrepid and The Travel Corporation.
“This is our commitment to you. Finding new paths to evolve the Virtuoso sustainability community, gathering data to identify what travellers want and what they value when they travel, making industry sustainability standards available for you and your clients, continuing to elevate the experience and the wisdom of the Sustainability Council, and exploring potential collaborations with other sustainable luxury organisations,” Hall Upchurch said.
“I’ve always said start where you are. So whether you’re already influencing sustainable travel or are just now considering it, thank you. You are making a difference too,” she told Virtuosos.
To view the latest Virtuoso white paper, click here.
Lead image credit: Holly Mandarich/Unsplash