Virtuoso honours network’s Luminaries, Legends and Leaders

Virtuoso Travel Week 2021 wraps up with Gala Celebration

Virtuoso concluded its 33rd annual Virtuoso Travel Week with an elegant evening of recognition and remembrance, honouring individuals and entities that have gone above and beyond to assist others during the travel industry’s most harrowing time.

Last Friday night’s gala shone a spotlight on the network’s most esteemed travel agencies, advisors, and preferred partners who, through innovation and bold action, have risen to meet challenges to lend their support, be it their industry or local communities, promote smarter environmental practices, and empower cultures to thrive.

Subscribe to LATTE’s free eNewsletter to keep up to date with everything in the luxury travel industry.

Taking place 8-13 August, this year’s Virtuoso Travel Week was a hybrid event that offered a rich virtual experience as well as an in-person experience held in Las Vegas at Bellagio Resort & Casino, ARIA Resort & Casino, and Vdara Hotel & Spa.

Virtuoso’s advisors and preferred partners were asked to nominate individuals or organisations that were exceptionally supportive throughout the pandemic, resulting in nearly 500 submissions featuring heart-warming stories and acts of kindness, generosity of spirit, and fortitude.

Environment recipient (tied): Rose O'Connor, Rose O'Connor Travel, an independent affiliate of Brownell Travel, accepts her award from Virtuoso' Jessica Hall Upchurch, Vice Chair and Sustainability Strategist flanked by Matthew D. Upchurch and Clay Upchurch (behind).

“On the last night of Virtuoso Travel Week, after reuniting with so many friends who remind me at every turn the importance of human connection, I’m proud to honour the Virtuoso members, advisors, and partners who have set aside their own obstacles and needs to advocate for their clients, communities, and their colleagues,” said Virtuoso Chairman and CEO, Matthew D. Upchurch.

“These luminaries, legends, and leaders continue to be a guiding light during a dark and difficult time. It is their resilient spirit and positive impact on the world that represents what the Virtuoso network can accomplish when we unleash human potential together.”

A panel comprising the network’s Global Member Advisory Board and distinguished preferred partners reviewed submissions covering five categories, with agency members reviewing the partner submissions, and the partners reviewing the member submissions. Two other recognitions were also presented at the Gala: a new category entitled “Luminary,” as well as the longstanding, prestigious “Ruby of Siam,” which is bestowed upon an agency owner or manager who upholds the highest professional standards, serves as a leader in their industry, and embodies the spirit of the Virtuoso network through their dedication and engagement.

2021 Recognition Recipients for Agencies/Advisors (as voted by partners) and Preferred Partners (as voted by members):

Community: Recognising Virtuoso member agencies/advisors and partners who have made exceptional efforts in serving their community through the generous contribution of their time, actions, and talents. Communities include neighbourhoods, local areas, businesses, industries, and the Virtuoso network:

Agency/Advisor Recipient:
Largay Travel not only helped their advisors in bringing clients home and soothing frustrated travellers seeking refunds, but they came up with creative ways to support their advisors and lift their spirits during the worst of the pandemic. And last year, for one of their senior executive’s birthdays, they came together to raise money for Micato Safaris’ America Share partner, Huru.

Community recipient: Largay Travel

Preferred Partner Recipient:
Taj worked through their public Service Welfare Trust to deliver meals to hospital staff and other frontline workers as well as thousands of others in need. They also opened the doors of 12 hotels across their country to hospital workers, so that they could stay close to where they were working and not risk exposing their family members.

Culture: Celebrating Virtuoso member agencies/advisors and partners who have been a driving force in transforming and impacting others in their local community, the travel industry, and/or the world around them through the expansion of knowledge, beliefs, arts, customs or capabilities.

Agency/Advisor Recipient:
Avenue Two Travel, when forced to close its doors, could no longer offer training programs in person and turned that limitation into an opportunity by expanding their training curriculum and creating a broad ranging online program that advisors can access 24/7. This elevated advisor training speed and during this time, the agency grew its independent contractor base by 20 per cent, introducing travel as a career to a new set of travel professionals.

Culture recipient: Avenue Two Travel

Preferred Partner Recipient:
Sofitel Legend The Grand Hotel Amsterdam collaborated with various local and national charities, focusing on projects in and around their city to promote education, relieve hunger, and bring joy to elderly or shut-in people. They also created an Artists in Residence program that provided studio space, inspiring works that reflect the unique character of the city.

Economic Generosity: Applauding member agencies/advisors and partners who have taken action to make a positive financial impact on the lives of others during the pandemic. Through their generosity and support, they have improved conditions, circumstances, and livelihoods, whether for a day, a month or the long term.

Agency/Advisor Recipient:
GOYA by Copastur has a unique program to help combat hunger in their home country of Brazil. For each trip purchased with the company, they donated two kilograms of food to people facing food insecurity, partnering with a local NGO to distribute food in perfect condition that would otherwise be discarded. In just over eight months, they were able to donate 471 kilos of food!

Preferred Partner Recipient:
Royal Caribbean Group led the way in paying commission on cruises that were cancelled, extending a true lifeline to advisors and agencies that otherwise would have lost that income when cruising came to a standstill. The CEO and other senior executives stayed in touch with advisors, providing updates and insights, and even offering bridge loans to agencies, lending economic and emotional support while navigating a complex and difficult situation themselves.

Economic Generosity recipient: Royal Caribbean Group

Innovation: Highlighting Virtuoso members agencies/advisors and preferred partners who have inspired the network with bold new ways of thinking that lead the way forward, whether through leadership, business practices or other innovative efforts.

Agency/Advisor Recipient:
Sarah Groen, Bell & Bly Travel Design, an independent affiliate of Brownell Travel, not only built a remote team during the pandemic, but she also created a podcast called “Luxury Travel Insider” to shine a light on the personalities and stories behind some of the greatest hotel experiences in the world. With more than 75 episodes completed, this has become a top‑ranking podcast for luxury travel on Apple.

Preferred Partner Recipient:
Knut Wylde of The Berkeley, London opened the driveway and hotel entrance to provide coffee and treats, while employees volunteered to pass them out to firemen, medical staff, and ambulance drivers, when the hotel was otherwise closed due to the pandemic. Once outdoor dining was allowed, he transformed a spot for parked cars into a new alfresco restaurant, which was so successful that it is now a permanent feature at the property.

Environmental: Recognising Virtuoso member agencies/advisors and partners who have taken a leading role in protecting and preserving the environment and promoting sustainable practices.

Agency/Advisor Recipients (tie):
Daria Westerfield, River Oaks Travel created an innovative Sustainable Corporate Travel Concierge program, meeting with CEOs and consulting companies to discuss how to balance their needs, while meeting ESG sustainability criteria. She helps companies plan carbon-neutral itineraries and arrange team-building activities that support local economies, and partner with eco-friendly hotels and resorts.

Rose O’Connor, Rose O’Connor Travel, an independent affiliate of Brownell Travel has made it her mission to focus exclusively on sustainable travel. This year, she was recognised by Conde Nast Traveler as the Top Travel Specialist in Sustainable Travel for the second consecutive year. She is currently working toward a graduate degree in sustainability at Harvard and was selected this year as a Climate Corps Fellow by the Environmental Defense Fund.

Environmental recipient (tie): Daria Westerfield, River Oaks Travel

Preferred Partner Recipient:
Wilderness Safaris and their “Conservation Heroes” program serves to protect wildlife and wilderness areas from increased poaching threats, while also meeting the basic food needs for their staff and others who have lost their tourism-related livelihoods. Addressing this need reduces the likelihood of people poaching for food. To date, they have distributed 14,500 food parcels, helping more than 65,000 people with over 600 tons of food.

Two additional recognitions were presented during the gala:

The Travel Corporation – After receiving numerous nominations in multiple categories for companies under its umbrella, a special “Luminary” recognition was bestowed upon The Travel Corporation for its commitment to sustainable practices that encompassed almost every category. As an industry leader that takes corporate responsibility to the next level, TTC is truly an industry luminary.

Ruby of Siam:
Wendy Davis of Zebrano Travel, Inc. joined an elite group of luxury travel’s most significant contributors when she was selected as the recipient of this year’s prestigious “Ruby of Siam,” an honour with longstanding tradition within Virtuoso since 1987. Davis was recognised as a Virtuoso member who embodies the spirit of its network, upholds the highest professional standards, and has worked selflessly to promote the travel advisor profession as well as the Virtuoso network.

Lead image: A family affair – At the Virtuoso Travel Week 2021 Gala, Matthew D. Upchurch, Chairman and CEO, Virtuoso and Jessica Hall Upchurch, Vice Chair and Sustainability Strategist, Virtuoso, with son Clay Upchurch.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

WP to LinkedIn Auto Publish Powered By :