Recently appointed Virtuoso General Manager for Australia and New Zealand, Fiona Dalton, will lead her first delegation of local travel advisors to this month’s Virtuoso Symposium.
The global luxury travel network’s annual event is being held aboard Silversea Cruises’ Silver Dawn this year. Virtuoso has sole use of Silver Dawn for what is effectively a shakedown cruise, sailing roundtrip from Lisbon, Portugal on 20 March 2022.
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Travel agency members and partners from around the globe will be among the first guests aboard Silversea’s newest ship. The 596-passenger vessel’s inaugural voyage is scheduled for 1 April.
Symposium 2022 will be dominated by Virtuoso’s Northern Hemisphere-based members and partners from North America and the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) region. The voyage itself will showcase Portugal, comprising multiple days of professional business development and networking sessions while at sea, along with a series of port calls and shore excursions, including a stop in Porto, before concluding on 25 March.
It’s not the first Virtuoso Symposium to be held on the water, but it will be the maiden ocean cruise. In 2018, Symposium was hosted in the Netherlands on five river cruise ships operated by AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Crystal Cruises, Viking and Uniworld. Other previous Symposiums have been held in cities including Vienna (last year), Melbourne, Sydney, Cairo, Cannes, Singapore, St. Petersburg, Madrid, Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Berlin.
Virtuoso Symposium 2022 will be the first for Dalton, who is the former Uniworld Boutique River Cruise’s Managing Director for Australia/NZ. She missed out on the opportunity in 2018 to be part of the event due to the high participation level from members.
Dalton told LATTE the local contingent will comprise up to seven travel agency partners from Australia, all thrilled to be part of the action.
“I’ve very excited. What a great privilege to lead a small delegation from Australia at such a pivotal time in the journey as we emerge from COVID,” she said.
Dalton said Symposium’s timing comes as a combination of positive factors intertwines, creating renewed confidence in a return to travel to pre-COVID days.
“There have been three factors that have really contributed to a very positive last six weeks from a member and a partner perspective. The rescinding of Omicron, the normalisation of Australians living with COVID and the reopening of international borders was a really big boost from a consumer confidence point of view.
“But also this is the time of year when Australians sit down to really strategise around their year’s travel plans. Normally we’d be in the wave season right now and we’d be in that time when most distribution channels in travel would have been incredibly busy – usually during the early bird period from mid-Jan to the end of Feb – and that’s the period that we are emerging from right now.”
“The combination of those factors, coupled with the high vaccination rate and the cessation of the quarantine requirement in New Zealand, has meant that our members are incredibly busy right now and most of them are saying that resourcing is top of mind right now, and bringing their teams back into the office to scale up again,” Dalton told LATTE.
“We’ve rejoined the global society now,” she remarked.
Silver Dawn is Silversea Cruises’ 10th ship and third Muse Class vessel, a sister-ship to Silver Muse (launched in 2017) and Silver Moon (2021).