Virtuoso AU/NZ Forum heading offshore in 2023

Bula! Virtuoso owner-managers as Sofitel Fiji confirmed as hotel property

Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, aerial view

With the 2023 Virtuoso AU/NZ Forum heading offshore for the first time since 2019, LATTE can reveal the program in Fiji will undergo some refinements and provide more time for connections – one of the key pillars of the global luxury travel network.

As reported by LATTE first last week, the next owner-managers Forum for Australia and New Zealand members will be held at Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, from Sunday 19 to Tuesday 21 March 2023. Next year’s event follows Virtuoso’s Forums in Adelaide this year and in Sydney in 2021.

“We are evolving our Owner-Managers Forum slightly for 2023 to make sure it’s relevant and fit for purpose for our business owners,” Fiona Dalton, Virtuoso’s General Manager for Australia/New Zealand told LATTE last week in Las Vegas.

Pictured at Bellagio Resort & Casino's poolside cabanas, from left: are: Kelly Gelfand, TRIBE Travel; Brent Hill, Tourism Fiji; Fiona Dalton, Virtuoso; Anthony Goldman, Goldman Travel Group and Sharon Byrne, Kokomo Private Island.

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“We’re really excited about that,” she said, noting the event in Fiji will have the capacity for up to 40 Virtuoso partners to attend compared to around a dozen at previous Forums.

Brent Hill, Tourism Fiji CEO, applauded the arrangement, telling LATTE “we are so delighted that Virtuoso has chosen Fiji and the beautiful Sofitel – it will be a magical setting for the Forum, and at Tourism Fiji we are really confident that the owners and managers will love Fiji and discover more of our beautiful high-end product.”

The 2023 AU/NZ Forum will provide an opportunity for matched 5-minute appointments between 100 business owners and 40 partners, a platform highly sought by both respective channels, operating in a “mini-tracks’ style of speed-dating-like conversations, minus the romance.

“We’ll have some incredible PD [personal development] opportunities, harnessing some of the thought leadership here and infuse parts of that to Fiji in March as well,” Dalton explained.

Virtuoso Forum Regional Member Advisory Board members at the 2022 event in Adelaide

She said it is unconfirmed if Virtuoso Chairman and CEO Matthew Upchurch, will attend the Forum in Fiji, a destination he and wife Jessica Hall Upchurch – herself Virtuoso’s Vice-Chair and Sustainability Strategist – have yet to visit firsthand.

“Certainly, Matthew has expressed and indicated that he would like to be there. Fiji is a very important destination in the Pacific as we signal the importance of sustainability in terms of protecting the planet,” Dalton said.

Dalton said Fiji was a prime destination due to its “near, not far” location, to support a destination that “genuinely appreciates the support to bring pre-qualified affluent travellers back into that location coming out of the pandemic and because Virtuoso has seven global partners and one regional partner on-site.

Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, lobby

Dalton said Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa was an obvious choice being a Virtuoso Regional Preferred Partner, in addition to its location at Denarau, proximity to Nadi International Airport, and depth of facilities.

“It’s important to us that they get the downstream benefit of having us there as well, even though we’re not in their resorts,” Dalton added.

Virtuoso is forecasting numbers for the Owner-Managers Forum will have around 160 delegates attend.

Michael Londregan, Senior Vice President of Global Operations, said having the event in Nadi will provide an opportunity for Virtuoso’s luxury players in Fiji to shine, and position themselves apart from the strong “mid-market” products.

Londregan said Fiji’s easily accessible for owner-managers to fly into from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Auckland, along with Virtuoso’s executive team from the United States should they participate.

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