WHY IT RATES: Despite being virtual this year, the successful event engaged travel advisors and preferred partners in 72,768 one-to-one meetings. —Janeen Christoff, TravelPulse Senior Writer
Last week’s 32nd annual Virtuoso Travel Week brought together the most influential travel professionals from around the world and set the stage for the industry’s recovery.
More than 4,000 attendees from 96 countries participated in luxury travel’s largest virtual event, demonstrating the importance of human connection and continued learning.
There were 72,768 one-to-one meetings between the network’s travel advisors and preferred partners, 20 professional development classes led by renowned presenters, 50 destination- focused training sessions, a featured sustainability session, “Under One Sky,” plus inspirational keynotes delivered by Virtuoso Chairman and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch and businesswoman Sheila Johnson.
During the Opening Ceremony, Matthew D. Upchurch tied future success to transformation and faster adaptability—a core focus of Virtuoso well before the pandemic. He also emphasized Virtuoso’s investment in innovation around prospecting and interactive client engagement to ultimately foster deeper connections with highly valued Virtuoso advisors.
Upchurch emphasized that businesses of any size can interact with their customers digitally and connected this to Virtuoso’s own strategy, stating “great content is a key to gaining consumer credibility and the award-winning content of Virtuoso Life will be leveraged across print and digital.”
The company’s digital strategy includes Virtuoso Wanderlist a free interactive social site for travel dreaming that uses visualization and personal sharing to make it fun and engaging.
New areas on Virtuoso.com were also highlighted by Upchurch including Destinations and Inspirations, which connect to Wanderlist and are collectively designed to drive consumer demand around where to go and what to do the “Virtuoso way.” The interlaced product suite of Virtuoso Life, Wanderlist and Virtuoso.com converge to connect highly engaged travel clients to trusted Virtuoso advisors who can make their travel dreams a reality.
Sustainability was another key focus of the virtual week with the “Under One Sky” summit hosted by Virtuoso Vice Chair and Sustainability Strategist Jessica Hall Upchurch. The session underscored the organization’s dedication to making sustainability a greater factor in consumer choice. Hall Upchurch stated the world is poised for a “conscious comeback” and noted how the pandemic has led to a tipping point where the traveler’s heightened level of awareness makes sustainability not just good practice but good business.
Guest speakers on the panel sponsored by andBeyond and the Monaco Government Tourist Office further emphasized the positive economic and business results delivered when sustainability is a core strategic focus—including the role travel advisors play in education and influence.
Other highlights of the week were Virtuoso’s travel insights and media panels.
An opening day press conference, featuring a presentation and panel of noted CEOs (Geoffrey Kent, Founder and Co-Chairman, Abercrombie & Kent; Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO, Celebrity Cruises; Philippe Zuber, COO and incoming CEO, Kerzner International; Becky Powell, President, Protravel International; and Matthew Upchurch, CEO, Virtuoso) who discussed the state of the industry in front of approximately 200 journalists from eight countries.
While everyone is aware of the realities of today, signs of recovery are reflected in bookings for extended long stays, such as those One&Only is seeing at its property in the Maldives, plus cruise and tour bookings that are a year away.
Overall there is an increased appetite for exclusive use, larger villas and suites, plus the undiscovered—all of which places renewed value on the importance of trusted travel advisors to curate tailored experiences.
This was a sentiment also echoed by a panel of editors from Conde Nast Traveller, Town & Country, Travel + Leisure, Travesias and upscale publications throughout the UK, who addressed an intimate audience of 40 key Virtuoso travel partners and lent their insight as to how they are covering travel content now and in the future. Resoundingly they validated that readers are actively dreaming to go, and while editorial planning remains fairly fluid for the times, the world remains open for inspiration with silver linings anticipated such as more conscious consumer choices.
Virtuoso also revealed where people want to travel using Wanderlist’s top selected destinations to show South Africa as the new favorite, taking the lead from Italy as the most anticipated place to visit. With Italy coming in second, Australia, France and Japan rounded out the rest of the top five spots.
Virtuoso Travel Week’s Closing Ceremony featured renowned entrepreneur, businesswoman, hotelier and philanthropist Sheila Johnson. Her inspiring message of hope was tempered with the adversities the world is facing. On the topic of diversity, Ms. Johnson spoke of how the travel industry, and hospitality in particular, serves as “a living laboratory of cultures.”
Virtuoso Travel Week is an invitation-only event open only to travel agencies and preferred partners within the Virtuoso network. As an added benefit, this year’s attendees have access to the event’s comprehensive line-up of educational sessions over the next 30 days. Key sponsors for Virtuoso Week included Abercrombie & Kent, AmaWaterways, Hilton Luxury Brands and One&Only.
SOURCE: Virtuoso press release.
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