Travel Agents

Virtuoso CEO goes out on a limb about partners and direct business

Huntley Mitchell

Huntley Mitchell

The chief executive of Virtuoso has called on its agents to demonstrate their value to partners as part of a direct-to-consumer strategy at the company’s annual symposium in Melbourne.

Matthew Upchurch began his talk by acknowledging that Virtuoso’s path wasn’t without tension, whether it was between the vision of an individual and the needs of the collective, between perceived cost and actual value, or between the power of scale and intimacy.

“There are great opportunities to leverage this tension. By facing it, not forcing it, tension is the birthplace of innovation and creativity,” he told attendees.

Upchurch went on to say that the single-largest overarching problem – or tension – in business is how not to be commoditised.

“We’re up against people in our partner organisations that think that the future is all about pay for performance, pay for clicks; people who think that AI and robots are the key to profitability,” he said.

“I literally would rather see partners have [a] greater amount of direct business in order to protect their brands and pricing integrity than deal with non-advisory so-called distribution that merely reprices the product.

“But, at the end of the day, I’m not concerned about it, because those who don’t will just be sourced as a commodity and added as an ingredient into value-added business models.”

Upchurch urged the room of mainly agents to demonstrate how they are part of a smart, direct-to-consumer strategy.

“When someone says, ‘I can’t believe you want to divert our direct sales by putting that line below our ‘book now’ button,’ pivot to tension,” he said.

“And remind them that by including us in their direct strategy and protecting the credibility of the brand, you’ve also given 20,000 advisors further invitation to celebrate the brand story.”

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