Travel Agents

“People want to know the truth”: Virtuoso’s Michael Londregan

Ali Coulton

Virtuoso’s APAC managing director Michael Londregan has warned an increasing demand for brand transparency could have “huge ramifications” for travel providers.

Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly, Londregan also commented on the changing face of the luxury travel consumer.

“Luxury travel used to have an opulent sort of core,” he said.

“But what it has now is a much more experiential focus.”

“Now, real luxury lies in authenticity, which broadens the luxury market so much more because it can be authentic to go trekking through Nepal. If it’s an authentic experience, it now fits into the luxury category.”

Londregan told Travel Weekly the structure of our industry is changing in response to consumer behaviour.

Social media has broken down the wall in between consumers and companies, making what was previously a one-sided conversation into a two-way conversation. Consumers are now able to talk back, and they’re telling brands that they want transparency.

“People want to know the truth about the products they are consuming, but at the same time they want the truth about the advice and services we’re selling them,” Londregan said.

“People want to make more considered decisions about what they’re purchasing. They don’t want to hear a 1980s happy jingle about how Coke is good for them, they want the truth.

I think this has huge ramifications for travel providers because I’m not sure that we’re always good at telling the truth and if we want to make genuine connections to our customers we’re all going to have to get a lot better at telling the truth.”

Londregan said the internet has put the power of fact-finding back in the consumers’ hands, and it has become much easier to find out if a company is giving you advice in your best interest or because they are getting paid to do so.

“If we want to have credibility and longterm relationships with our customers we’re going to have to start telling them the truth and the truth is our customers can handle the truth,” he said.

“They can. You just have to tell them the truth.

“So if you’re doing the wrong thing, stop doing it, start doing the right thing and start telling the truth.”

This is why, according to Londregan, Virtuoso is looking at introducing policies to promote transparency in its network.

“We’re not going to force people to tell consumers the bad stuff but when people are doing the right thing they’re going to get accredited and recognised as doing the right thing.”

“So we’re going to reward those that are doing well, rather than punish those that are doing less well,” he concluded. 

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