Tourism

Virtuoso CEO: “Tourism can be a force for good or it can be destructive”

The travel industry is one of the largest, and fastest growing industries in the world but as a great philosopher once said: “with great power comes great responsibility”.

Ok, so that quote actually comes from Spider-man’s uncle Ben, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

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And let’s face it, people tend to focus on the negative aspects of travel, like overtourism, the carbon footprints of less responsible companies and the damaging aspects of voluntourism, like orphanage exploitation.

But what about the positive aspects?

Travel Weekly recently sat down with Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch to discuss just that.

He told us one of his biggest frustrations is how little respect the travel industry sometimes gets compared to other industries.

“Travel is the largest service industry in the world, it now employs directly and indirectly nearly one out of every 10 jobs in the world,” Upchurch said.

“One out of every five new jobs created in 2017 were in travel and tourism.

So travel and tourism is a natural process that allows countries to build an infrastructure that can’t be taken away.”

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Virtuoso CEO, Matthew Upchurch

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) travel and tourism contributed to 10.9 per cent of global GDP in 2017 and contributes to 9.6 per cent of overall employment.

“Tourism dollars also have one of the strongest velocities of impact,” Upchurch said.

“Meaning how quickly that dollar goes through the economy and how many people it benefits in that time.

“They also benefit a very large socio-economic group and produce jobs at all different levels.

“It’s also an industry where today’s waiter could be tomorrow general manager. There’s an element about hospitality that, yes ther are specific areas of expertise but there’s a lot more upward mobility in travel and tourism than there is in a lot of other industries.”

But as the industry grows, so too does the need for accountability.

“Tourism can be a force for good or it can be a destructive force,” Upchurch told us.

“There’s no question that sustainability has to become a big part of what we do. I believe travel and tourism are going to be at the forefront of this because if we don’t act sustainability there will be no product.

“We define sustainability under three pillars: its the environment, its the preservation of local and natural heritage and its benefit to the local community.

“We are working with our partners to make advisors feel more comfortable to talk about sustainability. We want people to start seeding the conversation so people are more comfortable.”

Upchurch said recent trends towards choosing experiences over things are also a step in the right direction.

“Millennials have changed the formula, they were at the forefront of choosing to spend their money on experiences rather than goods. And that’s changed the game,” he concluded.


Do you have something to say about this? Get in touch with Travel Weekly Editor Ali Coulton at alexandra@travelweekly.com.au

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