Virtuoso has wrapped up its 2022 Symposium, bringing together the top brass from its travel agency members and preferred partners.
More than 300 of the industry’s most prestigious executives from 35 countries got together for networking, ideation sessions and bonding through shared experiences, including an exclusive pre-inaugural five-day cruise sailing onboard Silversea’s newest luxe vessel, Silver Dawn, from Lisbon with two days of exploration in Porto.
The business content featured a deep dive into generational insights on traveller behaviours and workplace dynamics, thanks to the work of Virtuoso’s Innovation Teams.
This in-depth look into travellers’ habits and today’s workforce was also at the centre of roundtable discussions focusing on future opportunities and marketing innovation, all intended to propel luxury travel across each generation.
The event began with an Opening Session at the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon including a keynote from Virtuoso chairman and CEO Matthew Upchurch, the main topic focused on a generational traveller study Virtuoso conducted for more than two years.
Upchurch spoke about the inter-generational collaboration that has proven to be a great strength within the network, highlighting that mentorship and the sharing of ideas and best practices are foundational to Virtuoso.
“We have a clear advantage because we don’t just sell experiences,” said Upchurch.
“We offer the experience of dealing with us, where travellers benefit from relationships of trust.
“Add to that the growth of global affluence that only accelerated during the pandemic and the prioritisation of spending on experiences over goods by all generations, and you have a growth industry with the value of Virtuoso travel advisors at its core.”
Upchurch went on to state Virtuoso’s strategy of organising efforts around three key activities: how the group connects with new travellers, how network participants connect with each other and how the organisation connects with external value-added partners.
Upchurch pointed to the evolution of things like the network’s enhanced digital experiences via its website, which has led to increased traffic and greater visibility among travellers and within the media.
Virtuoso’s David Kolner also presented insights that assessed the industry’s current state and outlook based on Virtuoso member and preferred partner survey insights.
Showing that the rebound continues, Kolner shared that for February 2022, same-store sales are 85 per cent of what they were in February 2019.
Overall, when asked how they’re currently feeling about their business, 71 per cent of Virtuoso members said optimistic (up from 43 per cent in January) as did 80 per cent of preferred partners (up from 56 per cent), with the Middle East feeling the most optimistic (90 per cent) followed by Canada at 82 per cent (up from 26 per cent).
Tapping into insights gleaned through Oxford-based Tourism Economics, Kolner shared that the industry could expect to see international leisure travel reach full recovery globally against 2019 sometime towards the end of 2023.
During the opening session, Virtuoso also reinforced support of its global markets while reiterating that more than half of its 20,000 travel advisors are located outside of the US.
Sharing the stage for the first time, Virtuoso shined a spotlight on the new team of general managers (GMs) it installed over the past year.
Led by Michael Londregan, Virtuoso’s SVP of global operations, the lively discussion included Australia-New Zealand GM Fiona Dalton, Latin America & Caribbean GM Javier Arredondo, Europe-Middle East-Africa GM Karen Joyce, and Canada GM Úna O’Leary. Due to travel restrictions, Asia GM Irene Lee joined the discussion via taped segments.
Regardless of their geographic representation, one central message was clear: there is strong desire to travel internationally, and advisors and partners should act now to ensure those who want to travel will have options; waiting to plan, book and even market will likely result in missing the curve. They also shared that aligning with the right network and partnerships has never been more crucial.
It wasn’t all work, though, as Virtuoso also provided time for participants to bond over shared experiences, both aboard the ship and on land in Lisbon and Porto.