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Together for Tomorrow: Virtuoso Forum 2024 wraps in Bangkok

Celebrating 20 years of operations in Australia and New Zealand, The 2024 Virtuoso Regional Forum has successfully wrapped up another milestone year for the luxury travel network.

Celebrating 20 years of operations in Australia and New Zealand, The 2024 Virtuoso Regional Forum has successfully wrapped up another milestone year for the luxury travel network.

The annual gathering, which this year took place from 12 to 13 March at the Four Seasons Hotel, Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, brought together more than 200 attendees, including the owners and managers from Virtuoso’s travel agency members in Australia and New Zealand and preferred partners from around the world.

Themed around the concept of Together for Tomorrow, the two-day event saw attendees participate in curated professional development and courses designed to enhance business practices.

Topics ranged from adopting strategies for achieving work-life balance and effective storytelling to harnessing the power of AI and developing a luxury strategy to take their business to the next level. Additionally, players engaged in one-on-one networking appointments with partners.

Virtuoso Chairman and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch opened his address by describing “the power of together,“ explaining, “New management research on how to best succeed in an accelerating world emphasises that the sharing of data and skills is a way to create shared value.

Matthew D Upchurch Virtuoso
Virtuoso Chairman and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch

“But this isn’t new for Virtuoso. We’ve done this with our ever-growing database via our innovation teams, our boards and committees, professional development offerings, targeted brand marketing campaigns and more, all of which create new capabilities for our network and enhance ROI. The common connection in all of this is data, and every increment adds value.”

Moving on to the everpresent topic of AI, a tool Upchurch supports as an aid to the travel advisor profession rather than a substitute, he said, “Travel advisors are motivated and constant learners, and they know how to surprise and delight travellers through personalisation and the power of relationships.

“New technologies shouldn’t be adopted to replace the human touch, but rather to enhance it. AI may be leading the online ‘age of distrust,’ but I also believe it will make trust and human connection even more valuable.”

Responding to the exchange of data and expertise, Virtuoso has launched benchmarking dashboards for member agencies that share transactional data with Virtuoso.

Crafted to provide best-in-class, real-time insights accessible through Virtuoso.com with a single sign-on, these dashboards will be made available as an additional benefit to members, designed to help them drive their business decision-making and, in turn, preferred partner sales.

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Virtuoso members meet with preferred partners at the Virtuoso Forum in Bangkok

Off the back of harnessing this new data, some of this year’s latest Virtuoso traveller trends were shared with delegates, details of which you can read here.

Virtuoso’s outgoing General Manager of Australia and New Zealand and industry icon Fiona Dalton, shared an inspirational recap of last year’s network sales and achievements, as well as an optimistic outlook for 2024.

Among the highlighted statistics, the region’s preferred partner sales in 2023 increased by a whopping 95 per cent compared to 2022, with the forecast for leisure tourism in 2024 predicting another double-digit growth increase of 26 per cent.

In 2023, Ms Dalton said the network organised 15 events in Australia and New Zealand, attracting over 1,300 advisors and more than 300 preferred partners, which facilitated 35,452 connections and 3,319 hours of networking.

Virtuoso Forum AU/NZ 2024 Bangkok
Virtuoso’s General Manager of Australia and New Zealand, Fiona Dalton

Regarding professional development, Ms Dalton highlighted the 10,044 training modules completed by Virtuoso advisors in the region, a gigantic increase of 318 per cent from 2022 and what she said was a testament to the heightened focus on elevating Virtuoso advisors through education and engagement.

Ms Dalton also shared findings from Virtuoso’s network pulse survey, in which 84 per cent of Australian and New Zealand members and 79 per cent of partners said they currently feel optimistic about their future business.

During the General Session on the event’s final day, Virtuoso unveiled several key initiatives for Australian and New Zealand members, including a new “Marketing for Marketers” full-day course slated to launch in 2024. This course aims to assist member agency marketing managers in better leveraging Virtuoso’s marketing assets to drive increased high-net-worth client inquiries.

Also announced at the General Session were three professional development milestones for the region:

  • The addition of luxury travel doyenne Claudia Rossi Hudson as a mentor and facilitator for the Virtuoso Certified Travel Advisor (VCTA) accreditation course
  • The first-ever Study Tour for Australian and New Zealand advisors to Canada in September 2024, supported by Destination Canada
  • And the premiere of two new Deep Dive courses in the region in 2024 in response to member demand: Sales Sucess, Elevate your client process and The Luxury Advisor: Adaptability to manage availability

The event finale featured a gala awards ceremony with accolades cited to leading Virtuoso AUS/NZ members and preferred partners. Click here for the full list of winners.

Fiona Dalton, GM Virtuoso AUS/NZ; Anthony Goldman, Goldman Travel Corporation; Matthew D. Upchurch, Virtuoso Chairman & CEO
Fiona Dalton, GM Virtuoso AUS/NZ; Anthony Goldman, Goldman Travel Corporation and winner Southern Cross Award; Matthew D. Upchurch, Virtuoso Chairman & CEO

The 2025 Virtuoso Forum Australia and New Zealand destination was also announced and will be held in Perth/Boorloo, on 25-26 February 2025, plus pre and post destination immersion experiences will be on offer.

“We’re thrilled to collaborate with Tourism WA to bring our Forum event to Perth in 2025, showcasing the city’s captivating beauty and its picturesque surroundings.

The highly anticipated annual event promises to be a transformative gathering fostering learning, sharing, and empowerment,” said Greg Treasure, incoming General Manager of Australia & New Zealand Virtuoso.

Read: Virtuoso AUS/NZ Award Winners Crowned in Bangkok

Read: Revealed: What’s trending for Virtuoso luxury travel advisors in 2024?

Read: Virtuoso celebrates 20 years in Australia and New Zealand

For more information, visit virtuoso.com