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VIRTUOSO: It’s full steam ahead for 2019 with the evolution of the Travel Advisor

Feeling like an honorary Virtuoso member, KARRYON got to chat with founder and CEO Matthew Upchurch on all things travel. Want to know the top destinations for Luxury Travellers in 2019?

Feeling like an honorary Virtuoso member, KARRYON got to chat with founder and CEO Matthew Upchurch on all things travel. Want to know the top destinations for Luxury Travellers in 2019?

Sitting in an old train carriage at the North Sydney Leagues Bowling club, Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch is barefoot (as he was prepping to barefoot bowl), passionately opens up about Virtuoso and what the evolution of agents actually looks like.

Matthew highlighted the achievements of the association along with global members now reaching 17,500. This unique and ultra-modern model encourages their members to become advisors who then liaise with partners under the Virtuoso community.

There are now 800 Virtuoso advisors working with suppliers under these communities around the globe producing 72 per cent more with those partners in those communities than the average member.


What’s new for Virtuoso for 2019?


“The Virtuoso community will launch the Culinary and Ultra Lux community (eg private jets), which will allow advisors to join these communities and gain access to highly specialised partners,

We realised luxury travel is so broad and that luxury travel means different things to travellers and advisors hence communities were created to segment advisors into a specialty. There is specific training, specific destinations and specific offers from suppliers in that area.”


Evolution of travel agents, how is Virtuoso involved?

“We are beta testing a digital tool to help advisors to engage with clients on a long-term travel plan. The system is known as ‘Orchestrator’ (looks like Netflix), will give each traveller selected experiences and countries we sell with icons that are totally visual. Basically thumbs up or thumbs down,

We created a dashboard that helps the advisor to customise a multi-trip, multi-year life experience plan with the client. For us, this is the next natural evolution of travel advising. This tool has already been used by travellers aged from six to 86 year olds and this is the evolution of Travel Agents.”


What is it about Virtuoso that you are most proud of?


Claudia Rossi Hudson (Mary Rossi Travel), Fiona Dalton (Uniworld), Anthony Goldman (Goldman Group)

“We offer limited inventory on specialty products so smaller companies can be available for smaller advisors and then all advisors get access to new products and new companies,

I am here today as I was fortunate to have worked in multiple sides of the business in such a short time. I was motivated by collaboration and wondered how we can do something to bring people together. I am most proud of the arrival of Virtuoso to Australia. The people here knew each other before because they were the best, but Virtuoso brought them even closer and today they share ideas and concepts and I am super proud of this.

One of my favourite definitions of leadership is the ability to help people set aside some small amount of self-interest in order to accomplish something together they could not do alone. And for me, this is part of what we have done.”


What does sustainable travel mean to Virtuoso?

“I am so glad you asked his question. Sustainability is a filter in ‘Orchestrator’. We see sustainable travel as three separate pillars,

  • Environment
  • Preservation of natural and cultural heritage
  • A benefit to the local economy

Tourism can be a force for good or a disruptive force. It’s still early days and 9 years ago we realised in the Virtuoso network we have so many stories that we can share. Some of our city hotels have great stories and last year we decided to ramp up these pillars and offer advisors webinars and training on these modules to help share the information to clients,

Our new mantra is ‘How do we make sustainability a greater factor in consumer choice of products’,

With a simple goal, if we can make the people who are doing the right thing more commercially successful then it becomes a virtuous cycle.

Data released by YouGov study showed how affluent people think. It showed high net worth individuals understand what their responsibility is and that they are more conscious of the impact on travel. They want to know what the impact is on the community and to their kids. They are making their choices on value than on product.”


What are your top 3 destinations for 2019?

  • USA
  • Italy, Canada tie for second place
  • Japan

“You know why Japan is so hot? It’s that people really want a cultural immersion. Nothing is in English and people want that authenticity.”


What was your most memorable trip?

“There is a particular place in the World that I go back to. Eastern and Southern Africa. They say “You leave Africa but Africa never leaves you.” It is totally true,

It’s a transformation thing as there is the magic of the animals, the wide open spaces and the amazing people. How I see it and what I tell people is that it will be the loudest silence you have ever heard. You truly come back transformed by the people and it really is an incredible family destination.”

Did Matthew know it was South Africa month on KARRYON? Now you know too. Click here to read more about this family destination that never leaves you.

What do you think about Virtuoso’s plans for 2019?