LOUNGING IN THE LAP OF LUXURY HAS NEVER BEEN MORE ATTRACTIVE!

VIRTUOSO’S UPCHURCH: “THE ROLE OF THE REAL, TRUE TRAVEL ADVISOR IS THE HOTTEST THING AND IT’S NOT GOING AWAY”

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Matthew D.Upchurch, Virtuoso Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Addressing a packed press room at ILTM 2015, Virtuoso Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Matthew D. Upchurch set a bullish tone not only about the luxury travel industry in general, but also when it comes to the role of travel advisors. With over 2400 new advisors in 2015, Upchurch stated, “The reality is, it has never been stronger… The role of the real, true travel advisor is the hottest thing and it’s not going away.”

The fact that travel and tourism is growing more than any almost other industry in the world is, says Upchurch, due to several factors. Four generations of people are now travelling all at same time, and the number of healthy, active 80 year olds has gone up by a huge percentage. Mr Upchurch went on to explain that a shift is occurring, particularly in the west, towards primary spending from luxury goods to luxury experiences. This, he says, is not new but it is accelerating, evidenced by the fact that luxury travel is now a bigger market than that of luxury automobiles.

An interesting fact is that according to Virtuoso’s research, wealthier millennials are giving higher loyalty to travel advisers than older generations: “The theory is that they are the first generation for whom the defacto way of booking was online, so luxury for them means not doing it themselves. They value personal connections and great advisors, with a personal contact and approach”.

According to Mr Upchurch, really “great” advisors have not changed since the beginning of the jet age, as they have the same knowledge, but now just use new tools. The trend towards people entering the field of high-end travel advice is, he says, impressive. The Virtuoso boss smiled as he told the tale of not just one, but several of his lawyer friends turning to the career of travel advisor.

UNPRECEDENTED GROWTH FOR VIRTUOSO

Virtuoso has analyzed the latest data from its warehouse of more than $35 billion in

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Panama city at night 

transactions to uncover where wealthy travellers are heading this winter and spring. Upscale travellers are seeking exotic destinations as they escape winter’s hold on North America.While some perennial warm-weather favourites remain popular, Virtuoso’s proprietary data also reveals a yearning to explore far and wide as it compares destinations with the most year-over-year appeal.

Top Ten destinations for January-March 2016 vacations:

  • 1. Mexico
  • 2. Canada
  • 3. Australia
  • 4. New Zealand
  • 5. United Kingdom
  • 6. South Africa
  • 7. Argentina
  • 8. India
  • 9. Chile
  • 10. China

The Top 10 analysis: Global travel is up overall, and travellers are flocking to a mix of eternally fashionable places and more unusual choices. Mexico and Canada finish first and second, their strength i s not surprising due to their proximity to the United States.

Southern destinations dominate the Top 10 as usual for winter in the Northern Hemisphere, with one notable European exception being the UK, Australia and New Zealand are experiencing solid growth, especially for two already popular luxury destinations. Upscale travellers, always searching for novel destinations, are finding them in Asia and South America. India in particular is surging, and Argentina and Chile continue to beckon wealthy travellers with their mix of food, wine, diverse landscapes and history. It’s also worth noting that half these destinations are Englishspeaking, making them more comfortable for US travellers.

The Virtuoso Hot 10:

These countries have seen the most significant growth in year-on-year bookings for the first quarter.

  • 1. Panama (+107%)
  • 2. Thailand (+92%)
  • 3. Switzerland (+56%)
  • 4. South Africa (+50%)
  • 5. Kenya (+47%)
  • 6. India (+46%)
  • 7. Jamaica (+44%)
  • 8. Vietnam (+43%)
  • 9. Colombia (+39%)
  • 10. Spain (+34%)