Matthew D. Upchurch, CEO & Chairman of the luxury travel advisor network, Virtuoso, has been named as the recipient of this year’s Mary Gostelow Award during ILTM Cannes.

Receiving the award, Upchurch said, “How appropriate that this is a heart? So personal, from a person I’ve been so privileged to know.”

Upchurch 2The Virtuoso CEO cited the last of the five opening presenters at the pre-show forum, Chris Kutarna, Author of “the Age of Discovery” (who suggested we are in a second Renaissance, and that we will have to draw the future roadmap), stating: “What an amazing message! It’s absolutely what I believe in. We really are in a place where we can affect the world in a positive way. I’ve been here for the past 15 years, seeing how we all come together every year, to create that human connection that really makes a difference in the way that our clients travel, but also how it’s transformed our lives. We talk about the fact that it’s human connection that really makes the difference. And as I’ve sat here all these years and watched it, I think about what I’ve gotten out of it… the friendships that we all make in this industry, the impact that we have on the world… as we’ve just heard.

I love the word ‘empathy’, because I had never really heard this idea of ‘empathetic work’. That’s what you do. You do that. Both as our incredible suppliers who receive these amazing clients for some of the most important moments of their lives, because what is life? It’s bringing all these special memories together. Then for those amazing advisors that are in this room and all over the world, there was a prediction not that long ago – in fact about ten years ago I was on the stage, and supposedly our profession was supposed to be replaced by automation and robots and the internet. And never in my career have I seen such talented, incredible, passionate people enter this profession of bring a travel advisor and go from zero to multi-million dollar producers in a short amount of time. And why is that? Because ultimately the people who decide our future is the client; and they have spoken. I am proud to be up here. I am proud to serve this incredible profession and industry that we all love.

I think about all this AI… I love technology, but I have been saying for a long time, as technology becomes more ubiquitous, there is not a desire, there is a craving for authentic human connection. I read an article recently that was talking about AI, and one of the key points it made is that all this AI, exactly for that reason we are talking about, companies that just want to hire fewer people… they said ‘We like AI, because it’s going to make things feel more human.’ So, for that I ask, ‘How can we make ourselves better humans?’ Thank you for what you do. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for the privilege of serving this industry, my network, all the friends and partners… I love you guys, it’s a privilege to be here. And Mary, thank you to the heart. Thank you all.”

PHOTO – TOP OF PAGE – (left to right) Travel “guru” Mary Gostelow, Virtuoso’s Matthew Upchurch and ILTM portfolio manager Alison Gilmore