Group Chairman and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch on the greening of travel and tourism

Virtuoso has just released a new whitepaper on sustainable tourism. We asked Matthew Upchurch to tell us more.

At our recent sustainability summit, I was sitting there with massive companies like Royal Caribbean and AccorHotels but also smaller companies like Aqua Expeditions, Nomadic Expeditions or Wilderness Safaris. We are not a certification organisation and we don’t want to be, so what is our role? We are squarely in the commercial aspect of travel and we are squarely in the consumer in uence part of that, so the basic outcome of sustainability is that we feel that our core focus should be “How do we help make sustainability a greater factor in consumer choice, so that we can play an active role in making those people that are doing the best sustainability work also the most commercially successful?” We can align sustainability with commercial success by being part of that solution. That’s the best impact we could have on the industry and on the topic and that’s what we are doing henceforth.

How is the Virtuoso network moving forward with its sustainability policies?

First of all, practice what you preach. I have to give my wife total credit, as half way through 2016, knowing that 2017 was the UNWTO’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, she said, “I have an idea for the next year. We are going to plan all our family travel around Virtuoso leaders in sustainable tourism”. So, we started in November last year with The Brando, and I am still showing photos. It’s an incredible place, then we went to New Zealand, also exceptional, and continued on. We just added our first “voluntourism” company – ME to WE – out of Toronto.

As Richard Branson said, we can only advance the environmental movement if we “shame and blame”. There is proven scientific evidence that human beings will only alter a behaviour for a short period of time based on fear, and one of the greatest examples of that comes Brené Brown and one of her books. She cites the example of people who have had near death cardiac experiences. Then they are told by their doctors if you don’t change this or this, you will die. You know what the outcome of that is? 80% of people who had serious cardiac problems die exactly because they didn’t take action on those simple things, or they did for only a short time. The evidence goes to show that the only way you can change somebody’s behaviour long- term is by painting the picture of what the future could be and showing a potential path of how to get there …



Photo: Matthew Unchurch receives the Mary Gostelow award for industry achievement from travel “guru”; Mary Gostelow (left) and ILTM portfolio manager Alison Gilmore (right).