Matthew D. Upchurch, CTC, Chairman & CEO of Virtuoso, has received a World Tourism Award in recognition of Virtuoso’s commitment to sustainable tourism practices.
The award was given in honour of Virtuoso’s mission to make sustainability a greater factor in consumer choice when traveling – to preserve, protect and advance the local culture, environment and economies of the lands they visit and to increase success for those who are dedicated to travel as a force for good.
2019 World Tourism Awards were presented on 4 November, 2019 at WTM London. The awards, this year celebrating their 22nd Anniversary, are presented annually at the London show, and sponsored by The New York Times, The Travel Corporation, United Airlines and host sponsor Reed Travel Exhibitions. It was inaugurated to “recognise individuals, companies, organisations, destinations and attractions for outstanding initiatives related to the travel and tourism industry, and for fostering sustainable tourism and developing programs that give back to local communities.”
Receiving the award, Upchurch thanked his late father – one of the founding members of the US Tour Operators’ Association: “My dad was doing sustainable travel when that wasn’t a word.”
He also thanked his wife, Jessica, whom, he said, is “incredibly passionate” about sustainability: “She is infused with energy and passion and focus, and has been amazing”.
Thirdly, he thanked Virtuoso’s travel advisors: “When we started looking at what we wanted to do with regards to sustainability, we realised that our partners were doing such amazing things, that that’s what we needed to spend our time developing.”
He went on, “We don’t own any products, but we probably have one of the most important roles there is, and that is the conversation. For us, it’s a very simple mission. If we can infuse sustainability and travel for good into the conversation of these consumers all over the world, that’s where it’s happening.”
Upchurch said that the research Virtuoso has been undertaking indicates that people are increasingly concerned about these topics: “The affluent consumer is wanting us to make it easy for them to have a fabulous experience, but also to overlay that with meaningful travel that helps the environment, culture and local economy.”
“We believe in no shame and no blame. We’ve got to take the right step. We would rather see 95% of the world take one step forward that 5% trying to get it perfect.”
A World Tourism Award was also presented to Asilia Africa, in recognition of Asilia’s multi-pronged approach to make a positive impact on the local communities, wildlife and vital ecosystems of East Africa. Through this holistic approach, they are able to empower these crucial wilderness areas as well as the people who call them home.
Nikoi Island/ The Island Foundation also received a World Tourism Award in recognition of Nikoi Island and its commitment to sustainability by having a positive impact on the local culture, community, conservation; and for establishing the Island Foundation in 2010, which is transforming education for Riau’s island communities through the creation of 8 learning centres.
ME TO WE (WE.ORG) was honoured with a World Tourism Award in recognition of ME TO WE’s impact through its partnership with WE Charity; providing more than 1 million people with clean water, building 1,500 schools overseas, and empowering children with access to education; and of course, providing volunteer travel to those looking to change the world.
The awards were co-sponsored by The New York Times, The Travel Corporation, United Airlines and host sponsor Reed Travel Exhibitions. Emmy Award-winning journalist, Peter Greenberg, CBS News Travel Editor and world-renowned travel expert, hosted the award presentation.