Upchurch upbeat on Australia
If it was all about numbers, the Virtuoso network could have doubled its footprint in Australia over the last twelve months, with global CEO Matthew Upchurch telling travelBulletin the group knocked back more than 50 applications from Aussie agencies during the period. Visiting Queensland, NSW and Victoria during a trip down under last month for the annual Virtuoso cruise showcase, Upchurch said prospective members were keen to differentiate themselves from their competitors, but needed to show a compelling focus and commitment to the luxury market in order to be a good fit for Virtuoso.
The same “quality not quantity” approach applies to the organisation’s network of travel product, with the hotel offering comprising around 1,200 carefully curated properties across the globe. In an interesting move, Virtuoso has just added a consumer booking engine to its website — but one with a twist, in which the person making the booking must select a Virtuoso consultant during the process. Travellers with existing relationships with Virtuoso will be automatically linked to their current advisor, but the initiative is also likely to provide new leads for the network as upmarket travellers seeking the type of product on offer are connected to a suitable Virtuoso agent.
Upchurch said the booking tool aimed to encourage what he called the “please bother me” factor. He said in some cases Virtuoso clients didn’t book shorter, less complicated trips with their travel advisor because they didn’t want to make a fuss and could easily book it directly. However as with most Virtuoso product, the advisor can offer a range of value adds due to the Virtuoso relationship so the portal enables the best of both worlds — a direct booking experience overseen by the agent to ensure the client is looked after well.
Currently there are about 50 Australian agencies accredited with Virtuoso, operating from 100 locations and with a total of around 1,300 advisors. Regional manager Asia-Pacific Michael Londregan said there were still growth opportunities in Australia, flagging possible expansion into regional areas of the country currently under-represented within the Virtuoso network. Virtuoso will turn over about $1.3 billion in Australia this year, a healthy increase of 21% year on year.