Being a travel advisor has been “re-energised as a noble profession”, according to the boss of Virtuoso, the global luxury network.
“Today, people expect advisors to be more workable, and their travel to be even more customisable and more individual to them. In doing so, travel has been re-energised as a noble profession," Virtuoso’s founder, chairman and chief executive Matthew Upchurch said.
Virtuoso was celebrating a major milestone this year since launching the concept with just a handful of members 30 years ago.
Travel Week launched as an event 28 years ago but the show is now so enormous it takes over the Bellagio, Vdara and Aria hotels in Las Vegas and attracted 5,257 attendees from 98 countries this year.
Upchurch said this was an 8% increase in advisors, up to 2,235 attendees, and 9% more suppliers, numbering 2,493.
During Virtuoso Travel Week, advisors meet suppliers at one-to-one meetings, which by the end of the event numbered about 320,000 in total, taking the equivalent of 2.9 years.
“It seems unreal to say we started out with only 98 people at the first ever travel week; now we have people from 98 countries attending,” Upchurch said.
“But the same philosophy that led to the creation of Virtuoso remains – a firm belief that travel agencies and suppliers need each other to be successful and that Virtuoso’s function is to facilitate that by creating tools and services that support each side,” he added.
As Virtuoso grows, Upchurch said there is now a key focus on decentralised events and in taking more suppliers “on the road” to meet member agencies worldwide.
“Travel Week on tour saw us visit 22 new places in 66 cities reaching a record number of agencies in the last year,” he added.
Virtuoso now comprises 391 agency members in 743 locations, with more than 11,400 travel advisors in 40 countries.
It has preferred relationships with 1,700 hotels, cruise lines, airlines, tour companies and tourist offices, with whom its members book more than $15.5 billion in travel sales a year.