Monday,  May 25, 2020  12:29 am

Virtuoso's Upchurch talks travel trends, role of agents

Virtuoso's Upchurch talks travel trends, role of agents
Of Virtuoso: David Kolner, senior vice-president – global member partnerships & Matthew D. Upchurch, chairman & CEO.
Blake Wolfe

Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.

Adventure travel and Eastern Europe are among the top trends for Canadian travellers in 2018 - with travel agents increasingly in demand to help with such bookings, according to Virtuoso Network Chairman & CEO Matthew Upchurch.

Upchurch and David Kolner, senior vice-president – global member partnerships, were joined by a handful of Virtuoso partners for a media briefing on where Canadians are travelling this year and how they’re booking trips.

Currently counting 185 agency locations and 48 travel partners in Canada within its network, Virtuoso is continuing to benefit from the flip side of the OTA boom and the expanding role of technology in daily living, Upchurch explained.

“In some ways, Expedia took over the world – but the world grew and so did Virtuoso,” he said, adding that the perception that booking travel is something which occurs exclusively online these days is a marketing trick of the major OTAs. “In a digital age where technology is completely ubiquitous in all areas of our lives, we believe that people not only desire, but are craving, authentic human connections.”

While the dawn of the online booking era resulted in an exodus of agents from the industry, Upchurch said that those agents which put client service ahead of all else have not only survived but are thriving in the current market.

“The people that were left standing were those who were there for something other than ringing the cash register – it wasn’t just about transactions, it was the entire aspect of collaborating with clients to add value,” he said. “The problem with the word ‘luxury’ is that you instantly think of gold faucets and other blingy things, but that’s only a small part of it. Luxury is about having someone listen to you and getting you what you want – it’s about service.”

matthew upchurch_virtuoso.jpgVirtuoso Network Chairman & CEO Matthew Upchurch

Upchurch also dispelled the myths that booking with a travel advisor is only for the inexperienced traveller or will somehow reduce the enjoyment of planning a vacation.

“The truth is completely the opposite - when you have an advisor that knows and understands you, there’s this wonderful collaborative space which happens which more and more people are drawn to.”

And the future looks bright for Virtuoso’s travel advisors, Upchurch said: millennial clients grew in 2016 to 13 per cent from nine per cent in 2012, a steady rise from previous years. By comparison, boomer clients decreased by one per cent from 2012 to 2016.

Now trending

According to Kolner, adventure travel is the top trip style booked by Canadians, followed closely by multi-generational family travel, the number one trend worldwide; respectively, the corresponding destinations for each style of travel is Costa Rica and a tie between Italy and Mexico. Family groups are also travelling to unique destinations, said Kolner, such as Japan, the Galapagos and even Antarctica.

Destinations which are at risk of permanent change from factors such as climate change are also increasingly popular, Kolner said; topping the list of such travel spots are Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Arctic and Antarctica, as well as Venice and Machu Picchu.

Kolner added that notably, eight of the top 10 summer travel destinations for Canadians are in Europe, while destinations in Eastern Europe are among the top 10 trendiest travel spots for the coming year.

italy-1411360_1920.jpgItaly currently tops Virtuoso's list of top 10 summer destinations for Canadians

Virtuoso's top 10s for Canada

Top 10 summer destinations for Canadians

  1. Italy
  2. U.K.
  3. U.S.
  4. France
  5. Greece
  6. Netherlands
  7. Germany
  8. Portugal
  9. South Africa
  10. Ireland

Virtuoso Hot 10 – growing destinations for Canadians

  1. Ireland
  2. Tanzania
  3. Denmark
  4. Croatia
  5. Kenya
  6. Austria
  7. Hungary
  8. Thailand
  9. Ukraine
  10. Poland