Thursday,  April 9, 2020  3:59 am

Virtuoso postpones 2020 Symposium in Vienna over COVID-19 concerns


Virtuoso postpones 2020 Symposium in Vienna over COVID-19 concerns
Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch appears in a video message sent to Symposium delegates on Friday.
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Virtuoso has postponed its 2020 Symposium in Vienna to next year over concerns related to the evolving COVID-19 virus, PAX has learned.

The news was confirmed in an email sent Friday night (Feb. 28) to Virtuoso’s owners, managers and partners on behalf of CEO Matthew Upchurch.

“With the COVID-19 situation still evolving, we have come to the difficult decision to postpone this year’s Symposium until 2021,” the email reads. “After consulting with Virtuoso’s Global Member Advisory Board and our hosts in Vienna, we feel this is the best decision for the entire network, allowing everyone to focus on being available to both their clients and their own teams at this critical time.”

The email, obtained by PAX, confirmed that Virtuoso will still hold its 2021 Symposium in Vienna – “the place where the Virtuoso brand was launched.”

A personal video message from Matthew Upchurch himself was also embedded in the email.

“This week has seen the COVID-19 travel crisis accelerate with news changing by the hour with ever-present unpredictability,” Upchurch says at the beginning. “More and more sectors and destinations are being affected, calling for active crisis management.”

Upchurch goes on to commend Virtuoso’s members and advisors for their “proactive work” in helping clients stay calm and informed during a time of crisis.  

“As many of you know, Virtuoso has decades of history of leading by example, especially in support of destinations who have suffered some sort of setback or in global crisis like 9/11 where we coined our motto, Boundaries Divide, Travel Unites,” Upchurch says, describing this past week as “difficult.”

“I thought long and hard about what is best for us all at this time,” Upchurch says.

Putting clients, advisors first

The decision to postpone the event was made after Upchurch met with the Austrian Tourist Office and Vienna Tourism Board on Thursday, the video reveals.

A conference call with Vienna’s Virtuoso Hotels and Mondial, their On-Site, was also held.

“When we went over all the challenges, and we discussed the rapid news cycle, and after thoughtful consideration, we unanimously agreed the best decision would be to postpone…” Upchurch says.

He adds: “Travellers are not only afraid of infection, but frankly, the fear of being stranded is as powerful if not more so. This is made worse by the daily changes in policies of both nations and businesses. We Virtuosos are not afraid to travel, but as leaders what is top of mind is being with your advisors and staff to help them with clients and the fluidity of decision making in this unpredictable environment.”

Upchurch confirmed that Virtuoso is currently working on re-booking everything for next year, which he describes as “a better time for you to fully enjoy all Vienna has to offer.”  

“At no other time in my career have we ever had a situation where the crisis was as fluid and active in real time as this one,” Upchurch says.  “I believe our number one job right now is to support our advisors and work with our partners to help our mutual clients to travel appropriately and protect this industry through the human connection."

“Travel’s allure to the human spirit cannot be contained,” Upchurch concludes. “That has not changed and travel will rebound stronger than ever.”

To watch Upchurch's complete video, click here


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