At Montreal’s Virtuoso: Right Experience More Important than Price

Matthew Upchurch, Chairman and CEO Virtuoso, and Yves Lalumière, President and CEO Tourisme Montréal

Open Jaw attended Virtuoso’s 2023 global symposium held in Montreal from 17-21MAY, attracting 385 travel industry professionals from 35 countries.

As Tourisme Montréal President and CEO Yves Lalumière said, "The Virtuoso symposium is one of the most important events in recent years for Montréal tourism. Hosting a multiplier like Virtuoso is something that doesn't happen very often. Moreover, the fact that an international consortium like Virtuoso chose Montreal is noteworthy."

Virtuoso Chairman and CEO, Matthew Upchurch explained why Montreal as the choice of venue: "To hold our symposium as well as to promote a destination, two elements must come together: the private sector and the public sector. The two have to work together to do great things. And that's what we found with Montreal.”

Luxury Travel is on the Rise 

As a sign of travel’s continued rebound, Upchurch shared at a media conference that Virtuoso bookings for 2023 are 91 per cent higher than they were in 2019, "which should far exceed industry targets," he said.

In addition, the number of high-net-worth travellers is expected to exceed 62 million worldwide over the next five years, with more than one million in Canada alone, according to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2022.

Key Highlights in the Luxury Travel Market:

  • When customers are well advised by well-connected advisors in the market, they spend more money. Fifty seven per cent of luxury travellers say that "creating a travel experience that best meets my expectations is more important than price."
  • Luxury travellers will also spend more if they know they will have privileged access during their trip.
  • Three quarters (75 per cent) of luxury market customers have no problem paying extra for personalized experiences and authenticity.
  • Before the pandemic, private product rentals such as villas and yachts were an occasional expense. Social isolation during the pandemic prompted the search for more private options. Today, this has become the de facto mode of travel for many luxury travellers.
  • Luxury market travellers seek higher levels of stimulation, activities that require more physical and mental effort, engage in activities that go beyond the usual comforts, and have a growing interest in scientific expeditions.
  • Thirty seven per cent of affluent travellers travel for cultural reasons, followed by 34 per cent for adventure and 16 per cent for expeditions.

Upchurch is a strong advocate for the role of travel consultants in our industry. "What is unique about this profession in the luxury travel market,” Upchurch said, “is that the advisor is a collaborator in the life of their client. Not a travel booking engine."

Lalumière also had some positive words for advisors: "I am a big fan of travel advisor. And in the luxury travel market, customers use these intermediaries to help them make their choices. And there's nothing better than dealing with travel experts from Virtuoso."

A Collection of Quotes from Virtuoso Chairman and CEO Matthew Upchurch

On the occasion of the Virtuoso Symposium which took place in Montreal until last Sunday, Open Jaw Quebec collected best quotes from Virtuoso's CEO, Matthew Upchurch, some of which are based on the research reports which fuel the consortium's insights.

"What happened during the pandemic? Nothing motivates human behaviour more than having something you took for granted taken away.”

"Fifty years ago, the backpacker and the luxury traveller were part of a certain continuity. Today, that continuity has become a circle. The way the backpacker thinks and the way the luxury traveller thinks are more aligned than the mass market."

"The travel industry is the largest service industry in the world and the third largest in the world across all sectors."

"The pandemic has demonstrated how important the travel industry is to the economic prosperity of the entire world."

"Depending on where you are in the world, roughly speaking, for every 1 direct job in tourism, there are a minimum of 2 indirect jobs. They range from the person delivering flowers to the aeroplane pilot. That's 1 in 10 jobs in the world.”

"Travel is about economic, business and entrepreneurial opportunities. Travel helps create a world where people understand each other. That’s incredible.”

"As AI continues to make waves in many areas, the expertise and knowledge of travel advisors are inherently human attributes which inspire trust and are in demand in this highly digital world."

"If you approach a client with the thought of booking right off the bat, you've lost before you've even started. There are a thousand ways to book travel. But the human aspect and your personal touch makes the difference."

"Research says it all: the follow-up from an advisor after their clients return from a trip, becomes the most valuable element of the relationship between the two. It is also what differentiates a transactional travel agent from a trusted travel advisor. Gathering the post-trip impressions of clients is the only way to become a better advisor to those clients, because that's how an advisor can know more and more about what they like, what they want, what they do."

"How can we explain the significant growth of tourism in the world? Never in the history of the planet have there been five generations of people travelling at the same time. Moreover, 80% of all humans on earth who have reached the age of 80 are still alive today. And they are healthy, and they travel!”

"What more and more travellers are asking for? Please make my journey more meaningful, more meaningful. Help me realize my investment in travel and help my children enjoy the world..."

"The best definition I've heard of sustainability is that a destination should decide for itself what it wants. We are the visitors. It is up to the destination to decide how and when visitors can visit."

"A counsellor should not only meet the demands of their clients; they must exceed them. Go beyond client expectations. Because that's how they will surprise them, and how the client-advisor business relationship will be enriched."

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