In reporting on Virtuoso for this issue’s cover story (“Visions of Virtuoso,” page 16), we found a number of recurring themes. It seems that no matter who we interviewed about the network’s operations and its high-profile CEO Matthew Upchurch, the terms “professionalism” and “enthusiasm” came up time and again. Those two concepts are clearly key to the luxury network’s success. In fact, Upchurch’s passion for the industry he literally grew up in is legendary.
“I love my job. I love the industry and what it stands for. I love the business model that we’ve created ...” Upchurch says in the story.
Granted, not everyone is fortunate enough to run an organization with $4.2 billion in annual sales, but all travel-sellers can benefit from the Virtuoso philosophy. What client doesn’t appreciate the professionalism of an agent who is enthusiastic and passionate about the business of travel?
Building relationships with clients and becoming a trusted advisor is another part of the Virtuoso success story. Upchurch describes our business today as “two industries within an industry.”
“First, there’s the product; second, there’s the burgeoning advice industry. If I’m Cunard Line, I own something physical, but the advice industry owns the relationship with the client. That relationship is how the travel-seller is judged,” he said.
Building relationships with your clients means getting to know their needs, desires, lifestyle and family situation, so that you can better advise them on how to spend their most precious resource: free time. As Upchurch points out in the story, the first step is not selling the client on the right product, but selling the client on your expertise and ability to find the right product for them. All clients, but especially high-end clients, must have faith in this relationship otherwise they will simply go elsewhere. The travel product cruise, resort, tour, whatever is not the basis for your competitive edge; your ability to connect with your customers is the true cornerstone of your business.
In this issue, we’ve given you a lot of inspiration for your client getaways, ranging from train trips in British Columbia to shopping in Shanghai. We hope it inspires you to become what Virtuoso calls a “specialist in the art of travel.” K.S.