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Global luxury travel network Virtuoso hosted its annual Symposium May 20-24 in Dubai, attracting over 400 of the industry's top professionals from 37 countries.


Global luxury travel network Virtuoso hosted its annual Symposium May 20-24 in Dubai, attracting over 400 of the industry's top professionals from 37 countries.

Category: Middle East - United Arab Emirates - Industry economy - Exclusive experiences - Trends / Expert's advice - Calendar
This is a press release selected by our editorial committee and published online for free on 2024-06-06

Virtuoso's Symposium brings together key decision-makers within luxury travel, including Virtuoso's own leadership and senior executives from the network's travel agency members and preferred partners, for industry discussions, deep dives into travel insights and peer-to-peer networking, all in one of the world's most dynamic cities.

During the General Session, Virtuoso Chairman and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch discussed AI's impact on the industry, while maintaining the value of human connection.

A self-declared AI optimist, Upchurch has closely followed its development and impression on the travel industry.

He remains steadfast in his belief that AI can be a helpful tool for travel advisors, creating efficiencies that allow them to focus on the aspects of client management that are inherently human.

Upchurch has famously coined the phrase: "Automate the predictable, so that you can humanize the exceptional."

"The advent of the internet just decades ago showed us that technological advancements enhance the capability of advisors, rather than replacing them," he said.

"AI combines human touch with advanced technology, and as advisors integrate it into their business, they should also keep in mind a unique definition of AI – Appreciative Inquiry – a process that aids in asking clients the right questions, which in turn promotes solid relationships between them and their advisor. There are no shortage of answers in the world, but knowing the right questions to ask is where value exists for the future."

Executive Vice President David Kolner shared insights into Virtuoso's high-value travelers, indicating optimism continues.

Sales made between January-April 2024 for travel in 2025 and 2026 are up 49 percent and future cruise sales are up 52 percent, compared to transactions made during same timeframe in 2023 for future travel.

Big bookings are increasing as well, with bookings over $50,000 up 86 percent, and $50,000+ cruise and safari bookings up 102 percent and 159 percent, respectively.

When looking at the annual Virtuoso Brand & Traveler Trend Tracker Study, a proprietary survey of high-value travelers across 15 countries conducted by YouGov, Kolner revealed the top benefits of using a travel advisor according to Virtuoso clients: expertise on accommodations (66 percent), expertise on destinations (65 percent) and saving time (54 percent).

The most valuable traits of an advisor according to respondents are good communication (65 percent), attention to detail (64 percent) and problem-solving skills (57 percent).

The General Session also hosted guest speakers. Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), joined Upchurch for a fireside chat, where they discussed Dubai's future growth.

Attendees also heard from Gloria Fluxà, Vice Chair and Chair of the Sustainability Committee at WTTC, as well as Vice Chairman & Chief Sustainability Officer at Iberostar Group; Courtney Scharf, Chief Client Officer at Trend Hunter; and Jenny Southan, Founder and CEO of Globetrender.

Another highlight of the Symposium was Virtuoso's Travel Tech Summit, which brought together innovators, startups and the Virtuoso network for meaningful discussions about emerging technology.

Led by entrepreneur and Virtuoso board member Gilad Berenstein, the summit covered key trends to watch in travel tech, AI, social commerce and more.

While business is at the forefront of Symposium, another hallmark of the event is bonding through shared experiences. With the help of Virtuoso partners, attendees immersed themselves in some of Dubai's most dynamic offerings.

From perfume making and history tours to cooking classes and private water experiences, there were no shortage of opportunities to explore this vibrant city.

Virtuoso's emphasis on relationship building continued with one-on-one appointments between members and partners, while professional development sessions, workshops and panel discussions explored topics including the evolution of the luxury traveler, sustainable travel, industry growth and more.

Virtuoso thanks Dubai Economy and Tourism and additional partners that aided in the success of 2024 Symposium. Host hotels included Atlantis The Royal, Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Al Naseem, as well as sponsors AmaWaterways, Arabian Adventures, Armani Hotel Dubai, The Bicester Collection, Kerzner and The Palace Downtown Dubai.

About Virtuoso

Virtuoso is the leading global travel agency network specializing in luxury and experiential travel. This by-invitation-only organization comprises over 1,200 travel agency locations with more than 20,000 travel advisors in 54 countries throughout North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East. Drawing upon its preferred relationships with more than 2,300 of the world's best hotels and resorts, cruise lines, airlines, tour companies and premier destinations, the network provides its upscale clientele with exclusive amenities, rare experiences and privileged access. Normalized annual sales of (U.S.) $28-$32 billion make Virtuoso a powerhouse in the luxury travel industry.

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