You may or may not have heard of VUCA, which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. The acronym arguably best describes the world we're living in today, and one that was a common theme at Virtuoso Travel Week earlier this month

“It’s about disruptive technology. It’s about fast-changing business models. It’s about geopolitical shifts and the effects of terrorism,” explained Matthew Upchurch, Virtuoso CEO, expanding on the concept. “It’s not hard to find trouble in a VUCA world. All we have to do is see the headlines.”

But, he went on, despite the increase of global conflicts since 2008, global travel has increased too. 

“There’s never been a more important time to travel,” Upchurch went on, addressing Virtuoso travel advisors. “And for you, there’s never been a more important time to work your magic. Why? Because VUCA drives a craving for authentic human connection. And you, my friends, create what may be the most valuable asset in a human life. Beautiful memories.”

So, how do travel advisors succeed in a VUCA world?

Here are the four guiding principles Virtuoso believes will anchor its future success, in the word’s of Upchurch:

1. Ensure member success

"If our agency members don’t succeed, there is no Virtuoso. They are the ones who create the companies that support advisor success. And in turn, their advisors deliver the high-value clients that drive our partner sales. And together we expand the desire for quality travel experiences… In order to focus on quality, we had to find those whose focus on luxury as ‘personal’ was the same as ours, which is why we have always been by invitation.

Our values bind us together:

1. Advisors at the center

2. Lead with the experience, not the transaction, and

3. We seek the win-win-win and treat each other with respect."

CT’s recommendation for within your own agency:

Firstly, if you haven’t already committed to working exclusively with preferred suppliers, now is the time to start. Not only does this typically mean higher commissions for you, but it will also mean higher satisfaction for your clients. Secondly, before presenting options to your clients based on a price point, ask questions to better understand the experience for which they are seeking. Curate options based on that feedback, rather than a dollar amount. This will better exhibit your value as a travel advisor, and shift your interaction from transactional to experiential.

2. Make it personal

"The strength of our relationships enhance our clients’ experience, as well as our own. In the world of luxury, relationships enable us to add value from the simple to the complex… Of course quality and design are important. But at the core, luxury is personal. Millennials, now even more than boomers, are validating the power of connection. We thrive in luxury because we thrive in relationships: Relationships with our preferred partners; relationships with each other; and most importantly, the relationship with the client. The more you know your client, the more profound your support of them."

CT’s recommendation for within your own agency:

Get to know your clients, either by asking them to fill out a questionnaire on their first visit, or by sending out a questionnaire to your database. Ask them to share their travel desires, their bucket list destinations, their birthdays, their favourite memories, their favourite foods, their least-favourite foods – you get the point. Get to know them to a point where you can send them personalized suggestions for their next getaway as opportunities arise, and from there, ensure that their experience in-destination suits their wants and needs. Perhaps you’ll discover one of your frequently travelling clients doesn’t drink alcohol so you can call the hotel she’ll be staying at ahead of time so they’ll have her favourite drink waiting for her upon arrival instead of the standard glass of champagne. That’s making it personal!

3. Pioneer

"For Virtuoso, pioneering means finding new ways to support our people. So we set out to explore new territories every single day. You could call this principle innovation, but what I love about the word pioneer is that it instantly makes me think of people not, things; people taking risks while looking out for one another."

CT’s recommendation for within your own agency:

This has to do with taking advantage of tools and resources available to you to enhance the way you do business, whether technological or human. Do not shy away from evolution, as this is key to your survival.

4. Tell the story, again and again

"In the late 1990’s, in the face of the coming Boomer Age Wave and with the rise of the online revolution, all agents were being judged by the lowest common denominator. That judgment was also fuelled by billions of dollars of Do It Yourself advertising; ads that had a not so subtle sub text – that you’re either stupid, or a sucker, or you’ll pay too much if you don’t do it yourself. We needed a strategy to attract the right clients – the ones who know, as Warren Buffet says, that “price is what you pay, and value is what you get.” (This is when API rebranded to Virtuoso). In 2015, we reached a record 25 billion consumer impressions. And why? Because I believe ours is a message that resonates globally – it’s a very human story. It’s not just about another way of booking travel; it’s about human connection and creativity. It’s about a profession that orchestrates dreams and delivers return on life. It’s about having someone on your side who is your advocate, who listens to you, cares about you and who collaborates with partners around the world who share the same commitment. It’s about how you tell the story every day in 1,000 different ways; on social media, in cocktail conversation around the dinner table, with your clients and with each other."

CT’s recommendation for within your own agency:

Be your own advocate. Shout to the mountains as you exclaim the value a travel advisor offers the travelling public, whether via social media, community events, consumer evenings or through e-mail mail-outs. Educate consumers about what you have to offer them. But don’t just talk the talk; walk the walk! In all you do, create experiences for clients that they never would have been able to find for themselves; this will have them sharing your message with others on your behalf, and the message of the value of travel advisors will grow ever-louder and ever-stronger.


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