Virtuoso recognized its highest-performing travel agency members at its 2023 Chairman’s Event, which took place October 23-27.
The annual event is hosted in a different and exciting location each year, and one of Italy’s most charming and historical destinations – Taormina, Sicily – rolled out the red carpet for the 2023 group, including a surprise town parade to welcome Virtuoso attendees.
The Chairman’s Event demonstrates Virtuoso’s appreciation for its most engaged and dedicated members, and this year, it brought together 124 agency owners and managers from 12 countries for four days of shared experiences through destination immersion.
The event kicked off with a stunning evening reception at shoreside Villa Sant’Andrea, a Belmond Hotel’s Ristorante Sant'Andrea.
Business commenced the following morning at Four Seasons’ San Domenico Palace, where attendees networked, exchanged thoughts and ideas on the future of luxury travel and heard from Virtuoso executives on key topics.
Executive Vice President David Kolner presented a sneak peek of travel trends among high-net-worth clientele according to Virtuoso’s 2024 Luxe Report, as well as a network sales update.
He revealed that Virtuoso’s year-to-date sales in 2023 were up 25 per cent compared to the same time period last year, while Q4 2023 sales show a 32 percent increase over Q4 2022.
Forward-looking data for sales into 2024 and 2025 showed that future bookings are up 36 percent compared to last year and 98 per cent over 2019’s future sales leading into 2020, proving that luxury travel will continue to thrive in the coming years.
Senior Vice President, Global Operations Michael Londregan also moderated a panel with four Virtuoso on-site partners – Essence of Sicily, IC Bellagio, I.D.I. Travel Italy and Sicily Lifestyle.
While there is always a business component to Virtuoso events, the hallmarks of the Chairman’s Event are agency appreciation, cultural immersion in the host destination and strengthening relationships with local partners.
Attendees were treated to a variety of immersive experiences of their choosing, all of which were thoughtfully curated and designed by the four aforementioned on-site partners.
Options included exploring Mount Etna coupled with cheese and wine tastings, a walking tour with a visit to the private home of a local artist, a Sicilian cooking class, a guided tour of Catania City Center with lunch at a historical palace, a half-day private yacht experience or a driving tour in privately-owned vintage cars.
Beloved Italian hospitality was on full display throughout the week along with colourful Sicilian traditions.
Guests dined, danced and took in spectacular live performances of traditional dance, music and Opera during beautiful dinners and after-parties at Grand Hotel Timeo, a Belmond Hotel and San Domenico Palace, Four Seasons.
All attendees also enjoyed a pre-dinner trio performance held at Teatro Antico di Taormina as the sun set, providing a spectacular backdrop among the antiquities for the private Virtuoso concert.
A highlight for many was the traditional Sicilian fiesta in the tiny medieval village of Castelmola, perched high above Taormina, where local residents opened their doors exclusively for a private evening of Sicilian food, music and dancing in the village square.
“Our Chairman’s Event is a celebration of the Virtuoso members that have demonstrated their exceptional support of this network, so our goal each year is to showcase a host city in a way that both educates and excites the group,” said Matthew D. Upchurch, Virtuoso’s Chairman and CEO. “Italy is one of this network’s most important destinations – we have incredible partners throughout the entire country, Virtuoso members located in the market, and it is a favourite destination for Virtuoso travellers. Bringing our top performers to experience the splendour of Taormina, Sicily, was a fun and intimate way to provide them with a stellar travel experience that they can share with their teams as well as clientele."
"What was truly remarkable was the incredible collaboration among all of the hotels and on-site partners to deliver an end-to-end four-day event that inspired human connection through Italian hospitality that will forever be remembered.”
All eyes on Italy
Virtuoso hosted the group in Italy during a time that is becoming increasingly more popular with luxury travellers: the off-peak shoulder season.
According to Virtuoso data, Italy was among the most-booked destinations for fall, showing that travellers are exploring the destination outside of the usual summer season to enjoy cooler weather, lower prices and fewer crowds.
Though already a favourite destination among affluent travellers, forward-looking data proves that travel demand to Italy shows no signs of slowing down into 2024.
This year’s Virtuoso Luxe Report, a survey of over 2,000 of the network’s advisors, saw it ranked as the number one destination for travellers across the globe.
Virtuoso wishes to thank its sponsors and co-hosts that helped bring this year’s immersive Chairman’s Event to life. Host properties included Belmond’s Grand Hotel Timeo and Villa Sant’Andrea, as well as Four Seasons’ San Domenico Palace. Tours and experiences were created by Virtuoso’s on-sites Essence of Sicily, IC Bellagio, I.D.I. Travel and Sicily Lifestyle.
As is tradition, Virtuoso revealed next year’s host destination during the current meeting. For 2024, Virtuoso’s Chairman’s Event will see the network’s top performers heading to Slovenia.