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In his first interview with Traveltalk, Mr Treasure explains what brought him back into the travel world and why he thinks travel agents will go from strength to strength.


Q: What was the motivation for joining Virtuoso?

A: I started my career in leisure travel way back in 1987 with Thomas Cook. I was managing their largest office in Pitt Street and I was doing that for four or five years but then I ended up spending 25 years in the corporate world, mainly over in Asia and in America.

I had no real intention of getting back into the travel business but looking back at my career in totality the most memorable times I had were in leisure and retail. So when the Virtuoso opportunity came along, I thought it would be nice to get back in.

Q: What do you think you’ll bring to the role?

A: What I bring is 35 years of industry experience. Like any leader, it’s about getting the best out of the team – it’s not about me. It’s about having a team – and we have a fantastic team – that really just need to be given the latitude to fly.

Q: This may be a bit unfair as you’ve only been there three months but has anything surprised you about the job?

A: Great question. There’s quite a lot of moving parts to it and Virtuoso itself is really intriguing and has a wonderful culture. The CEO, Matthew Upchurch, is passionate about human connection and the importance of human relationships and collaboration. It’s an organisation that absolutely practices what it preaches.

I’ve been really intrigued and surprised by the positive energy within the community, both members and partners.

I was fortunate in my second week to attend our Forum event in Bangkok and there was an energy in the room there that I’ve probably never seen before. I’ve been to a lot of travel conferences in my time and every member agency that was there wanted to be there. It gave me a real sense that this community is very special.

Q: Yours is an invitation-only organisation so what is it about Virtuoso that makes it so special?

A: It’s all about the investments that we make, certainly in the luxury segment, and the tools, the energy and the support we put into ensuring that travel advisors can enhance and elevate the experience for their customers through the resources that we provide.

We only work with those we believe are the best in market. So if you have a strategy around luxury travel and you want to become part of a community that can help you grow and make the most of the opportunities that are out there then I think Virtuoso is a great organisation to be part of.

Q: Travel agents still have a relevance in today’s internet-influenced marketplace?

A: Absolutely. The internet has a role to play and some people are always going to surf around, but it’s all great until something goes wrong.

An advisor can create and craft an experience for you, get a booking at that Michelin star restaurant or recommend out of the way unique experiences because of the information they have access to.

I think that’s what Virtuoso has done. It’s made the role of travel advisor a professional service.

Q: So you’d support agents charging a fee for their services?

A: With the amount of work and effort and energy that goes into building a big itinerary! Absolutely the advisors have to charge.

Q: Shifting tack a little, sustainability and giving back to local communities is a big part of the Virtuoso DNA.

A: Both for travellers and for organisations, we’re all looking at new ways of how we can behave better and how we can look after the planet. So yes, it’s top of mind and will be paramount in the future.

We have a responsibility to the planet: we are out there enjoying the planet and we’ve got to make sure that we’re looking after it as best we can.

Q: What next for the future of Virtuoso?

A: We just celebrated our 20th anniversary in Australia and New Zealand. We don’t want to be the biggest but we certainly want to be the best.

We want to focus on ensuring that everything we do through all of our events and how we support our members is about making those members more successful, making our partners more successful, increasing that preferred production through education and through all the other things that we do.

We will continue to grow, but I think we continue to grow very selectively. The biggest risk is you get complacent. We need to make sure that we’re listening, that we continue to add value, we’re responsive and people absolutely see the value in being part of the network.