45 top US-based travel advisors descended on London 17-20 September, 2021, and the overall message to hoteliers was this. Their clients would pay more, even double, if expectations are at least met. Virtuoso’s Matthew Upchurch is increasingly becoming THE hero of the entire luxury travel industry worldwide. As he said yesterday, travel agents have evolved, upwards, to become travel advisor professionals (and now, though he did not say it, who will lead the way in elevating the image of ‘working in hotels’?) • Yesterday’s other messages, both only relevant to UK, came from Sir Rocco Forte. The UK deserves a dedicated Minister of Tourism, and England needs an overall image comparable to Scotland’s bagpipes, tartan and whisky, and Wales’ lamb.
These messages were shared at yesterday’s round-table at The Apollo Theatre, courtesy of its vivaciously-memorable owner Nica Burns, who would actually make an outstanding Minister of Entertainment, and rake in all those high-spending tourists. The round-table was bookend-ed by six Vegas-type glitter-overkill fashionista stars of SIX, the musical written by two Cambridge students and premièred at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival: after this came an almost-unique tourism appearance by a Royal, The Queen’s youngest son HRH The Earl of Wessex, a Savile-Row showcase who spoke off-the-cuff about the importance of tourism to the entire UK economy. HRH was introduced by his personal host, round-table compère Peter Bates, who had worked closely in all planning with Matthew Upchurch and Nicola Butler, owner/ceo Noteworthy, who had first, way back in March 2020, had the idea for the whole event • In 2019, 4.5 million Americans, representing 11% of all visitors, spent $4.2 billion in the UK (the extremely-impressive London-born president/ceo of the World Travel & Tourism Council WTTC, Julia Simpson, ex-IAG, making her first public appearance, did point out that there is more to UK than London). Now, said VisitBritain ceo Sally Balcombe, the USA is her first priority, and her £7 million campaign, which she hopes to raise to £20 million, kicks off in January, highlighting that 2022 is the Platinum Jubilee and how has UK changed in the 70 years since Her Majesty ascended to the throne? The UK is open for business, hotel owners have been using the catastrophic pandemic depression to invest, and now expect, also, more emphasis on sustainable products. Expect, also, a variety of communication channels – as Dallas-based Jim Strong, Strong Travel, said, influencers do not reach the luxury market, but word-of-mouth does.
Jim Strong was one of the US advisors from 13 US states, who were joined by one Canadian agency: in total they represented $5.7 billion worth of sales in 2019. There was no overall airline sponsor, although American provided some support. The really generous host hotels, all full Virtuoso partners, were 45 Park Lane; The Berkeley; Brown’s Hotel; Claridge’s; The Connaught; Corinthia London; The Dorchester; Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane; The Langham; Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park; Rosewood London; The Savoy, and Shangri-La The Shard, London. As well as hosting several advisors, each hotel did something memorable for the entire group. The Berkeley outside-catered dinner in Wellington Barracks Museum. The Langham ended its Monday night’s dinner with a visit to a pub, admittedly re-imagined by Martin Brudnizki in traditional pine green. Mandarin Oriental arranged close-up meeting with mounted guards in full postbox-red-hued military regalia. Rosewood organised a decorate a white-iced head-shaped cake as a British icon, with ‘Harry Potter’ – above – taking gold.
To be honest, says Girlahead, so many, including all those mentioned above, warrant medals, with one special award, please – to the weather. The September sun worked overtime.
And now, showing that London is not only heritage but also the future, listen to Sir Rocco Forte’s son, Charles Forte, here: