Virtuoso says goodbye to co-founder and “visionary leader” Jesse Upchurch

Virtuoso says goodbye to co-founder and “visionary leader” Jesse Upchurch

Jesse UpchurchFORT WORTH — Former Virtuoso chairman Jesse Upchurch has passed away at the age of 93, leaving behind a legacy that includes a 50-year career in travel.

The visionary leader passed away on Feb. 26, reports Virtuoso, who hailed Upchurch for “changing the way many experience destinations from Mexico to Africa to India”. Upchurch co-founded Virtuoso in 1986 with his son, current Chairman and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch.

“My father was a pioneer in this business, and I am forever grateful that he introduced me to the world and this industry at such an early age,” said Matthew. “He had a nose for knowing what the luxury traveller wanted, and it wasn’t necessarily the traditional refinement found in five-star hotels or transatlantic cruise liners. He knew the world offered more than that. His insatiable curiosity about the unknown, his passion for other people and their cultures, and his tendency to question conventional wisdom with a simple ‘why not?’ opened the door for others to experience countries that were not considered tourism-friendly yet. He left his mark on this industry that he loved so much.”

The elder Upchurch’s career in travel began when he invested in Vagabond Cruises, a yacht-chartering company in the Caribbean’s West Indies islands. After realizing a market existed for both adventure and luxury travel, he built the first timeshare resort in Acapulco and purchased Turismo Antonio Perez and Hotels S.A. de S.V., a travel company and international hotel representation group.

With the purchase of Percival Tours in 1962, Upchurch expanded operations into more exotic locales like the south Pacific and Asia. As chairman and CEO of Percival Tours, he successfully opened up tourism in markets previously considered only for the most adventurous traveller, such as Africa and India. He’s also credited with being the first to introduce air-conditioned motorcoaches for upscale guests.

Upchurch was also heavily involved in conservation efforts as a founding member of world Wildlife Fund’s 1001 Club. In addition, he was a co-founder of the U.S. Tour Operators Association where he served as chairman, CEO and president.

In 2000, Upchurch was named CEO of Virtuoso and he assumed the role of chairman in 2010.

The family will honor Jesse Upchurch’s memory privately, and celebrations of his life in various communities will take place in the months ahead. Details for in-memoriam gifts will follow soon.

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