Gleanings From Our Maui Luxury Roundtable

 

Ruthanne Terrero with Ted Teng
I’m pictured here with Ted Teng, president and CEO of The Leading Hotels of the World. Teng, who has held the position since September 2008, hosted an event for his international members at The Setai in New York. Special panel guests were representatives of LHW’s family-owned hotels, such as the Hassler Roma in Rome and the Gstaad Palace in Switzerland. During the discussion, family members spoke of their future as independent hotels and talked about why they had decided against joining chains.

 

When you read the luxury roundtable on pages 28-30, you’ll see that our conversation was quite intense as we discussed the traits of today’s affluent traveler. (Note: You can view the session in its entirety at www.luxuryta.com.) A few gems didn’t make it into the final transcript, so I thought I’d share them with you, because they’re just so insightful.

“If you take down your client’s history, you own it and a computer won’t do that.” That’s Anne Scully of McCabe World Travel talking about the difference between booking travel through a live travel advisor and an online travel agency.

“The real relevance of a luxury travel advisor is taking that client’s measure and having their history, knowing who they are, what they like, what they won’t like,” she stressed.

Nothing says it like a real photo. Alyse Cori of Travelwize took a Backroads trip with her son and posted a picture of him jumping off a cliff on her Facebook page. “His mouth was wide open and he was screaming like crazy,” she told us. “I said, ‘Contact me for more information,’ and I put a link to our website. Seeing yourself in the place is different than just talking about it.”

What makes a hotel a luxury hotel? The room has to be one of the key components, said Janine Elder of TravelSeeker4u. “Luxury to a luxury traveler means, when they walk in, they see a flat-screen TV and those very comfortable beds with very comfortable bedding accessories and a glimpse of granite here and there. The service has to make that client feel as luxurious as the room makes them feel.”

Monika Weinsoft of Jet Set World Travel concurred. There has to be a consistent level of service across the board, from every staff member straight up to the general manager, she said. “You can see the difference when you have been to a hotel that has gone through this intensive butler training and provides a huge level of service; your entire experience is affected by that.”

Luxury service can go awry the moment a client gets out of a limousine or taxi, warned Anne Scully. “So many hotels lose it before the client ever gets to the room. It happens when you don’t feel expected upon arrival and they can’t find your reservation because they’re spelling your name wrong.”

That darn TripAdvisor. We wondered what the group says to those clients who come to you after you’ve booked their travel, citing negative reviews they’ve read online about the hotel you’ve booked them in. “I tell them to take it with a grain of salt because everyone’s expectations are different,” said Monika Weinsoft. “What one person expects from a hotel could be entirely different from what another traveler is expecting. You have to remind them of that. Then I always remind them I have actually been there, so let me tell you the positives and the negatives.”

Janine Elder had the same message. “You need to point out that when you read those reviews you can see that there is a wide variety of opinions,” she said. “There are a lot of people who would write negative things about going to the grocery store because their oranges were in a different place.” I’m sure we all know a few of those people!

I’d like to thank Lois Shore of Outrigger Hotels & Resorts for hosting us in such grand style at The Kapalua Villas. She and General Manager TJ Oesterling provided us with a wonderful agenda for networking and exchanging ideas. The Kapalua Villas are a fabulous addition to the Outrigger portfolio and we were all fortunate to experience it firsthand.