Launched in 1982 by Richard Beck, Classic Travel Service has its own online booking engine through which clients can make their own hotel reservations. Human travel advisors then supplement this process by being on hand to help customize and personalize travel. “People want options,” Beck told us when we profiled him for his January 2014 cover story. “You can go to a bank and get cash at an ATM, or you can go to the teller. We are both. This union will become the tool of the modern travel agency.”
Beck tells us Classic’s strategy continues to evolve, with social media becoming more and more important as a form of marketing. “Blogging also is a tool we continue to expand. Our interns are from all over and we even have a blog in Korean and Chinese.”
However, building Classic’s database and marketing to its customers through newsletters is still an integral part of the agency’s strategy. “When you have an online presence with a booking engine you’re up against very big competitors,” says Beck. “The one thing we can offer, as a traditional full service agency, that many of our larger competitors cannot is better customer service.”
Currently in the works is a component that will make it easier for Classic’s customers to communicate their personal preferences and their individual hotel reward numbers. “The more information we’re able to obtain the better the experience our customer will have, and the more likely they will return. Our hotel partners also appreciate this,” he says.
Beck, an avid blogger himself, just visited Vietnam for the second time, with stops in Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang.
“My stay at Amanoi was sublime and my favorite hotel experience of the year,” says Beck. “It was great to reacquaint myself with the Aman brand. It is so unique compared to all the others.”
A top booking for this luxury travel advisor this year was to Namibia and Botswana with a side trip to Cape Town and Frigate Island before their return to London. “It was most difficult because I had never been to Namibia and Botswana,” says Beck. “I interviewed several companies, making sure the person I finally worked with knew the areas as well. I asked so many questions that I’m sure when they saw I was calling they thought, ‘Oh, God, it’s him again.’ It was extremely frustrating and I think it’s something all of my peers must have experienced. No one can know it all.”
Beck’s love for travel was ingrained in high school, when he would work weekends for his father, who owned an air freight trucking company. “I booked freight instead of people,” he says. “I loved geography and whenever I was booking foreign destinations, like Bangkok or London, I always imagined that I would visit these places someday.”
And indeed he has, many times over. But, that’s all part of becoming a better travel advisor, isn’t it?
“This industry is one, that if you travel, you get better at with age,” says Beck. “That and having like-minded friends in the industry whose opinion you trust is what helps make a travel person a professional.”