Are Consumers Afraid of You?



Karen Goldberg with Ruthanne Terrero
I’m Shown Here with Karen Goldberg, director of sales & marketing for Virtuoso’s Hotels & Resorts program. This was taken at the Park Hyatt Food & Wine Experience on the opening night of Virtuoso’s Travel Mart.


It is very amazing to me that some very smart people still don’t know very much about using a luxury travel advisor. Some of them are actually family members. Then there’s our President, whom I know is quite smart, but who doesn’t even realize that travel agents still exist. He mentioned in a recent town hall meeting that they’ve gone the way of the Internet. It was one of those comments where the person meant to be sympathetic, but ends up saying completely the wrong thing, like, “You turned out much better than anyone ever thought you would.” All you really want to say after something like that is, “Gee, thanks for that. Let me go home now and put my head under a pillow for a few hours.”

At Virtuoso’s Travel Mart in August, one of the speakers told the audience how, in preparation for her speech, she’d sat at her dinner table one night and asked her guests why they didn’t use a travel advisor. Keep in mind that these were all people who travel and who are of a certain means that allows them to travel well. The bottom line was that in one way or another, they all felt too intimidated to even approach a travel advisor for assistance. One felt that if he couldn’t pronounce the name of the place he’d researched on the Internet, he’d be embarrassed in front of the advisor. Another felt she needed to have an unlimited budget to use an advisor. Bottom line? They all felt unworthy of you.

In a way, that truly makes sense, because some of the most successful travel advisors have carved out a niche by being extremely exclusive. Their services aren’t available by walking in to a brick-and-mortar agency and sitting alongside a wall until the next agent becomes available; rather, appointments are made only upon request and a certain amount of qualifying does go on before the advisor and would-be client actually meet. I can see how someone would be intimidated about this process. It sounds as if you’re trying out for something.

The thing is, that’s not even a uniform process in finding a travel advisor. You’ve all gotten so good at what you do, none of you are working out of the box anymore. So, how do you close that gap in terms of letting the affluent public know that you’re available to create their dream trips? One way is the tried-and-true: Show up at community gatherings to demonstrate that you’re a lovely, gentle human who isn’t going to scoff loudly if someone pronounces the name of an exotic locale improperly, and that you’re really quite okay with booking a vacation that’s within a certain limit, as long as it’s worth your time.

So travel advisors, let down your hair. If you’ve earned an exclusive persona built around the type of services you provide, realize that you may be too isolated from the general public if you’re perceived as too haughty to be approached.

Close that gap between the unknowing public and the types of amazing services you’re able to provide. Americans need to get to know you a little better—especially the smart, affluent ones.

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