In an earlier column, I mentioned that the luxury market flies high and falls hard. What I failed to mention is that it’s also the first to bounce back. According to Smith Travel Research, this year the luxury segment is the only one to report increases in two of the three key performance metrics: for the first quarter, occupancy rate rose 10.6 percent to 63.1 percent, and revenue per available room was up 3.1 percent. The challenge for hotels now is to work on increasing rates in a luxury consumer market that has now been trained to ask for—and expect—a deal.
A bounce back in consumer confidence is imminent. What’s uncertain is the times we live in. As I sit writing this, there is still fallout from the Iceland volcano eruption that halted air travel to and from Europe, a British Airways scheduled strike and riots in Athens. A trifecta that can ruin many a travel plan. In general, travel can be a disruptive process (just think, a traffic jam on the way to the airport can cause you to miss a flight). These are inconveniences for sure, but their mere existence is a coup for the travel agent community. You, as luxury travel advisors, need to take advantage of these types of scenarios and explain to potential clients the advantages you have over online bookings. When their British Airways flight to Paris gets cancelled due to weather, thereby ensuring a missed connection, who are they going to call? Orbitz? Travelocity? Good luck. But with one ring, you are on the line, ready to assist.
I have to admit something. I myself am guilty booking air online. I recently had to take a side trip to Geneva while in Europe. So, I went online to check flights and pricing. The flight schedules didn’t jive with me and the pricing seemed obscene. I repented for my sin by calling my travel advisor. Within minutes I had my flight booked and at a very good price. I learned something that day: online search engines are not 100 percent accurate. And, my travel advisor saved me time and money. I bet you the average consumer doesn’t realize that the Internet doesn’t always give the full picture. Make sure your client knows this.
Someone that knows a lot about travel is the Frosch family, the subject of this month’s cover story. I got to know Richard Leibman on a Silversea cruise and his daughter Lara (pictured with me above) while in Utah at the St. Regis Deer Creek. I was very impressed with their passion for travel and good business sense. This month’s story will give you insight on how to grow your business as they did.
Enjoy the bounce.