|Sailing the Caribbean: I’m shown here on the Seabourn Quest in December where the service, the vessel and the weather were all stunning; watch for my report in a future issue.|
1. “Our friends went on a river cruise.” This comment I heard from an affluent couple comprises not one but two of the latest trends in luxury travel. The concept of river cruising has gone viral. If your client hasn’t yet taken one, their neighbors have. The sector has a mystique to those who haven’t gone yet. It has a broad appeal as well, since they’re hearing how easy it is to get off and on the vessels and be in the middle of a charming European village, all within minutes. In 2013, be at the ready to know all of the river cruise lines and how to qualify your clients for each. This year, there are two more notable veteran players making aggressive moves in the U.S. market: A-Rosa and Amadeus. Then there’s the longingly uttered “Our friends went…” trend. To the affluent, a worse-case scenario is standing around at the country club nodding silently in a conversation because they haven’t got a clue about the latest destinations being discussed. It’s your job to keep them apprised of what’s available and whether or not you think they will like it.
2. We love far-flung places but closer is better: It’s my hunch that the desire to travel to the furthest ends of the earth will certainly continue but that, thanks to recent disasters in the news, people will also begin to relearn that it’s not so bad to be a quick plane ride away. Pitch non-stop flights to destinations that are three or four hours in length. Learn all about the luxury scene in each of those, that means hotels, dining, zip-lining, walking tours and catamaran rides.
3. Puerto Rico is your newest luxury locale to sell. We recently flew to San Juan from New York’s JFK and marveled at how quickly we got there and how easy it was to be dining in the city’s old town in the blink of an eye. Puerto Rico has spruced itself up; existing hotels have become exciting again and new luxury is keeping everyone on their toes, including Ritz-Carlton’s Reserve, the W Vieques and The St. Regis Bahia Resort. There’s much more to come so start instilling a visit to this place in clients’ minds now.
4. Reversing the multi-gen travel trend: Grandparents love their grandkids but don’t under- estimate their desire to travel without junior. If you take a luxury cruise these days you’ll see plenty of older affluent couples laughing up with others of their ilk (sometimes in the hot tub with a drink in their hand, no less) without a hint of remorse at traveling solo. Do indeed suggest family reunions to your clients but keep pitching them independent, exciting trips, and several throughout the year, to keep them in your fold. Many of them have money to burn, why not help them do it?
5. How’s your sister doing? While I was waiting for the train this morning, I heard one commuter ask this of another. Apparently the sister was suddenly single and the question was meant to determine how she was surviving divorced life. “She’s very busy,” was the answer. “She’s gone on Facebook and found all her high school friends from 35 years ago and they’re all traveling together on trips now.” Bingo. Did somebody say goldmine? Dig into this market (find them on your own Facebook page or go to Starbucks to stake out older people at the barista bar logging on to Match.com). When you do find them, impress them with your knowledge of the latest luxury travel trends, such as small exotic ship cruising and VIP trips to Morocco, Montenegro and Croatia. If they don’t respond to those, bring up Italy, that’s always a good ice breaker.
Here’s to a great 2013!