Embrace Your Younger Customers


Joel Freyberg, Ruthanne Terrero and Paul James

I’ve worked for years in Manhattan, but I have to admit, I don’t see as much of it as I’d like to because I’m always in a hurry to get somewhere. For this reason, I’ve begun walking to my destinations more frequently. Besides being great exercise, it allows me to see more than just the ATM and the inside of Penn Station, which are my typical New York City haunts.

This new habit brought me over to Park Avenue the other evening where there’s an Audi showroom with floor-to-ceiling windows that put the brand-new cars in full view.

Inside, two young men (older boys, really) in baseball caps were grinning wildly at a white convertible, which, I believe, was the new Audi R8 Spyder. It was so sporty that it looked as if it could burst out of the showroom and race down Park Avenue all on its own.

Alongside the two boys were two salesmen who seemed to be equally enamored of this beautiful car, waving their arms around as they pointed to it, most likely extolling its sexy features.

It was a very cute scenario and I decided that the casually dressed kids had probably been staring at the car from outside and that the salesmen had invited them in for a closer look. While that was likely done out of kindness, it was also incredibly smart to embrace these potential customers. After all, these two young men were on the cusp of becoming  grownups with jobs and I have no doubt that  they’ll be Audi customers for life, based on the fact that they were treated so hospitably and with respect by Audi management. Who knows? They could very well win the lottery tomorrow and purchase a Spyder for each member of their family. Or, maybe, they already have rich parents who will buy a car for them when they graduate college. At the very least, they may end up working for Audi because they like the culture the company promotes.

It’s equally important for luxury travel advisors to embrace customers who may not fit the typical profile of the mature, affluent client. Time is passing so quickly these days, your clients’ high school children will be out of college before you know it. Those who are already in college will be out in the big world in a summer or two. What are you doing to foster their belief in the travel advisor community?

A recent survey by TheKnot.com indicated that Millennials, as these young people are called, don’t use travel advisors. You know the drill: They like to do things themselves because they’re so darn web savvy.

I think that’s only half the reason. The other half is that they don’t know about you. They haven’t grown up in a world where there are at least two travel agencies on their Main Street. Since you’ve gone online, you no longer have a physical presence that screams, “I’m your local travel agent; I can book your dream trip right now!”

So I advise that you take the time to recognize the younger members in your clients’ families. Don’t just send them a birthday card (Hint: you can copy the date off their passport), write them a thoughtful note that recognizes their interests. If you have a younger advisor in your office, have them send an email to gauge what they want to do on their next family vacation.

Engage them so that when the time comes for them to book their own travel, you’ll be front of mind.

By the way, I was walking past the Audi showroom on my way to The Chatwal Hotel. I had been invited to a soiree to celebrate the hotel's joining Starwood’s Luxury Collection (that’s me with Chatwal GM Joel Freyberg on the left and Paul James, global brand leader for St. Regis Hotels & Resorts and The Luxury Collection). If you haven’t been to The Chatwal, you must visit it the next time you’re in New York. It’s right on 44th Street near the theater district, so you can go in and grab a cocktail at the lobby bar, or at the lively, elegant bar upstairs. Be sure to check it out. In the meantime, for photos of the event, go to page 90.

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