Today I heard the ultimate: A meeting planner for a financial services company is unable to book any property with the words “resort,” “spa” or “casino” in its name, for fear of public backlash. I also heard the tale of an investment firm in the UK purposely booking a meeting at a dreary, two-star hotel in an obscure town outside of London to assuage the same concern.
Are we all going mad? Will we remember this time as one of the most bizarre in our professional lives, or is this the way things will stay forever? I think we all agree that this luxury paranoia has gone on long enough. But it’s not going to end as long as the paparazzi are as keen on capturing footage of the CEO of a bailed-out car manufacturer taking a private jet excursion as they are on chasing Britney Spears down the 405. It’s all their fault, really.
By the way, I’m pictured above with the Premier & Minister of Tourism & Transport of Bermuda Dr. the Hon. Ewart Brown. Bermuda is a destination that has shown a renewed interest in the travel advisor community; it recently hosted a trade show and cocktail reception here in Manhattan. Brown cited statistics indicating that while consumers are spending hours online researching their vacations, they’re still turning to consultants to actually book them. “Those experts are you,” he told the travel advisors in attendance. Brown was also quite candid about the drop in the meetings business that Bermuda (and other destinations perceived as luxurious) has suffered.
“The current psyche makes meetings look like junkets,” he remarked. What Bermuda is counting on is the island’s convenient proximity to cities such as New York, which is just a two-hour flight away. In some cases, he joked, that’s less time than it takes to drive to the Hamptons.
Brown asserts that destinations that can provide a luxury experience without a dauntingly long flight will be well-positioned in the coming months. For the first time in years, many destinations are forecasting low occupancy for the usually busy summer season. Right now, my guess is that consumers, although tremulous about their job situations, will not give up their family vacations, but they will book much closer to their departure time. That’s not such great news for the hotels, or for you, as a luxury travel advisor, but it also means that there is still a lot of business out there to be booked for June, July and August. Pay attention to the great value-added deals in the marketplace; yet don’t forget to be loyal to those tried-and-true suppliers who have vowed to work closely with you in this challenging economy.
If your clients haven’t called you yet to book their annual vacation, don’t be afraid to get in touch with them and ask what the heck they’re up to! It’s summer for goodness sake! Insist they give themselves a well-deserved break with their loved ones.