At Travel Industry Exchange in December, travel advisors and suppliers gathered at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront for three days of meetings, networking and education. Certification tracts included luxury, romance, cruise and family travel. The next Travel Industry Exchange will take place October 12-14, 2017 at the Sheraton New Orleans. It will be a fully hosted buyer event with 100 suppliers and 100 agents meeting on a one-to-one basis. Conference programming will focus on destination specialization.
In San Diego, a panel on “Managing Your Mindset: Am I Worthy of Selling Luxury?” focused on the needs of new advisors and those just entering the luxury sector. Speakers were Jill Romano, Dimensions in Travel; Robert Romano, Fugazi Travel and Myste Wylde of Protravel International in Beverly Hills.
“Managing Your Mindset” speakers were Myste Wylde of Protravel International in Beverly Hills; Robert Romano, Fugazi Travel and Jill Romano, Dimensions in Travel.
Wright of Protravel has only been in the business for two years but has hit the ground running with a set plan on how to advance her career. “I actually create homework for myself, whether it’s reading X amount of blog posts a week, or checking out a new restaurant or hotel opening in town,” she told us. “As advisors, we have a lot of tools available to us to get really familiar with and comfortable with the products. There are also all kinds of webinars, online training modules and extensive education platform available.”
Wright recommended first identifying what you want to hone in on, and then doing the research and investing the time to really get to know and understand what you’re selling.
We asked Bob Romano of Fugazi Travel what he would say to someone who is having qualms about breaking into the luxury market, who just doesn’t feel they have the confidence to work with an affluent clientele.
“Selling Up: Beyond the Cruise and the Hotel to Next-Level Planning” panelists were Hope Smith, Born to Travel; Anastasia Mann, Corniche Travel; Melissa Porzak, Protravel International and Andrea Ross, Journeys Within.
“I think a good way to go about it would be to pick a local charity, for example, that has a lot of potentially high-end people who take luxury travel trips,” he told us. “You might volunteer with them and develop good working relationships with other members, and in the course of becoming their friend, they’ll learn what you do and they will start to like and trust you and want to work with you.”
He also advised thinking locally. “Perhaps you have a beautiful fashion boutique where you live, or a department store, or a Jaguar or Ferrari dealer near you and perhaps one of your relatives or friends works there. Consider any good relationship you have that exposes you to people who are likely to want to do luxury travel. You’ll have access to a very fertile ground of customers.
Jill Romano of Dimensions in Travel specializes in FITs and has been an advisor for 29 years. She noted that it could be quite daunting as a newcomer to the business to have a client requesting a high-end, complex trip. Where to begin?
Presenting the “Luxury Niche Overview” were Ken Neibaur of Worldview Travel and David Rubin of DavidTravel.
“This is the time you have to be not a good listener, but a great listener,” she said. “You need to really listen to what is important to them in this trip and not get caught up in ‘Oh my gosh, that hotel is $1,200 a night. Where do I go with that?’ Ask some questions about why they chose that hotel and ask them questions that will lead into what they’re hoping to get out of the trip. Because, honestly, we all want people to listen to us. You want to come away with an understanding that, ‘Wow they really heard me.’”
Another tip? “Be confident in your opinion. That’s difficult, especially if it’s a destination that you don’t know, but they want to speak to someone who is confident. They want to speak to someone they feel is listening to them, they’re learning to trust you, and that goes a long way.”
“Expanding Your Luxury Business” speakers were Gena Gunter of Eyes on U Travel and Don Jones of Cadence.
Bob Romano concurred, “Be self-confident — not a show off, but self-confident. Focus on what makes you all special. Let your natural personality come through and while you are speaking with the person, look for things you have in common.”
Wright from Protravel agreed that looking for that common connection really helps when you’re dealing with new clients.
“We’re all human beings, so it’s about being able to identify and relate to people. I really don’t think it’s about a dollar amount,” she said.
When determining what you want your business persona to be, she suggested identifying things that are important to you. “Whether it’s integrity and purpose, or response time, just fill in the blank. You can identify the things that you want your business to be about,” she added.
Jill Taylor of Jet Set World Travel visited with Hope Smith of Born to Travel and Andrea Ross of Journeys Within during a luxury tract panel.
Set a specific tone for yourself when launching your luxury business, even if you’re working from home. “It can be as simple as getting up in the morning and getting dressed and putting on all the perfume, or making sure your hair is brushed. Just do things to invest in yourself and that make you feel like you’re ready to take on the day and take on the world.”
Use that same mindset to develop your brand and your image online, Wright advised. “You’re creating a tone; you’re setting up how the world views you. You can apply that same framework to everything you do, whether it’s in person or online or in the tone of your e-mails and which signature you use. Every little piece counts.”