|Ruthanne Terrero of Luxury Travel Advisor; Christine Kennedy, Valerie Wilson Travel; Dee Branciforte, Fischer Travel; Linda Tatten, Travels by Tatten; Gary Stevens, Leaders in Travel; Jack Bloch, JB’s World Travel; Robin Fox, Pisa Brothers; Greg DeClemente, Courtyard Travel; Michael Holtz, Smart Flyer; and Michael Gigl, Austrian Tourist Office.|
The Austrian Tourist Office and Luxury Travel Advisor hosted a luxury roundtable at the Austria Pop-Up store in downtown Manhattan in October. The roundtable consisted of elite members of the travel agent community, who shared their insights on the luxury travel trends of today and how those relate to travel to Austria.
The roundtable participants included Ruthanne Terrero, VP/editorial director of Luxury Travel Advisor as the moderator; Michael Holtz, Smart Flyer; Greg DeClemente, Courtyard Travel; Robin Fox, Pisa Brothers; Jack Bloch, JB’s World Travel; Gary Stevens, Leaders in Travel; Dee Branciforte, Fischer Travel; Christine Kennedy, Valerie Wilson Travel; Linda Tatten, Travels by Tatten; and Michael Gigl, Austrian Tourist Office.
Ruthanne Terrero: What are the current general consumer travel trends? Are the consumers still looking for value or are they willing to spend?
Michael Holtz, Smart Flyer: People are traveling and spending money, but everyone wants the best deal. They have no problem spending $100,000, but they won’t spend $100 if they can get the same service for $80 or $90, understandably. We feel it is our job to help them navigate the maze and give them the best for a reasonable price. The emphasis is on the best, not on the price. People are spending more money now because they realize that you can’t take it with you, so they want to enjoy themselves.
|Discussing Luxury: Ruthanne Terrero; Christine Kennedy, Valerie Wilson Travel; Dee Branciforte, Fischer Travel; Linda Tatten, Travels by Tatten|
Greg DeClemente, Courtyard Travel: We see the same types of trends. I think most of us on this panel are fortunate that our focus is on the upper end of the market. These clients are traveling, they have money, and they are traveling extensively.
Robin Fox, Pisa Brothers: Unlike the last couple of years, I’m finding that my clients are booking further out and they are booking much more exotic destinations. They want to work with someone who is very knowledgeable—someone who has very good contacts. Money is not really an issue, but they want to make sure they are getting the most for their money. I haven’t seen people spending like this in a while, and they are going for longer periods of time.
Jack Bloch, JB’s World Travel: We are dealing with the crème de la crème. Even during 2008 and 2009, the economic situation wasn’t really felt. Our clients didn’t compromise on places. They still wanted the best. Three years ago, it was called ‘stealth wealth.’ Now they aren’t even concerned about that. They are openly spending and traveling and showing off.
|On The Merits of Austria: Gary Stevens, Leaders in Travel; Jack Bloch, JB’s World Travel; Robin Fox, Pisa Brothers; Greg DeClemente, Courtyard Travel; Michael Holtz, Smart Flyer; and Michael Gigl, Austrian Tourist Office|
Gary Stevens, Leaders in Travel: People want experiential trips. Our clients are taking extraordinary vacations and we are mapping them out from soup to nuts. These include private excursions, spa treatments, private tours, and these are for every age. The experience of the individual whim and what a client is looking for emotionally is what we are selling right now. It’s not about price; it’s about the trip.
Dee Branciforte, Fischer Travel: It’s all about the immersion. When our clients visit a country, they want to make sure they are getting everything they can out of it, especially when traveling with their families. They want to make sure their children are learning. Most of our clients have incredibly bright children who are exposed to everything, so it is paramount that we get the right guide/educator who will be with the family throughout. In terms of the current trends, our clients are still traveling and they like their luxuries. Many clients say that travel is their life. This is what they do as a unit together and these are the experiences they want to cherish forever. They aren’t going to skimp on that.
Christine Kennedy, Valerie Wilson Travel: One of the trends I see is that people are coming to me much more informed. They have been on the Internet. They have decided where they want to go. They know how many days they will be gone for, and they have a budget. I’m the general contractor and put together the pieces to make sure everything is in place, from insurance to guides, etc. I take all of those pieces and make them gel into the perfect vision they have.
Ruthanne Terrero: What are some of your perceptions of travel to Austria?
Linda Tatten, Travels by Tatten: I think Vienna is a wonderful destination for women travelers, especially during Christmas time because of the Christmas markets. Vienna is such a walkable city. It’s comfortable to get around and it is a safe city. There is shopping, great food and beautiful hotels—all things that appeal to women. It has an elegance to it that is very comfortable and it’s very easy to get around.
Michael Gigl, Austrian Tourist Office: Austria is also a prime destination for family travel, which the American market may not know. Within Europe, we are primarily a family destination, so we have everything in place. In the American market, family travel has not come up that much with respect to Austria so we haven’t focused on that market much, but we have a fantastic number of things available.
Dee Branciforte, Fischer Travel: Bill Fischer [of Fischer Travel] was in Vienna over the summer. He was so impressed with everything that it has to offer. The shopping is amazing, as is the culture, history and art. He said that the restaurants were fabulous and could rival any other major city. We started to think about why we don’t always consider Vienna to be the type of city that clients can visit over and over again. It’s something to think about. Hotel Sacher, he said, is by far one of the best hotels he has stayed at in a long time. This is what the clients are looking for.
Gary Stevens, Leaders in Travel: I haven’t considered Austria as a culinary destination, and perhaps that’s more an indication that the Austrian Tourist Office needs to provide us with more information so we can create an allure of that sense of taste.
Michael Gigl, Austrian Tourist Office: Within Europe, Austria is probably one of the top culinary destinations. Very few people know that the organic farm movement came out of Austria in the 1920s. Also, Vienna is one of the only major European capitals with serious wine production. If you are in Vienna, you just need to travel half an hour to be in a vineyard drinking fantastic wine. We are a destination that has literally been there forever, almost 1,000 years, and the biggest challenge is making it known.
Greg DeClemente, Courtyard Travel: I paint a picture to my clients of the corridor from Prague to Vienna to Budapest. I talk about Bohemia, the Hapsburgs and the Old World. The drive from Prague to Vienna is about three hours, and from Vienna to Budapest it's at most two hours. Painting a picture like this makes them realize that this is a corner of the world they would like to see.
Robin Fox, Pisa Brothers: It’s about the scene. What’s the scene? That’s what attracts first-timers, along with nouvelle cuisine, design hotels and art galleries. I think for me, the logical sell would be a Prague-Vienna-Budapest itinerary. I can’t remember ever getting a phone call when someone asked for 10 days in Austria, so a trip like that would be a good introduction. Once they experience the destination, they will want to go back and see more.
Jack Bloch, JB’s World Travel: Vienna is the easiest connection from any airport, time wise. You can get to the airport from Hotel Sacher in less than 25 minutes and check in in under 20 minutes because security and check-in is at the gate. That is a big advantage.
Michael Holtz, Smart Flyer: The same way that the airlines drive tourism, so do the hotels. Vienna has gotten some amazing hotels. These are going to drive clients there who didn’t want to stay there 10 years ago because they didn’t want to move out of a four-star range.
Jack Bloch, JB’s World Travel: I think Austria has developed into more of a modern age. It used to be held back. The perception was that it was old and traditional. Now, it has high-end hotels and restaurants that are upscale and modern. It has come into its own.
|A New York Soiree: After the roundtable, the Austrian Tourist Office hosted a reception for New York area travel advisors at its Pop-Up store. Guests were treated to a presentation, some mingling and some Austrian delights in a cafe environment.|