Tapping a New Affluent Sector

Priscilla Alexander(Edit Only)
There is a special niche of travel customers that may be there just for the picking if —and this is a big “if” —you know who they are, how to reach them and what you must do to present yourself as pivotal to their travel planning arrangements. It’s entirely possible one may already be in your "stable" but not recognized by you as a true thoroughbred. Let 2017 be the year you take some bold steps and preempt all the clever marketeers who go directly to this sector of the high-end market and be the first to offer and educate them about some of the fantastic journeys these days. I am not the only one intrigued by this subset or to tag it properly, “super set,” which stands apart and above the usual trappings of that which constitutes mainstream luxury.
By using smart data, luxury sellers are embracing the idea of joining forces to create unique high-end individual or small group (forgive the word) products on private jets or vessels. Highly imaginative trips, often exotic, certainly exclusive and yes, pricey are being direct marketed to your best customers. These companies are perfectly positioned and capable of taking ownership of the bookings.  After all, they identified the audience. They developed the product and they are running the trip. So where does that leave the agent? Totally forgotten unless you  step up and step in. Be the first to take these great products and promote them with knowledge and confidence. Don't assume your customer does not fit the profile of the one percent.

Who are They?

Let me describe who these folks are. I base my comments on personal observation from my own extensive travel in the past few years loosely categorized as carefully curated trips of distinction, known as FIT's while others had prearranged departures. I have also managed to squeeze in some trips through fascinating waterways and open seas more for where the vessels were taking me to than the experience of a cruise.  While now a traveler more than a seller of travel, I have never lost my curiosity to understand why some people devote so much time and resources to visit and explore the world sometimes accompanied by family or friends but more often strictly for themselves.  It is these people who make up that special group that I am focusing on.

Here's a thumbnail sketch. They are on the younger side of baby boomers, married with college age or older children (second marriages often account for the preteens). There are now grandchildren entering some households.  They have multiple residences with the primary ones in cities throughout the country enjoying secondary or even third properties in highly upscale locations known for seasonal sports and comfortable living. No complaining from these folks about travel as they freely move from one abode to another. Many had the opportunity to "retire" well before traditional retirement age as a result of acquisitions or major events that brought large financial remuneration. To that extent they are self-made, high-net-worth individuals.

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Retired? Not in the classic sense since their financial and business connections are ongoing. Nevertheless they are not tied down to a desk or a schedule that interferes with how they plan their primary loves of active living and expansive travel. Make no mistake.  They are neither the bragging nouveau riche nor the dilettantish idle rich.  They are highly intelligent, formally educated, physically active and socially engaged ready to experience all that life offers.  Experiences take the place of relaxation.  These folks have the drive, the means and the time to satisfy this goal.  

Did They Use a Travel Agent?

When meeting travelers I usually get around to asking at the appropriate moment how they knew about this trip and who arranged it. It seems that no more than 50 percent use a traditional travel agent. Those that do are highly complimentary. However, I am more intrigued to learn about the other 50 percent.  Some do at times use an agent looking to them for the "simple things." For real travel they go to the source. Those companies offering spectacularly expensive private jet tours or super deluxe FITs or cruise companies, particularly extensive expedition journeys get a remarkable number of consumer direct bookings. Some have voiced the opinion that agents they know do not even know about this level of travel. Agents who do not have a profile on their customers not only based on what has been sold but the buying potential of the customer may be walking away from a golden opportunity.

Potential is the operative word.  Use that knowledge to be a bold marketeer showing customers the depth of your understanding. After all customers do not call you to let you know what they did not book with you.

But They're Not Easy

It is easy for us to agree on the value of having customers such as I described.  Let's look at the downside. These folks are highly informed and engaged citizens of the world. They do copious research on destinations and enjoy being deeply involved in every aspect of their trips. It has been said that there are active travelers who have as much passion for the planning of a trip as the actual travel itself. They read and research what they wish to see and who will be guiding them, including the qualifications of these people. They are first-class travelers on aircrafts and five-star dwellers, but ready to adapt to rugged conditions when necessary. They are forgiving when arrangements run afoul because of weather or local traditions but totally unforgiving if the quality of what they expected to see or visit was not properly orchestrated. All of this puts a heavy burden on an agent. They must know destinations well beyond what was acceptable in the past. It is not enough to just be proactive, sending out emails or brochures about an intriguing journey. It takes a highly educated agent about destinations involved with its logistical considerations to capture these super travelers.

Another time I would love to indulge myself and tell you about some of my recent fabulous trips I have had the good fortune to experience.  For now I suggest you get moving and search your files for these new emerging travelers ready to take the most interesting long journeys to the furthest corners of the world unencumbered by time restrictions or costs.  Then educate yourself thoroughly because you are going to be tested as never before. Success is sure to result in an A++ in your pocketbook.

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