Pictured: I’m shown here in Melk, Austria, on a glorious August day. We were sailing on a river cruise and we happened to visit the town while they were having a festival. We experienced Austrian wines, a farmer’s market and smiling locals sitting in cafes and along storefronts enjoying the sunshine.
"I’m wondering if we have changed the consumer because we travel advisors have changed. We are becoming more confident…we are actually learning that the client does need and want our advice.”
Those inspiring words are from Tama Taylor Holve of Willett Travel, who took part in a round-table discussion while attending the Destination Hotels & Resorts advisory board meeting in October.
I would agree with Tama; nearly 10 years ago, just as we were getting ready to launch Luxury Travel Advisor, the general tone of the travel agent arena did seem a bit more tenuous. Times were different then and more challenging. But over those 10 years, the travel agent evolved into travel advisor. In 2014, everyone truly has the confidence to speak proudly of what they are and the magic they can make for their clients. That confidence is being passed on to the potential customer, either directly or subconsciously in the way you conduct yourselves.
Here are some other gleanings and pieces of advice for you from the roundtable, which appears on pages 34 through 37.
Enrich the experience and charge for it: Use the consumer’s desire for authentic travel as an opportunity to sell up. Position experiences on a menu of choices you share with them and be sure to paint a vivid picture of how they can enjoy a destination in an enriching manner beyond their hotel.
What’s Hot: Bhutan and Myanmar are red hot and the multigenerational boom continues to grow. Being savvy about booking further out to ensure they get what they want is a growing trend with consumers. Booking closer in remains a pattern for less costly ventures. Harried executives realizing they have an opening on their calendar just a few weeks off are still grabbing the chance to get away.
Read them the fine print: The affluent want to be flexible when they travel, so be sure to caution them up front that very customized arrangements will be costly to cancel at the last minute.
Show me the money: The consumer wants transparency in pricing from you, from DMCs and from the hotels they’re booking. How you will handle the demand for unbundling in 2014 will remain an interesting challenge.
Put a stamp on it: That stuff made out of paper delivered to your client’s home by the post office has become a novelty in this day of electronic communication. Travel promotions you send out with beautiful photos via snail mail will now stand out as something special.
A storefront speaks volumes: Switching back to a good old-fashioned brick-and-mortar agency can be worth its value because of the visibility it brings to the consumer walking down the street. They’ll know you really do exist. Keep up your visibility as well by attending community and civic events.
Devise a fam trip policy: Have a candid conversation with suppliers about inviting your advisors on fams. Do you want all invitations to go through you so you can decide who needs the education that will be garnered from the trip? Should fams be used as a reward for selling well or go to the advisor who has yet to learn about the hotel or destination? Formulate a policy you’re all comfortable with; it will alleviate a lot of angst for all of you in 2014.
Get in on the giveaways: Feeling peevish because your client planned ahead and booked early and is now paying a higher price than the customer who snagged a deal the week before traveling? Tell the hotels that are causing chaos in the marketplace that they should add benefits and amenities to close-in offers rather than slashing room rates. Ask them for a heads-up so you can give your clients the special deals or perhaps get them an upgrade.
Here’s to a great 2014! And while you’re reading this issue of Luxury Travel Advisor, please take the time to vote in our Awards of Excellence program; this is your chance to tell the world whom you feel represents the best in luxury travel.