I have the privilege of getting to know some of the best luxury travel advisors in the business very well. The cover features we write require that we spend hours communicating with them, in person, by phone, by e-mail and then following up to ask more questions as we round out their profiles.
Here are some of the traits I’ve picked up from our recent cover stars, including Leslie Tillem of Tzell Travel Group, who is featured in this month’s issue. Can you recognize yourself in any of these top tips?
Be Outgoing: You might be great at the trip details but if you’re not brave enough to start a conversation with a stranger that might lead to the fact that you’re a great travel advisor, you should push yourself more. Being a luxury travel advisor means you’re in sales. Train yourself on the basics of being the perfect pitch person and put them to work next time you’re in the midst of humans you’ve just met.
Sorry, You’re Wrong: The really good advisors I know understand how to speak to their clients and that means putting them back on track if they come up with a really bad idea. Perhaps they’re insisting on going mountain hiking the morning they land in Austria (a few hours of rest might be a better idea) or maybe they’re hell bent on going to an exotic locale during monsoon season because the prices are lower. You’ve got to be polite and firm in this situation and that means saying, “No, I don’t think you should do that.”
The Voice of Calm: You can’t control world conflicts, travel disruptions and the spread of the influenza. If your client’s trip is marred by something extraneous, you need to remain the voice of reason by assuring them you’re doing everything to fix the problem. Keeping them in a happy place will give you plenty of room to do what you need to do, whether it’s calling in favors with suppliers, finding a hotel to house them overnight in a strange city or getting them home super quick because they’re under the weather or facing a crisis at home.
Respect Their Decision: Leslie Tillem says it’s not her job to change a client’s mind on where to go; instead, she tries to enhance their experience by suggesting amenities, side trips and luxury touches that will turn their “wish list” trip into the vacation of a lifetime. Thanks to social media, a client’s mind might easily be made up by the time they get to you; just be sure you’re asking them why they want to go on this particular journey so you can help manage their expectations.
Live the Trip: After you’ve built an amazing itinerary, read through it as if you and your family will personally experience it. Have you included so many unique authentic experiences that by day three, half the family will be in tears from jetlag and the other half will be trying to kill each other? Itineraries should have a rhythm, a cadence with highs and lows. If you haven’t allowed space for your clients to regroup and rest after a long journey, everything you’ve planned out for them will be in vain if they’re exhausted and cranky.
Behold the Private Transfer: A private car and driver is rarely cheap; however, it’s priceless when your client gets off the plane in a sea of strangers and has to fight their way to the baggage carousel when they’re half asleep following their wedding day and then a 12-hour airplane ride. Imagine how they’ll feel when they see their name on a placard just outside their airline gate as they disembark, leaving everyone else far behind. Insist on the private transfer and paint the picture for them of what it would be like to instead get on a taxi cab line that’s two miles long in the middle of the night.