|Awards of Excellence: I’m shown here on the right with Mark Kazlauskas of FROSCH and Gary Murphy of AmaWaterways, which took home “Top River Cruise Company” at the Awards of Excellence ceremony.|
We hosted the Luxury Travel Advisor Ultra Summit in March at the Park Hyatt Chicago where we gathered top luxury travel advisors and suppliers for two days of exchange, education and networking.
Here are some of our top findings, based on a survey of our advisor attendees and the content provided by hand-selected presenters:
Managing the growth of your very healthy business is a challenge. You’re filtering out clients who are not worth your time. Ultra advisors’ businesses grew by 10 percent last year and will grow by 20 percent over the next five years.
Clients are demanding transparency in pricing; they’re also comparing your rates filled with excellent value-adds to the rock-bottom, non-refundable pricing they see on OTA sites.
Tip: Be sure to involve them in the trip research process or they’ll feel cheated out of the most exciting part of the trip. Send them online to research a hotel if you feel they’re not staying long enough.
Recruiting new talent remains a necessity, especially as senior agents might want to retire or slow down. You’re incentivizing newbies with good benefits, flexible work hours, the promise of travel, and exposing them to the visionaries in the industry. Millennial advisors are turning out to be hardworking and willing to work 24/7 while they’re on the road.
Live client events are working well for you, especially as you host them in unique venues and find creative retail partners. “Bring a friend” invitations work extremely well in generating new business. Joining your clients together works. They are your best sales tools as they share with each other what they’ve experienced on past trips.
Where to Go: Italy remains the most popular destination for clients; Myanmar is a top emerging spot. Ultra advisors are bullish on domestic travel as new resorts open, dude ranches take it up a notch and, as seniors continue to travel but prefer to do so locally. Tauck and other suppliers are providing high-end domestic experiences.
Travel pricing will go up: Demand for travel is the highest it’s been since 2004; 16 million trips are taken a year and that number is growing. Eight out of 10 affluent consumers said they will take an international trip in the near future. As demand grows, rates will go up as suppliers get more buying power. They will have more leverage when negotiating rates for FITs.
We’re obsessed with Millennials, but many still travel on the cheap, and they are not loyal to brands. That may all change as they earn more money and seek the comfort of consistency. They want authenticity and do not want to feel like a tourist, ever.
Millennials are using travel advisors at a higher pro rata rate than any other group because they want to go to exotic locales and are less experienced travelers. The mature market matters the most; they have more money and time than any other group. There will be 1 billion of them by 2023.
Clients are curious about home-sharing models like Airbnb. Be prepared to discuss the pros and cons with them. You can get in this space by hiring a third party to provide housekeeping and other services typically supplied by a hotel. If you choose not to get involved, keep in mind that families with several children are seeing this as a very tempting solution to have a comfortable stay.