If you had a crystal ball and could look into the future, what would you see? What will our business look like down the road? I have been asking that question to a lot of luxury travel advisors lately. The answer is that no one has a clue and, frankly, I find that a bit scary.
Another question I ask is, “How’s business?” The responses I get to that question are very mixed, but I have to say that I have discovered something fairly amazing in that process. Those advisors who are seeing soft bookings are the traditional agencies that haven’t adapted to the new way of doing business.
What is the new way of doing business, you ask? I will get to that. The question is, are you a catcher or a pitcher? Is business coming to you or are you going out to get it? Historically, we’ve found that business is good when the S&P 500 is on the rise and household incomes are growing. But in today’s up-and-down markets, some people are making money while others are barely holding on. While five years ago, in a boom market, nearly everyone, particularly on Wall Street, was doing well, today it’s a mixed bag and you have to go that extra mile to find a person that has disposable income to spend on travel.
Back to the new business strategy: The cruise business spends a lot of time focusing on first-time cruisers because inventory is growing and new ships can’t be filled simply with repeat clientele. Travel advisors need to have the same strategy. The average U.S. consumer using a travel advisor is aged 50-plus and the travel advisor is 50-plus as well. That’s both an opportunity and a challenge. I was recently at an event where one agency owner was begging me to help her find new blood for her travel agency. She knows she needs to find new advisors and is on a mission to transform her agency. She gets it. You all need to get it as well.
Pictured here with me are Valerie Wilson and Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg of Valerie Wilson Travel, at a Make-a-Wish Wine Tasting that the agency sponsored to raise awareness among consumers who are currently not using a travel advisor. They get it, and are well on their way to that new model.
This June, Luxury Travel Advisor’s Ultra Luxury Travel Exchange will bring the industry’s brightest minds together at one venue to draw on that new way of doing business and to create a clear vision for the future of luxury travel. Stay tuned.