Editor's Letter: Facing the Future Wisely

At Luxury Travel Advisor’s Ultra Summit, we spoke a lot about the paradigm shifts that have occurred over the past few years. The cycles of your business have shifted and shifted again, your clients have changed, the world has changed and so have you.

And so what else was there to discuss but what lies ahead at Ultra? The confab, held at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in late July, pulled together a remarkable group of luxury travel advisors and suppliers for an intense few days, where much was accomplished.

We were fortunate to have several key advisors on a series of panels one afternoon. The mix of professionals comprised agency owners, managers, and independent contractors, whose voices are extremely important as luxury travel moves ahead. 

Tammy Levent, owner of Elite Travel Management, noted that over COVID, clients changed. And that’s not just emotionally; they simply got older and so did their kids. That means advisors ought to requalify all their clients, even if they’ve worked with them for years.

Requalification is a practice advisors should be implementing periodically, regardless of COVID. “If somebody traveled with you five years ago, that six-year-old is now a preteen and the 10-year-old is now a teenager, so the family’s lifestyle has changed,” said Levent. That ranges from the activities that need to be added to an itinerary to something as basic as reserving two rooms instead of one, or even better, upgrading those clients to a suite now that these bigger kids need more space.

Ruthanne Terrero
Ruthanne Terrero, VP/Head of Content, Questex Travel and Wellness Group, presents at Ultra 2022. (ULTRA Summit)

I also liked what Jamo Ladd, vice president of sales for Avenue Two Travel, said about putting the joy back in travel. COVID has made getting from point A to point B more challenging. The advisor who anticipates these challenges and removes them ahead of time, or at least manages the client’s expectations about what it’s now like to travel through an airport or visit a hotel that might not be fully staffed can now be a real hero. “What we learned is to really listen, react and try to minimize the risk of an obstacle that’s going to get in the way of everyone enjoying travel once again,” said Ladd.

Advisors have certainly looked inward since COVID and realized they don’t want to endure some of the pain from that era ever again.

Bella Travel Planning’s Becky Lukovic’s desire to maintain a healthy life balance led her to automate certain aspects of the new client onboarding process, such as sending a secure link where they can store their credit card numbers, passport information and loyalty points.

As an independent contractor, Lukovic says this actually makes her look more professional. Additionally, once an IC has more life balance, they’ll make more money. This means investing in hiring an administrative assistant to help with the details that weigh you down the most. That might be daunting at first, but Lukovic insists it will help in the long run.

June Kleier, an IC with Protravel, suffered financially through COVID as did many advisors, for obvious reasons. However, she hired an assistant, a retired American Express advisor who is a Sabre expert, who has freed Kleier up to work more closely with clients. Kleier can also get out of the office more and attend events like Ultra.

Have you emerged from the pandemic wildly busy, trying to keep up with clients who can’t wait to travel on multiple vacations? How is your life balance? You still have time to reset what your business looks like, and more importantly, your personal life. 

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