I was fortunate to have a great conversation with Jack Ezon of Embark a few weeks ago. He is seeing a change in the way his affluent clients are spending; some are pushing back on pricing for travel that they feel is escalating beyond what’s being reasonable. They may pay millions for an amazing celebration vacation, but then question a $2,500 rate for a standard hotel room.
“The talk with our clients is shifting from what I call conspicuous consumption to conscious consumption,” Jack told me. “Conscious consumption means I’m okay to spend, but I want to spend it smartly, and I want it to be purposeful. I want it to reflect what’s important to my life and to have meaning.” For this reason, he says it’s important to speak holistically to your clients; not just about travel but where they are in their lives as a whole.
You can assume many of your clients are suffering from feeling disconnected because we’re now able to accomplish so much through texting and e-mail. Alarms go off in our minds when human interaction is required to get something done because humans take up time that we perceive we do not have. Yet, when we stop to have a conversation that doesn’t have an agenda attached to it we feel so buoyed emotionally, it’s almost a high — perhaps it was a good laugh over something simple or we got advice on something we’ve been toiling with internally. Happenstance communication is a rare but valuable experience these days and the travel advisor who enables their clients to feel connected on their vacations will be valued as a hero for years to come. Do it by simply writing in several hours of down time on a packed itinerary for a family traveling through Europe; that golden chance to hang out in their fantastic hotel suite to laugh and reflect on their journey so far might be what they end up treasuring most about the trip.
Being more thoughtful about a client’s passions when planning activities also provides value. A culinary buff might get a kick out of following a chef to the farmer’s market one morning but a private cooking lesson where they can really interact with a human expert is priceless.
The New Consumer
Associate editor Matt Turner conducted a roundtable at Signature Travel Network’s annual conference in December. The focus was on adventure and experiential travel and the suppliers and advisors who attended provided plenty of new insights into the consumer mindset. Ignacio Maza of Signature noted that clients are now willing to take an extremely long flight for a relatively short trip, “But then whatever happens in the destination has to be extraordinary,” he cautions. He notes that in the era of vegetarian and gluten-free eating, customers are not willing to compromise on their diets when they travel, and, in fact, expect to find such options readily available.
One last tip? Manage your client’s expectations when they’re embarking on a particular adventure. Karimah Dossa of Hill Barrett Travel warns how important it is to tell clients going on a pre-dawn visit to the fish market in Mumbai that they’re going to get jostled around by the crowds, but that it’s still going to be incredible. “That might not be something you associate with a luxury experience, but it’s an urban adventure,” she says. Simple enough, but by forewarning her client, Dossa is making what could be a really annoying experience into one that is exhilarating and memorable.
And that all comes back to the human connection. The sage words of a luxury travel advisor have incredible value, so be sure you’re providing it as frequently as possible. Moreover, be sure the client knows how fortunate they are to have you on their side and reinforce that fact as often as you can.