I can’t think of a better group of advisors to tell us what the future of luxury travel will look like than the ones we gathered for our roundtable discussion. Falling under the Tzell, Protravel, In the Know, Andrew Harper and Altour umbrellas, these experts have been staying in front of their clients for the past eight months, conversing with them about future international travel, booking them into amazing domestic experiences for 2020 and quietly gauging what the future of luxury will look like when we come out of the pandemic.
Richard Engle of Protravel has been outright asking his clients how they feel about traveling now. If they’re not ready, he’s leaving them alone and focusing on those who are ready to take the leap. A key piece of advice he provided was to ensure that everyone in your client’s party is ready and willing to travel now before doing hours and hours of research. After all, the person you’re speaking to might be completely fine with the idea of spending a few weeks away from home, but their lovely, lovely plans might get instantly shot down when they bring it up at home. Also, if your client’s immune system, or their spouse’s, is at all compromised, that needs to be brought up in initial conversations before a complicated itinerary is put in place.
Richard is confident that luxury travel advisor business will be enhanced by this crisis because consumers have learned they really can’t go it alone anymore. If they want a safe, private and authentic experience (that’s a big demand), advisors are the only ones who can provide that.
“We’re the ones with the DMCs and the local places that have the in-house experiences with chefs that nobody’s going to be able to Google or read about on a Michelin list. I see this as an opportunity for luxury travel as we move through this and as we get past it, I see it burgeoning and getting bigger,” he says.
Martin Gould of Tzell Travel has been living abroad for the past few months and sharing his experiences with his clients. While they’re not ready to go just yet, they’re likely enchanted by the idea of doing a deep dive into the Cotswolds or the rest of Great Britain once borders open up and their confidence in traveling returns. He’s confident that when they do start planning again, they’ll spend more because they’ve felt deprived in 2020 and they won’t know if there will be yet another travel stoppage in the future. “I think the luxury travel market is going to really kind of explode,” he says.
Joe Colucci of Andrew Harper Travel says that his clients are ready to go now; they’re sick of being at home. The current travel landscape is more challenging than ever as I write this in late November, but we all know that things are changing quickly in this new COVID world. A key takeaway from Joe is that those who are willing to travel are doing so because they know when travel opens up again fully, it will be more challenging for them to get the top suites at the best hotels and to see destinations without the crowds.
Katie Cherico of In the Know Experiences has a specific plan for 2021. For every international trip she is planning, she has a domestic travel backup so the client isn’t caught short if COVID prevents them from traveling over certain borders. Another key takeaway from Katie? Align yourself with real estate agents in the United States who can help you find great private homes for your clients who just want to get away. There was a rush to find villas and private homes throughout the United States this past summer when clients realized they couldn’t venture too far away and realtors know where all the best places are.
My tip? Your clients might very well be keen to do another domestic getaway next year and beyond, so keep this strategy as a key tool in your toolbox. Are there other non-traditional alliances you can form? How about that private jet operator who can get your clients where they want to go, when they want to go? Is there something you can provide to them in return? Pick up the phone and have the conversation.
Katie is also finding that her Millennial clients, who have always been intent on visiting places they see on Instagram so that they can snap the same photo in that amazing destination, are a bit shy about promoting on social media that they are traveling now. Instead, they’re asking Katie more about the experiences they will have when they travel.
In my mind, it seems for many the bar isn’t set awfully high for new experiences at the moment, as most of us honestly just want to get out of the boundaries that have kept us bored and at home in 2020. Let’s see how this evolves in 2021; Millennials are always setting new trends.
A key takeaway from all of the advisors was that clients must decide when they’re comfortable traveling, there’s no use in encouraging them if they are not ready. “Letting the client take the lead on what they want to do without pushing, that’s huge,” said Joyce Horowitz of Altour. “Then they have more confidence that you are really looking out for them and that’s very important.”