Celestielle Travel Claims To Be ‘The Best-Traveled Agency In The World’

by Harvey Chipkin

Celestielle Travel's YouTube page.

In an ideal world, travel agents would only propose destinations and products they have personally experienced.  

Douglas Easton and his partner John Ziegler of Celestielle Travel in the Hollywood Hills claim to satisfy that ideal—and they are on the road about nine months a year to achieve it. Then they document their journeys on a prolific YouTube channel that attracts new customers at home and around the world. 

“We present ourselves to the public as the best-traveled agency in the world,” Easton said. “We even visit places we’re unlikely to sell, such as East Timor, just in case we are asked about them, and for our own curiosity.” 

Easton and Ziegler have been on the road almost continuously for 11 years, but for the past 7 have focused on luxury travel. Easton has visited more than 200 countries and territories and Ziegler almost as many. The two spend a minimum of two nights at any hotel and, “while we are in that hotel, we will not look at another property. We really want to know it.”  

Catching it all on YouTube
Fortunately for the company, Ziegler also is a serious videographer. He shoots professional-quality footage, which is then converted into YouTube videos by a professional editor in South Africa.  

“We became serious about YouTube about three years ago, and it has become the sales clincher in 70% of our bookings,” Easton said. “If we have someone looking for a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, we can send our own clips of the top properties there. The clients invariably come back with a yes. 

“These videos show us at the destination, so clients can see firsthand what their own experiences are likely to be.” 

The three-to-four-minute videos are posted roughly once a week; there are now 200, with another 50 in the queue. Easton credits them with building Celestielle’s growing international client base, which now is about 28% of the total. 

In 2014, while at a lodge in British Columbia, the two met some travelers from Shanghai who hired them to plan a future trip; that in turn has led to other Chinese clients. Now the YouTube videos have been translated into Mandarin, and “we hope to translate them into other languages soon.”  

Celestielle’s growth path
Not surprisingly, both the partners were tour leaders before becoming travel designers. It was great training, Easton said: “Being a tour leader enables you to see both how people behave and what they are looking for during a trip.” 

While they originally focused almost entirely on experiential travel like safaris, polar bear viewing, and the like, in the past three years they have taken on traditional luxury destinations, such as the Caribbean, Provence, Tuscany, and great cities. “While our forte will always be high-end experiential, we have gotten very good at traditional luxury travel,” Easton said. 

Easton’s wanderlust dates all the way back to his childhood. He grew up in Maine and as a teenager saw an article in the New York Times about the Travelers Century Club, whose members’ shared goal is to visit all the world’s countries during their lifetimes. Admission to the club—founded in 1954 and still based in Los Angeles—is open to anyone who has visited 100 countries.  

“My 100th was Laos, John’s was Lebanon. Last October we visited Ethiopia, which was my 218th and John’s 158th.” 

With their business model, support at home is critical. “We have staff who are home-based, allowing John and me to do the sales and trip planning,” Easton said. Once a trip is sold and planned, the normal functions of a travel agency, such as booking and the rest, are handled by staff.” 

And yes, they will make exceptions to the “proposing only what we have experienced” approach. When a good client recently requested a top-end suite on an Alaska cruise, for example, Easton told him up front that he rarely sells cruises and felt unqualified to offer advice. But of course if clients insist, “we will accommodate them as long as we make clear that we do not do so with any authority.” 

Easton and Ziegler return home periodically but will soon be spending almost four months in southern Africa and the Indian Ocean to immerse themselves in that destination.  

“We’re strong in the southern hemisphere, but we frequently do what we call ‘cleanup trips,’ scouting new properties in areas we have already visited so that we can stay current.”  

  5
  3
Tip of the Day

As travel advisors, we have to be curious. Curiosity leads to impactful connections that pave our road to success.

Jenn Lee, VP of Sales and Marketing, Travel Planners International

 

Daily Top List

Exciting Luxury Hotel Openings

1. Costa Blu Beach Resort (Belize)

2. The Standard London (London)

3. Lefay Resort and SPA Dolomiti (Italy)

4. Kachi Lodge (Bolivia)

5. The Hoxton (Chicago)

Source: TMR

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=7c7310a7-0591-e911-be17-782bcb66a2f2)

5 Reasons to Travel in Winter - and Where to Go

Travel advisors in-the-know offer their clients distinctive travel adventures at lower price points and with more personalized service during the winter months and off-peak season.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Using Social Media to Promote Your Travel Business
Using Social Media to Promote Your Travel Business

Marketing expert discusses best practices for travel advisors to implement and pitfalls to avoid when promoting their agencies online.

Expedia Agrees to Settlement After Violating New Cuba Travel Regulations
Expedia Agrees to Settlement After Violating New Cuba Travel Regulations

The U.S. government says Expedia and two other travel companies have violated the sanctions against Cuba and must pay large fees.

Why Travel Advisors Should Use Video to Grow Their Business
Why Travel Advisors Should Use Video to Grow Their Business

Sandra and Anthony McLemore share useful tips and tricks for incorporating video to attract clients.

Travel Agents Help Defeat Texas Tax Bill
Travel Agents Help Defeat Texas Tax Bill

Latest “whack-a-mole” travel agent tax is defeated, as ASTA and the travel industry gain momentum in minimizing new levies on advisors.

6 Ways to Promote Your Agency with Social and Other Highlights from TMP East
6 Ways to Promote Your Agency with Social and Other Highlights from TMP East

Industry experts also gave practical tips about how to sell to the Millennial market and how to upsell luxury travel product.

A Guide to Marketing for Travel Advisors
A Guide to Marketing for Travel Advisors

Maggie Fischer is on a mission to help travel agents see marketing as less like an expense, and more like a planned and measurable investment that puts income on their balance sheet.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards & Outlooks